Along the Lakeshore: June 12

Trip to Virginia, dairy farms

The river, which used to service the docks that no longer exist, is just beyond the house and makes a fine setting. This land has been in the same family for 15 generations and the 15th lives in the second floor of the plantation house now.

The local Skaneateles dairy scene is going great guns and the first grass appears to be cut along West Lake Road. The Greenfields have corn poking up, along with some bean sprouts. I was called to task when I stated that butterfat is not as important as it was when farmers had brown cows and brown and whites. It appears that the milk in every tanker is analyzed for many characteristics such as calcium, butterfat, antibiotics, etc. These characteristics, derived from the particular blend of more than 500 cows, create a price for that particular load of milk.

The cows’ diet can be altered to enhance the analysis in order to increase the economic return on the product. The scale is so large on the big farms that little pluses add up. It’s an exacting business to determine what affects the cows and the crops.

I spoke to Ken Young and he said I did not understand how they disposed of the effluent from the manure digester after the gas has been drawn off to make organic electric power. Most of their crop fields have a pipeline that will deliver the effluent to a connection at each field where it is pumped into a machine that will inject the fluid 8 to 10 inches below the surface. No manure on the roads, no manure on the surface of the field, and no super phosphate getting into the lake waters, etc. No cash out of hand for industrial fertilizers. I think this is agricultural magic. It takes a heavy front-end investment, but the results seem excellent.

A group of dairy farmers is building a milk reception center about 25 or 30 miles from the farms. The capability of being able to get their milk to market without paying a 600-mile round trip to milk centers near New York City will pay off their investment quickly.

Joseph Spalding is a long-time Skaneateles resident who enjoys sharing his observations about the Skaneateles lakeshore and community. He can be reached at 685-6937.

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