It’s Not Our Grandparents’ Farm Anymore

I recently had an article published in Dairy Herd Management. Below is a preview. You may also click on the link at the bottom to view the full article.

For many dairy producers, there is much sentimental value in continuing the family tradition. This is true in our own family, where my husband and his brother are the third generation on the family farm. It is hard to ignore the pride that comes from building on what generations before us have done. But while the land that we farm might be the same, and historic buildings are still standing, today’s dairy farms operate much different than the farms operated by our grandparents and even our parents.

One key difference is the awareness of young and beginning farmers to run their operation as a business. Continue reading…

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Get Out of the Barn and Share Your Story

I recently had an article published in Progressive Dairyman. Below is a preview. You may also click on the link at the bottom to view the full article.

Promoting the dairy industry has always been important to me. I was a dairy princess at heart long before I ever put on a crown and sash.

Even though those years as dairy royalty are long over, I still feel the need to tell our story about agriculture. After all, if we don’t tell our story, who will?

However, I know not all dairy farmers are as excited about talking to the general public as I am, including my husband, Doug. Let’s just say that in our relationship, I am the talker, but Doug does a great job speaking whenever he is in front of a crowd.

He just doesn’t like to go out of his way to put himself in those situations. That’s where I help with a gentle nudge … or he would claim that my nagging is a bit more like a cow kick.

Continue reading…

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An Exciting New Adventure

For those of you that haven’t heard… family has some exciting news to share! We’ve recently started into a venture of raising steers for beef to sell retail.

McCalls Ferry Farm, my family farm, is located on the banks of the Susquehanna River in York County, Pennsylvania. I’ve written many posts about how special I think our farm in Airville is (Farm Life Blessing #2 & Farm Life Blessing #12), so I’m sure that you agree with me, too.

McCalls Ferry Farm

Steers in our pasture.

About a year ago, our family started having some discussions about how we might be able to make the farm more of a family venture. For many years, our farm was a dairy farm, but more recently my dad had just been raising some dairy steers for beef. We saw great opportunity with expanding that operation and taking advantage of increased interest in consumers wanting to know where their food comes from. Plus, with my sister living in Fairfax County, Virginia, it seemed like a great fit!

And so we’ve started the endeavor! There was lots of planning and preparation, and we officially set up a stand at our first farmer’s market last Thursday. Additionally, we plan to sell beef locally in southcentral Pennsylvania.

McCalls Ferry Farm - at market

My mom, Pam, with our farm market stand last week.

Although we are still new in this business, I feel that we’ve had some great success so far, and I’d like to offer a few key points that have helped to build a strong foundation:

  • Take the time to plan. I can’t tell you how many hours my sister and I spent putting together a rather comprehensive business plan for the operation. We carefully considered all aspects of the retail beef industry and the market. Selling at farmer’s markets is just the beginning….we have big plans for McCalls Ferry Farm!
  • Understand family members’ strengths. Our family is very lucky to have family members with diverse skillsets. Between the five of us, we cover everything from farm operations and finance to marketing and sales. However, we recognize that one person cannot have 100% of the responsibility for one area, and sharing responsibility is a strength.
  • Have passion. This new enterprise has been very exciting for our family. We’re thrilled to tell our story with consumers so that they can have a greater appreciation for where their food comes from. Although we might only be selling beef right now, we’re even considering expanding into other products. Isn’t that exciting?!

Thanks to all of our friends and family for your support of this new endeavor. We’re excited with what is ahead for McCalls Ferry Farm!

Be sure to check out our website at and like us on Facebook ( and follow us on Twitter (!

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The Coat

Doug's coatGuest writer: Doug Sattazahn

Well, it finally happened. Blame it on the polar vortex, or the passing of time, or just necessity. Whatever the cause, there’s no going back now. My good old winter coat is now a barn coat.

If you’ve ever worked on a farm, you know there are just some things you don’t wear to the barn. Your one “good” pair of shoes or “good” pair pants are meant to be kept nice. However, after many years of being kept “good”, most articles of clothing end up becoming barn clothes.

