- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: animal protection and health
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Pest Management: biological control, prevention
Marcoot Jersey Farm is a seventh generation family farm raising registered Jersey cattle. The Marcoot family ancestors emigrated from Switzerland settling in South Central Illinois and began farming. Since that time the family has attained national recognition for production and indexing of their Jersey cattle. There is a strong commitment to keep our Registered Jersey dairy farm sustainable for the next generations.
Our current farm is located near Greenville, Illinois. It was established in 1954 by Forrest and Marian Marcoot, grandparents of owners, Amy and Beth Marcoot, following Forrest's service in World War II. They started the farm at the present location with 20 Registered Jersey cows. In 1970, their son, John Marcoot, father of owners Amy and Beth, joined the farm full time. In 1980, John's brother, Roger, returned to full time farming with a Master's Degree in Dairy Animal Nutrition from the University of Illinois. By 1990, the herd had grown to 135 Registered Jersey milking cows on confinement. The herd became known nationally with many high production and high performance index Registered Jersey Cows. In 2001, Roger left the farm and John converted 120 acres from corn to pastures and rotational grazing began with a reduced herd size of 40 cows. Presently, the herd has grown to 65 milk cows.
Pastures are divided into 30 paddocks and cows are rotated to a new paddock after every milking. Hay is baled from paddocks when there is a surplus of grass in the springtime. All animals graze at least 8 months out of the year. We do not use rBST or any artificial hormones nor steroids on our animals. We believe that by using natural dairy management our animals are healthier and our milk a better quality.
In the summer of 2009, Amy returned to the farm and construction began on a 3200 square foot processing facility with an on-farm store and educational facility to make farmstead and artisan cheeses solely from the milk produced on Marcoot Jersey farm. The Marcoot family worked closely with Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure that all guidelines and rules were closely followed. The first wheels of cheese were produced in Marcoot Jersey Creamery (MJC) in March 2010; at this time MJC employed only 2 full time employees. Amy's communication and active listening skills she obtained with her Master's Degree in counseling has empowered her to exercise excellent marketing skills. Her background in Agriculture as well as her life experiences growing up and being active on the farm has given her the skills to successfully manage the operation. MJC is now producing 14 varieties of artisan cheeses. Plans are to expand further in the winter of 2012 by making sweet Cheddar cheeses.
Presently MJC Cheeses can be found in over 100 retail and high end restaurants in the St. Louis, southern Illinois and Chicago areas, including the luxury boxes at the Cardinal Baseball Stadium and the St. Louis Arch.
Although Beth contributed to the farm as time permitted she returned to the farm full-time the summer of 2012 after earning her Master's degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Her specialization is in education and tourism aspects of the business. The Creamery's design was built with viewing windows and space dedicated to encourage groups and visitors. This past year Marcoot Jersey Farm and Creamery hosted tours of approximately 2800 individuals, including individual family tours, preschool through college age students, senior citizen groups, church groups, professional groups, and chefs with their staff.
Presently MJC has 5 full-time employees and 9 part-time employees. Future plans include expanding the herd size to enable increased cheese production, expanding marketing, improving web site and e-commerce, enhancing educational and tourisms aspects of the business.
Food safety is paramount to all food producers, including Marcoot Jersey Creamery (MJC) owners. In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed into law under the direction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In November 2012, Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine for the USFDA delivered a speech at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo, where he stated "... we know that when a major illness outbreaks and contamination incidents damage consumer confidence in a particular commodity or sector, the loss of sales can be significant and take a long time to recover." "...food safety requires careful planning, investment of company resources, and sustained effort at the working level every day, where food is produced, processed and handled." "... protecting both food safety and consumer confidence is the need for a comprehensive systems approach to preventing food safety problems ... from farm to table". (www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMNucm326870.htm)
In an interview with Good Food World the question was raised, if tightening regulations would strangle the small artisan cheese producer; the Food Safety Attorney, Bill Marler replied: "...I have represented families who have lost family members or whose children are forever changed because of something they ate. The question really is, "How do you prevent that from happening?" The most rational approach is to fix as much of the problem as we can." (www.marlerclark.com/media relations/view/goodfood-hero-bill-marler-food-safety-attorney)
MJC is dedicated to providing wholesome and safe products. As indicated above both from the legal sense and the regulatory sense, Marcoot Jersey Creamery is committed to assure all that possibly can be done is being done to provide safe food. This project will be implemented in phases to specifically protect from Listeria, E.Coli H0157, and Salmonella pathogens. One phase will build on the other concluding with a comprehensive proactive food safety program and employee training program inclusive of all aspects of activities that may contribute to safe end products based on regulatory standards, standards of practice in the industry and scientific-based evidence gathered and analyzed from Marcoot Jersey Farm and Creamery byproduct and environmental testing.
