It’s tough being a pioneer, but John Fiscalini comes from a long line of them. Scale his family tree, and you’ll find innovation in the Fiscalini DNA going back centuries.
The dairy business is the taproot of that family tree. But the mountains around the Fiscalinis’ ancestral Swiss homeland—the tiny town of Lionza—often made the transport of fresh milk treacherous or impossible, particularly during the harsh winters. So the family turned to cheesemaking as more than added value; it was a way to avoid wasting the work of the family dairy.
“I have milk in my blood,” says John, who with son Brian runs the 1,500-cow Fiscalini Farms at Modesto, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley. “Going generations back, it’s all dairy, dairy, dairy.” Still, John didn’t bring cheese back into the family business until the turn of the 21st century, this time less as necessity than as craft. At the suggestion of the California Milk Advisory Board, John began attending farmstead cheesemaking seminars and “got roped into the sexiness of it,” he says.
The execution was less than sexy. Cheesemaking was new to California, so even finding the equipment proved a challenge, as did finding the right cheesemaker, an essential partner in the process. But John had the dairy part down pat. Attention to cleanliness and comfort of his cows give John’s renowned cheesemaker, Mariano Gonzales, a blank canvas to “work magic,” as John puts it.
“The milk that John produces—it’s very, very clean,” says Gonzales. “There is nothing in there to interfere with the bacteria I use to create the cheese.” After a dozen years working with that clean milk—the blank canvas—the awards have piled up. Fiscalini’s cloth-bound cheddar has won best cheddar in the world twice at the World Cheese Awards in London—very rare for an American cheesemaker. The dairy’s signature San Joaquin Gold, a smoky, Italian-style cheese aged 16 months, took gold at the World Cheese Awards as well.
Keeping It Genuine
To run their award-winning and innovative dairy, the Fiscalinis rely heavily on their tractors. “Well, we don’t baby these things,” John says of his Massey Ferguson® equipment—all utility tractors in the 80- to 90-hp range. From the newest, the MF491, to the vintage MF285, these are tractors already known for longevity and durability; but John and his dealer Rick Gray from Stanislaus Implement and Hardware still offer tips to keeping hard-working equipment up and running:
Genuine AGCO Parts. “Our guys [at the dairy] do a lot of the maintenance and service, but if something breaks down, we don’t want to put an aftermarket part on there or something that’s gonna be defective or not the high quality we expect from AGCO,” says John.
Good relationship with the dealer. “I’ve known John and his family for more than 30 years,” says Rick. “He is more than a customer. He is part of the family.”
John says the relationship with Stanislaus Implement is generational. “Rick’s father took care of my father,” he says. “They take care of you. The value of these tractors is the support behind them, end of conversation.”
Biltmore offers what is arguably the finest view of 19th-century American grandeur. The crowning achievement of George W. Vanderbilt—a grandson of 19th-century railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt—the French Renaissance chateau-style mansion was completed in 1895 just outside Asheville, N.C. It is the largest privately owned home in the U.S. and annually attracts more than 1 million visitors.
A growing number of those visitors, however, come to experience Biltmore’s farming operations. The estate’s winery is the most visited in the U.S., while a demonstration farm pays homage to Biltmore’s past, when the property, which was originally 125,000 acres, was self-sustaining.
What’s not as well known is that Biltmore, which today encompasses 8,000 acres, is home to a variety of other farming enterprises, including cattle and sheep operations totaling some 1,500 animals. Though most of the estate’s acres are forested, crops such as corn, soybeans, canola, sunflowers and sudangrass are grown in any given year.
This is the realm overseen by Kevin Payne, Biltmore’s farm manager, who has worked on the property for 35 years. He understands the need to work the farm—but do it knowing that tens of thousands of paying guests are watching.
This attention to visual detail, though, doesn’t shortchange their efforts to farm with an eye toward a cutting-edge, sustainable ethos. For example, this spring and summer, 50 acres along hiking and biking trails were planted to canola, then sunflower crops. No doubt the bright yellow blooms of both were a treat for guests.
The plantings, though, were not all for show. The canola is processed on the farm (in a renovated 100-plus-year-old barn) into biodiesel used to fuel the businesses’ pickups and farm equipment. Livestock raised on the grounds—including some 700 head of Angus cattle and 800 White Dorper sheep—are used in the estate’s highly regarded restaurants.
Payne and his wife, Becky, have had the privilege of living on the estate for nearly 30 years. Their 100-year-old house is tucked just off a hilly road near the barn where livestock feed is stored. Becky homeschooled their three sons here, while their dad would have the boys measure out feed as part of their math lessons.
“It’s not so much work as it is a lifestyle to us,” says Payne. “The boys grew up here, staying in the woods all day.” One son, Carson, now works full time with Kevin—and lives on the property as well. “He’s never really left Biltmore,” says Payne. “We’ve been blessed.” Millions of visitors here would be inclined to agree.
Guess which brand of tractor is used to help care for this national treasure. Read why Massey Ferguson gets the nod at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/biltmore-ritzy-home-real-farm/. You can also see the entire Winter issue of FarmLife by browsing the digital edition at http://www.myfarmlife.com/inside-the-magazine/browse-the-winter-2014-issue-of-farmlife/.