In this case, it was my old reliable Carhartt coat. The one I’ve had since high school. The one that got oil splashed on it working on a roommate’s car in college. The one that protected me from the stinging wind on so many winter days. It’s time had finally come this year. I can usually get by with two sweatshirts, but subzero temperatures and record snowfall forced me to turn to that old reliable coat for warmth this winter.

It was bittersweet, converting that coat to barn use, but after all, Carhartts are made to be worked in. Pulling the hood up on that thing is like putting on one of those halos that people wear when they’ve had a serious neck injury. There’s no turning your head, you need to move your whole body. The quilt lining also forms a nearly impenetrable barrier against the biting wind. And the tough duck material sustains everything cows can throw at you.

I suppose I should mention that I went to the store and got a brand new coat to replace the newly minted barn one. It was the same exact coat other than color. How many things stay in style for over 10 years like that? Anyways, here’s to many more years of good use for both coats in the quest to beat the polar vortex (aka. winter).

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Lessons from Zach – Passion, Persistence and a Positive Attitude

Dairy farmers are truly some of the most remarkable people I know. However, take a dairy farmer and put him in a difficult position, and you can see how extraordinary someone like Zach Meck can be.

Zach MeckZach is a neighbor and good friend that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know over the last couple of years. In September 2013, he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, a devastating finding for anyone, let alone a young, on-the-go Berks County dairy farmer. In the last few months he’s undergone treatments, and it’s certainly been a challenging time for Zach and his family.

Zach’s situation has helped to show me not to take any day for granted, reminding me of the importance of my health, my family and my faith. As I think about Zach and the characteristics that he embodies, a few key words come to mind:

One of Zach’s greatest attributes is his passion. Ask him about any subject and he certainly has an opinion on it, but more importantly he is firm in his beliefs and trusts his knowledge and instinct.

Whatever Zach does, he does with all of his heart. It is clear that he loves deeply and lives life fully, letting nothing stand in his way.

Positive attitude
Even in difficult times, Zach has maintained a positive outlook. He’s always looking to keep up the momentum, and still has a sense of humor when you’d think that it would be the last thing on his mind.

Zach – thanks for being a great example for all of us to follow. Let’s be passionate in our beliefs, persistent in our efforts and positive in our thinking.

Meck Pancake Breakfast BenefitJoin friends, family and the community at a pancake breakfast on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at Tulpehocken UCC in Richland,  Pa. to benefit Zach and his wife, Suzanne. If you are unable to attend, donations may be sent to the church to the attention of Meck Pancake Breakfast.

More importantly, add Zach to your daily thoughts and prayers.

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A Dairy Farmer’s 12 Days of Christmas

Guest photographer and contributor: Doug Sattazahn

It’s hard not to have Christmas on the mind. We’re a day away from Christmas, and with the continuous Christmas music playing on the radio, Christmas cards coming in the mail and the pressure to get all of your gifts bought and wrapped, Christmas is EVERYWHERE!

Anyways, it got us thinking…..we should do a Dairy Farmer’s 12 Days of Christmas! And so, we bring to you our version of the 12 Days of Christmas. There is no audio to accompany this post (trust us, you don’t want us to sing), so sing it in your head to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas. There is added commentary with each line.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….

Twelve cans of Fight Bac (works great to protect the end of the teat between milkings)

Fight Bac

Eleven purring barn cats (wait….multiply that by at least two, maybe three, and that would be representative of the number of barn cats we have)

Zahncroft Dairy barn cats

Ten acres of pasture (for the cows to graze and get exercise)

Zahncroft Dairy cows in pasture

Nine bags of barn grip (giving much-needed traction for the cows as they walk through the barn)

Barn Grip

Eight milkers working (there’s nothing worse than when a milking unit is on the fritz)


Seven dollar corn (well, it finally came down)

Zahncroft Dairy corn field

Six rows a planting (it takes a while to plant corn, six rows at a time)

Zahncroft Dairy corn planter

Fiiiive heifer calves (the future of our herd!)

Zahncroft Dairy heifers

Four bales of straw (to keep the heifers clean and dry)


Three tractors chugging (busy in the fields and around the barn)


Two tons of corn silage (enough to feed 100 cows per day)

Zahncroft Dairy silage bag

And a full tank of milk for you and me!

Zahncroft Dairy bulk tank

Have a Dairy Merry Christmas!

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