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'Last true dairy farmer'

By Danielle Lynch | Daily Local News

WALLACE — When Danny B. Messner was growing up, he and his friends tried to guess who would be the last farmer in Wallace.

"It ended up that I'm the last true dairy farmer here," said Messner, 58, while standing near his barn at Bethany Farm.

The farm has been family owned and operated since 1980.

After losing a daughter, Jessica, to leukemia in 1994, the family switched from conventional farming to a more organic approach, Messner said. His daughter, who was 9 years old when she died, became the inspiration for change.

"They don't know where leukemia comes from," he said. "But we are bombarded with preservatives in our food today. I think we need to get more 'raw' food in our diet. You need to make clean milk from the start."

The farm is certified by the state to sell raw milk. It is also registered with the state Department of Agriculture to be on the PA Preferred list, Messner said.

"The state requires us to call it raw milk," he said. "It's not raw at all; it's all natural."

The Messners' milk received an award from the Lancaster Dairy Herd Improvement Association. Among the benefits of raw milk is that it contains all enzymes and all 22 amino acids, Messner said.

Bethany Farm is off Fairview Road in Glenmoore Village. The family stores hay at various other fields in the area. And some of their animals, such as chickens, stay at Wyebrook Farm in neighboring West Nantmeal.

Messner has deep family roots in Wallace. After moving into his home on the Bethany Farm site with his wife, Dianne, they discovered that his great-grandparents owned it in the early 1900s. And his father, Charles Allen Messner, who died in 2005, used to own a farm in Wallace and was a former township supervisor.

Dianne Messner, 54, did not grow up in a farming family. But she said there were farms nearby her parents' home in New York. "We got our milk from a raw milk farm, so I'm familiar with it," she said.

Danny Messner said too many farmers use excessive amounts of hormones.

"I think we need to farm the way our grandparents used to farm," he said.

Bethany Farm is a family business. Messner gets help from his wife and five children. Daniel, 25, milks the cows. Holly, 22, bottles the milk. And Jen, 18, milks the goats. Their other two children — 20-year-old Ben and 27-year-old Misty — live elsewhere.

In addition to milk, they sell seasonal fruit and have made cheese in the past. The price for raw cow milk ranges from $1.25 a pint to $5 a gallon.

The farm currently has a license to sell products on the site. The family is also in the process of obtaining a license that will allow them to build a separate room for bottling equipment so that they can sell the milk at other stores, Messner said.

The Messners own about 40 cows that they can milk. They have a total of 140 cows that pasture at either Bethany or Wyebrook farms.

Inside the Bethany barn, the cows were lined up in rows next to each other munching on grass and hay on Wednesday afternoon. The Messners own Jersey cows and Holstein cows.

"While the Holsteins generally milk more, the Jersey cows produce more protein and butterfat, so it creates a good mixture," Messner said. "They are very inquisitive, giving animals."

The cows are milked twice every day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. It takes about two hours to milk the cows and clean up, Messner said.

Jen Messner milks about seven of the 20 goats every day.

The farm has a wide range of customers, Messner said. Some people are from Allentown, New Jersey and Maryland.

Local parents also bring their children to the farm to visit the animals. In addition to the cows and goats, there are pigs and sheep at Bethany Farm.

"Kids aren't connected to animals the way they used to be," he said. "I grew up watching cowboy shows and today there are more shows like 'Star Trek'."

Messner said there needs to be more of an emphasis on "saving the farmer."

"We're losing farmers at an astronomical rate," he said. "Farmers are losing money. It's a struggle to survive."

To contact staff writer Danielle Lynch, send an e-mail to [email protected].

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