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....
Dairyman’s DigestIt’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....
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.”