Bill Seto, owner of Suwannee Equipment in Live Oak, Fla., will be one of the first to admit that abundant sunshine might be good for Florida tourism, but it’s hard on paint. Equipment, he says, “starts fading the minute you park it outside.”
Paint damage effects appearance, performance and equipment value. Now AGCO has built a new $40 million, 200,000-square-foot paint facility at its plant in Hesston, Kan.
The new E-coat and powder paint system is the first of its kind for the farm equipment manufacturing industry, and will improve performance and longevity for the full offering of equipment manufactured at Hesston.
Nearly 75% of components go through the 17-step E-coat process by passing through 15 different dip tanks to remove all rust, scale and laser oxides. The remaining 25% of parts are painted using a liquid coating system.
The process takes approximately 41/2 hours and results in a finish with increased resistance to corrosion, ultraviolet light and weathering. The new system is efficient and more environmentally friendly than older paint processes also, reducing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) by approximately 75% and recovering nearly all the paint that doesn’t transfer to the component.
(15:20 hrs CET, 20 December 2014, Novo Runway, Antarctica): The Antarctica2 bid to drive an MF 5610 agricultural tractor on an ambitious 5000km round trip to the South Pole arrived safely back at Novo Runway on the Antarctic coast today.
In accomplishing the mission, the MF 5610 has become the first standard farm tractor equipped with tyres to reach the Geographic South Pole overland.
For ‘Tractor Girl’ and Lead Driver, 38-year-old Manon Ossevoort, her journey proved that, given belief and determination, dreams really do come true. Relying on the dependable power of the Massey Ferguson tractor and the expert support of her polar team, Manon’s 12-year dream to drive a tractor ‘to end of the world’ is now complete.
“I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I’m feeling now,” she said. “Elation at such a wonderful expedition, relief in getting back to Novo Runway successfully. I can’t wait to start telling the story and hopefully encouraging others to follow their dreams.”
The adventure in the hostile Antarctic environment made huge demands on the team and equipment. A belief in the reliability of the tractor and the crew members to do their jobs was a touchstone of the expedition and enshrined in Antarctica2’s message #BelieveInIt. The difficult conditions – bitter cold, high altitude, solid ice, snowdrifts, thick freezing fog and exceptionally rough terrain – all took their toll. However, both humans and machine showed remarkable resilience in the face of adversity and rose to the challenge of this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
With its relentless physical and mental pressures, the polar trek drew on all the team’s experience, willpower and endurance to win through. In very short periods of time, emotions could roller-coaster from exhilaration, elation and excitement to frustration and disappointment.
For the Massey Ferguson tractor, the expedition was the ultimate test of strength and durability, exerting massive strain on the components and really challenging the integrity of its design. Such an environment, where even the simplest repair is made difficult by the freezing temperatures, called for a straightforward, dependable tractor. During the 28-day 5000 km journey, the MF 5610 required only a few running repairs and the engine clocked up an impressive 760 hours of operation, which is more than many farms would do in two years of normal work.
Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development said: “We send our warmest congratulations to Manon Ossevoort and the Antarctica2 crew on their magnificent achievement. They have shown extraordinary teamwork and fortitude on this epic trip.”
“In one of the most barren places on earth, we hope that the Antarctica2 expedition has served to highlight to a non-agricultural audience the way farmers are rising to the challenge of feeding the world. Modern farm equipment and appropriate technology can help make the most of the world’s cultivable land and create sustainable farm business for our long-term food security.”
The Antarctica2 MF 5610 expedition tractor will be a highlight of Massey Ferguson’s stand at the upcoming SIMA Show in Paris 22-26 February 2015.
(Antarctica – 18th December 2014): The drive back from the South Pole is proving every bit as exciting and emotional for the Antarctica2 tractor expedition team as, hour by hour, they tick off the distance home. The latest news is that they have less than 400 km to go to Novo Runway on the Antarctic coast. The MF 5610 put in yet another fantastic record-breaking run of 384 km and is as strong as ever despite the incredibly punishing schedule.
Now high up in the mountains at an elevation of 3314 metres (10,872 ft), the team members found themselves once again “gasping for breath” in the thin air. Thankfully, the weather has been clear with light blue skies but the temperature has dipped to minus 30 degrees C – dropping to around minus 37 with wind chill. As Expedition Lead Guide , Matty McNair said in her daily report: “It’s nippy out there.” Emotions are running high with the team as they all eager to get back home to their loved-ones in time for Christmas.
Everyone on the crew is pitching in with tractor driving shifts to ensure the MF 5610 is kept constantly on-the-move. There is no rest for the tractor. The drivers report that the cab is extremely warm and the seat very comfortable. The five-point seat belt helps them strap themselves down when driving over rough terrain. For in-cab entertainment, team members are passing the time in various different ways listening to music, podcasts and audio books. Manon Ossevoort, Lead Driver is listening to French lessons. Favourite sounds in the cab range from U2, Louise Attaque, Faithless, Trio, Muse, Endochine, Black Keys and Icelandic Music.
Ending her report from the ice, Matty McNair said: “Emotions are high. Will we make it back to Novo Runway to catch the (last) flight out? Will we be home at Christmas? We have just under 400 km to do in about 36 hours.” Nail-biting stuff!