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.”
“The first thing I did when I got out on my own was buy some land and set up a small farm,” says Barnette. “Basically, right now, I grow grass, but I plan to, Lord willing, build a barn and have a few horses.”
Not that there’s any rush, says Barnette, who works for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “There’s just enough land that I can take care of it myself. I built a cabin up there and I spend a couple of nights there whenever I can. I get dirty, work on the tractor and cut that grass.” Staying on the land, he continues, “is therapy. It’s a good stress reliever.”
His tractor is a MF3635, and he keeps that grass in check with two Massey Ferguson mower implements purchased from Cemar Inc., in Holcomb, Miss.: a rotary flex cutter and a rear-discharge finishing mower.
“I bought them both at the same time, and I haven’t had any problems with them. Now, I take good care of them, but they’re well built,” he notes.
In addition to mechanical parts that Barnette says cut evenly, “the decks on both my Massey’s are thicker than those other [brands’] mowers. That might not seem like much of a difference your first year or two—they’ll do OK for a short period of time—but then you’ll start to see some damage and rust. These Massey’s are built to last.”
Rick McCorkle, agrees. Now retired, the Hollandale, Miss., resident uses a Massey Ferguson rear-discharge finishing mower and rotary cutter to maintain the two acres around his home, as well as prepare a food plot for deer hunting. He also helps maintain some other property, including his mother-in-law’s.
McCorkle, who runs his mowers with a MF1428—all of which were purchased at Cemar—says he prefers his Massey equipment over other brands. “I’ve had to replace belts more often on one of my other mowers, but only once on the Massey. My [Massey] mowers are 5 or 6 years old, but I don’t have any rusty spots on my deck or bad spots on them. They’re built real good.”
For more information on the full line of mowers and landscaping tools from Massey Ferguson, see http://www.masseyferguson.us/products/implements-attachments.
In its heyday a century ago, scores of horses were used to do dozens of jobs at Biltmore. Today, one utility tractor—with 99 HP—performs multiple jobs at one of the country’s most beautiful agricultural operations.
Biltmore has long been a Massey Ferguson® customer. Their small fleet includes Massey Ferguson tractors dating back 35 years. The nearly new MF4610 is the most recent jack of all trades making life easier in a diversified operation.
“Masseys are easy to operate and affordable to work on. They do the job,” says Kevin Payne, Biltmore’s farm manager. “The 1979 MF1100 is as strong as when it was new.” And he should know. Payne has worked at Biltmore since the year that MF1100 was purchased.
Payne loves the smooth but powerful shuttle transmission on the MF4610. At Biltmore, Payne and crew can be hauling cattle feed in the morning, cutting thick sudangrass by afternoon and moving rolling chicken coops by evening.
“The shuttle transmission is really nice when you are picking up feed pallets or baling, then loading hay,” says Payne. “It is a whole lot quicker doing anything where you are moving from forward to reverse frequently.”
The MF4610 does it all with a 3-cylinder engine that generates torque as well or better than comparable 4-cylinder engines. “I use this tractor to disk ground, and it moved through the field like the disc wasn’t even back there.”
For being named the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year, James Cooley received use of a Massey Ferguson® tractor for one year. He chose the MF8670, known for its continuously variable transmission (CVT), fuel efficiency and comfort.
It is not, however, his first Massey Ferguson. “We love Masseys,” says Cooley. “We’ve got 17 of the old 135s” used for bringing out peaches and light work. For parts, he calls on Nance Tractor and Implements in McConnells, S.C.
Adds Cooley, the vintage workhorse “was Massey’s special tractor, Daddy always said. The 135 is a tractor that everybody can drive. It’s easy to maintain regarding its parts and availability of them.”
As for his new MF8670, which Cooley calls the “Cadillac of tractors,” he plans to put it to work preparing peach and strawberry land. “We’ll use it for making the soil loose and ready for the roots to spread out on the peach trees,” he says. “And we’ll use it for fixing the ground for the strawberries.
“The view is remarkable,” continues Cooley. “It’s a smooth ride and the turning radius is remarkable. And, of course, it [has] unmatched power.”
A new customer had seen the clean, close cut Monte Innes, and his wife Julie, had achieved on a nearby property and realized his existing custom balers—who used equipment of a certain green color—were leaving money in the fields.
“This is the third RazorBar disc header we’ve had, and we now wouldn’t own anything else,” Monte says. “We get all the hay. It is a clean cut an inch from the ground.”
He also appreciates the speed with which the machine can travel in the field and on the highway. “It is awesome traveling down the road at 20 mph from one field to another,” he continues, noting how important that speed is when you’re working numerous scattered fields and dodging weather to get a sole cutting following a brief 70-day growing season.
The windrower is quick. “Today I cut 180 acres in six-and-a-half hours,” Monte says, “and I couldn’t have done that with any other machine.”
The Innes’ Hesston by Massey Ferguson 2170 XD baler produces bales that are denser, heavier. Because of that, Monte can now get 26 to 27 tons of hay on a semi trailer truck for shipment, rather than 22 tons.
“That saves us about 50 loads per season,” says Monte, “which saves us about $25,000 in shipping costs. “Our new baler is a home run for us.”