Monthly Archives: October 2018

Dairy Farmer Stepping Up as Volunteer Firefighter

By trade, he’s a dairy farmer milking 100 cows on his organic farm in Hubbard, Oregon. But with 27 years volunteering as a firefighter, Steve Aamodt is also a humble hero.

“I started volunteering because it sounded like fun, and it became a way to give back to the community,” said Steve. He is currently serving as Assistant Chief in the Monitor Rural Fire Protection District.

Over almost three decades volunteering, Steve has put in close to 3,000 hours of training, not to mention his time responding to emergency calls. “People don’t call 9-1-1 on their best day. It’s nice to be able to help people.”

It seems that farming and firefighting go hand in hand, as six of the current thirteen Monitor volunteers are also farmers. But rural volunteer fire isn’t wasn’t it used to be. “When I joined, there were nearly thirty volunteers and most of them were farmers,” he said. “Now, there are fewer farmers in the community, and fewer firefighters. Farmers just know about helping other people, you help your neighbor, it’s just what you do,” said Aamodt.

Steve also attributes farmers’ inclinations to be firefighters to their ‘fix-it’ attitude.

“If something on the farm goes wrong, you can’t just run around screaming ‘oh no!’

You have to be of a mindset to fix a problem when you see a problem,” he said. “That helps, I think.”

STEPPING UP TO SUPPORT WORTHY CAUSES

This year, this volunteer firefighter ‘stepped up’ in a big way by participating in two firefighter stair climb fundraisers. These fundraisers, in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, are open solely to career or volunteer firefighters. The challenge is to climb the stairs of a building in full turnout gear, which weighs over 50 pounds, including their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The Portland stair climb is 41 floors, and the Seattle stair climb is a whopping 70 flights of stairs – the largest such stair climb competition in the nation.

Steve signed up for the Seattle event knowing it was going to be a challenge. “I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be for me at 58 years old. All the years that I’ve been a farmer I’m sure helped me to do it, just because I have worked hard my whole life, but it really was the single hardest thing I have ever done,” said Aamodt.

And the fundraising was just as important to Steve. “The Seattle stair climb is a fundraiser for leukemia, so I started talking with the people I do business with, and started getting donations. That was fun, too, because it became another way to give back.” In all, the 2018 LLS Firefighter Stairclimb earned $2.61 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to support blood cancer research.

While smaller, the Portland Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, was no less significant for Steve who climbed all forty floors with a photo of his friend’s daughter on his helmet. “It’s not as hard, because it’s less floors, but it has become really special to me because of raising money for cystic fibrosis. I have a friend whose daughter gave part of her lung to her cousin who had it, so I dedicate my climb to them. That’s become pretty special too.” Since 2009, this event has raised $1.2 million toward finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.

IT’S BECOMING A FAMILY TRADITION

Three of Aamodt’s children are first responders. His oldest son is a full-time firefighter in Canby, Oregon, and his youngest son is an EMT in Salem as well as a volunteer firefighter in Monitor and Canby. His daughter also recently joined the volunteer program in Aurora and is currently completing her 120 hours of training through a firefighting academy.

All three of his children participated in the Portland challenge this year, and the boys also participated in the Seattle climb. “My son did it first,” Aamodt said, and now they are all hooked. “Standing on the 70th floor with my son was just the biggest thrill,” he said.

Steve, along with his two sons, are already signed up to participate in the Seattle stair climb challenge on March 10, 2019. That event sold-out within 15 minutes of registration opening. If you would like to donate to Steve’s quest in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, you can visit his fundraising page.

Funny Questions, Serious Impacts on Dairy Tours

Fresh off of the school bus, wide-eyed youngsters set foot on a dairy farm for the very first time. They’re taking in all of the sights, and yes, the smells.

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The farmer welcomes the students to her dairy and asks, “Do you know where milk comes from?

”Their most common answer? “The grocery store!”

This response shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that 98% of the U.S. population are generations removed from the farm. Tours are an excellent way to better inform and educate students about something that directly affects them and their families every day: where their food comes from.

“Most of the kids have never been on a farm. They have never seen farm animals in person,” said Melissa Collman, a dairy farmer in Boring, Oregon. “And even though our dairy isn’t very far away, we are miles apart as far as what they have experienced in life.”

As you might imagine, dairy farm tours can also be a source of humor, so we asked several Oregon dairy farmers and tour guides to tell us about some of the funny things they’ve heard or experienced while leading a tour.

JAMIE BANSEN, FOREST GLEN JERSEYS

Jamie and her dog, Olive, recently hosted a large group including students who had never set foot on a farm, let alone a dairy farm. Like a quick draw in the Old West, these middle schoolers quickly reached for their smartphones to snap photos and video along the way.

Students were amazed that manure is beneficial as a source of energy, bedding and fertilizer. “So wait, cow poop can make electricity and be sold for money?” a student asked. His serious question quickly devolved into laughter as a cow demonstrated the first step of that process.

After one of the girls expressed surprise about how quiet and happy the cows seemed, she decided, “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to pet cows all day.”

STACY FOSTER, RICKREALL DAIRY

“They love to tell me stories about their mom’s, cousin’s, friend’s cow that they saw once,” said Stacy.

Kids have told her they want to live at her dairy and become a farmer. They also want to bring calves home … until they’re reminded that they soon turn in to large cows.

“Some are amazed that we only have cows on our farm, since the only other farmer they know is Old McDonald,” she said. When the kids ask to see the other animals, like chickens, her answer makes the parent chaperones laugh. “Those animals don’t like to be milked, so they live on a different farm.”

CASEY SCHOCH, SCHOCH DAIRY AND CREAMERY

“On one of our tours, a little boy told me a cow joke,” said Casey. “What do you call a cow that has had her baby? De-calf-inated!

”Many of the kids ask to see the brown cows that make the chocolate milk, she said, but followed that it isn’t just the kids who ask funny questions.

“I actually had a mom ask me in all seriousness why we don’t milk the bulls,” said Casey, “I then tried to explain that similar to human females, only female cows have the correct parts for producing milk.”

MELISSA COLLMAN, CLOUD CAP DAIRY

Beyond the innocent and funny questions like whether boy cows make milk, Melissa expressed concern that students often echo some bizarre myths about dairy farming spread on social media and blog posts.

A student approached Melissa on a tour about rumors he heard about strange ingredients in milk. “So I milked a cow in front of this little boy, and he got to see for himself,” she said. “He was shocked.”

“It’s really important that we as farmers help educate consumers and future generations,” she said. “The funny questions and comments I hear on farm tours just reaffirm that any time we spend with the kids is time well spent.”

Catch a glimpse of some children discovering a dairy farm for the very first time in the video below.