Phase 1: Develop and implement standard operating procedures for all activities at the farm and creamery related to food safety.
Phase 1: Effectiveness evaluations will be measured by laboratory testing of
1) Product: raw milk, cheese in production, in storage, aging, and packaged and
2) Environmental: contact and noncontact surfaces
Phase II: Develop and implement proactive food safety HACCP program
Phase II: Effectiveness evaluation same as phase I. Verification with Institute for Food Safety and Health and Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese
Phase III: Employee orientation and ongoing training, annual competency and evaluation program to assure continued food safety goals are met
Phase III: Effectiveness evaluation by testing and demonstration on each section of training
Phase IV: Develop educational tools to share with others in industry
Phase IV: Print documents for distribution, publish on web site and host informational tour
Much research has been conducted in food safety but not in the farmstead artisan Jersey cow milk cheese arena. Also our project will provide up-to-date information to meet the new Food Safety Modernization Act of January 2011. We will add to the research done by other SARE grant projects including, "Food Safety and Quality Control Program for Farmstead Sheep Cheese", Implementation of the safety of food handling practice on small farms", "An Integrated Approach to Understanding Food Safety Practices and Attitudes Among Local Food Systems Actors", and "An Agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling and Legal Liability". The Marcoot Jersey Creamery project will provide their customers with safe food, and will provide other dairy farms as well as creameries with an updated food safety template that can be easily adapted to meet their specific and individual food safety needs.
Phase I of our project will analyze each step in the daily routine process of work to assure food is handled, equipment is cleaned and sanitized and that personnel conduct themselves in a hygienic manner to assure proper handling of our milk and cheeses. Evaluation of each step will be objective by testing the milk in the milking parlor, in the holding tank, cheese in the processing stage, cheese in storage, cheese in the aging cave and cheese in packaging prior to sale. Evaluation will also be made of the food handling environment to assure cleaning and sanitizing methods as well as personal hygiene practices of staff are conducive to promoting production of a safe food product. Procedures to handle the milk and cheese to protect from contamination will be created so that expected and tested practices will be routinely followed.
In Phase II a proactive food safety monitoring system referred to as HACCP will be instituted to monitor and document specific steps in food handling which are critical control points where food safety may be compromised. The documentation is evaluated so that any irregularities can be identified and corrected.
In Phase III comprehensive employee training, competency for identifying specific needs for retraining and competency program to assure there is a clear understanding and practice of established standard operating procedures and HACCP program.
Finally, Phase IV will allow sharing the information gathered with others both in dairy farming and in cheese processing so that not only Marcoot Jersey Creamery will benefit but the artisan cheese industry may also use this information in establishing their own food safety programs.
Marcoot Jersey Creamery project will be putting cutting edge food safety in practice that is verified objectively with laboratory testing to assure each phase is meeting the goal to provide safe food. This information will be expected by regulatory agencies but small dairy and farmstead operations may not have the knowledge or the ability to formulate a program that is as well tested and verified.
Outreach will be in three facets. First, will be printed brochures to explain the program and summarize. Secondly, the Marcoot Jersey Creamery web site will have a template that may be downloaded and individualized for use. The third facet will be a farm/creamery tour highlighting in detail the Standard Operating Procedures - day to day routine tasks, the HACCP program - intense monitoring and documentation of critical steps where contamination may be introduced and comprehensive employee training and evaluation to assure the appropriate steps are clearly understood and followed as routine by all employees. The technology requested will be used as an aid to document our procedures and will be used as an outreach and educational tool. We will be working with the University of Illinois Extension, the Illinois Jersey Cattle Club, the National Jersey Association, the National All Jersey Association, and the American Cheese Society to develop ways we can share information.
Creating safe food products not only increases income for Marcoot Jersey Creamery but also supports income from all artisan cheese makers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael Taylor, in a speech on November 7, 2012 addressing the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo stated: "... when one company fails (to meet food safety requirements), many companies can be affected by market disruptions and loss of sales."
Comprehensive Food Safety Program for dairy farm and farmstead artisan cheese on Marcoot Jersey Creamery project will not only enable continued sustainable agriculture on our farm but will contribute to farmstead and artisan cheese operations throughout the U.S. By sharing the information we have gathered, analyzed and verified proof of success, we will assist countless other dairy farms and artisan cheese operations by providing a template they can customize to their specific needs. The information will be made available in print, via the internet, as well as through an on-farm tour to communicate findings.
Objective evaluation will be conducted on going with laboratory testing verify the validity of daily practices in handling milk and cheese, clean and sanitizing practices as well as employee hygiene and training.
Assurance that food is safe to eat strengthens consumer confidence and improves quality; both will positively affect income. This also verifies the integrity and commitment of the Marcoot family in meeting their goal to continue to be a sustainable agriculture business for future generations.