Category Archives: on the farm

If You’re in Business for 100 years, You’re Doing Something Right

Farming is not just a business, it’s a legacy. Passed down from generation to generation, it’s a timeless tradition of caring for land and animals.

On Saturday, August 25, at the Oregon State Fair, this great heritage was celebrated by recognizing twelve farms and ranches from eight different Oregon counties as Century Farms. Two farms even reached Sesquicentennial status, which marks 150 years.

Farms are recognized as Century Farms when the same family has worked the same land for at least 100 years. There are now 1,212 Century Farms and Ranches and 41 Sesquicentennial Farms registered in the state of Oregon.

Two of the farms awarded Century status this year have been dairy farming in Tillamook since 1918.

Wilsonview Dairy was founded by Alfred Josi when he and his brother John, who immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland, made a lease to own agreement with George and Mary Durrer. The farm’s main focus for 100 years has been dairy farming, and is now run by Alfred’s grandson Don, and great-grandson Derrick.

Just down the road, and distant cousins to the Wilsonview Farm, Tilla-Bay Farms was founded by Fred and Gotfried Josi with 24 cows and 34 acres. They added the first free-stall barn and parlor in Tillamook County, and have continued to farm on the cutting edge, also being the first farm in the western U.S. to install robotic milking machines in 2010. The farm is now run by Bart and Terry Mizee and Kurt Mizee. Terry is the granddaughter and Kurt is the great grandson of founder Fred Josi.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the ceremony, guest speaker and century farm owner Peter Sage said, “The farm begins, not with a deed, but with a family. These families demonstrate the perseverance, determination and providence it takes to create a legacy.”

Dylan Westfall, Vice President for Oregon’s Future Farmers of America, encouraged those in attendance to celebrate their past, while looking toward the future. “We must use the past to change the present for the future,” he said.

While tradition runs deep within the dairy industry, so does innovation, as is demonstrated by both of these farms. Derrick Josi shares his farm life with 22,000 followers on Facebook as a nationally known advocate for the dairy industry, and Kurt Mizee is owner of Priority Robotics in Tillamook, a dairy robotic dealership installing new robotic systems every month.

In addition to the two Century Farm dairies, 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and Darigold.

Got Robots? Oregon Dairies Embracing Automation

After serving three generations of the Mann family, the old milking parlor at the Abiqua Acres dairy farm had seen better days. So when Alan and Barbara Manns’ daughter Darleen Sichley and her husband, Ben, decided to join the family operation, it was time to upgrade.

And upgrade they did.

The Silverton, Oregon, dairy today is among a small, but growing number of Western U.S. dairies using robotic milking systems. The 95-cow Guernsey dairy installed two robotic milkers in January 2017.

“It was a tough decision,” said. “It is a big investment. But we had to look at going a different direction when my husband and I joined.”

Robotic milking systems are employed on less than two percent of U.S. dairies, said Kurt Mizee, president of Priority Robotics in Tillamook, Oregon, who, with his father, Bart Mizee operates Tilla-Bay Farms in Tillamook. But the technology is catching on rapidly among big and small dairies.

“The adoption is definitely ramping up,” said Mizee, who runs three robotic milkers on his fourth-generation Tillamook dairy, including two he installed in 2011, the first ever installed in the Western U.S.

Dairy farmers choose to go robotic for several reasons, Mizee said. Some, such as the owners of Abiqua Acres, chose robotics primarily for the scheduling flexibility the systems provide.

“When you’re milking cows, it’s always four o’clock in the morning and four in the afternoon,” Darleen Sichley said. “Now you can work around what you want to do. Things still have to get done that day, but it is not so time sensitive.”

She added: “My parents sacrificed a lot when they milked cows for twenty years. Looking at what direction we wanted to go, robotics felt like a really good fit; because there is that flexibility, that balance between dairying and family life.”

Others, like Dairylain Farms, a 500-cow dairy in Vale, Oregon, chose to go robotic more for business reasons. “We couldn’t find labor,” said owner Warren Chamberlain. “It made our decision to go this route pretty easy.”

Whatever the initial motivation, cows, it turns out, by all measurable standards, appear to love the systems.

“If you walk through the barn, the cows are calm and easy to be around,” Mizee said, “and they just do their own thing and really can express their potential.”

“The cow can eat, milk, drink, and do whatever she wants to do whenever she wants to do it,” Chamberlain said. “And the cows like it better. Our components came up, butter-fat protein came up, our milk-per-cow came up, and our health on the animals is better.”

Chamberlain also discovered another benefit since installing the systems in July 2016. “We are actually out with the cows more now that we were, and that is what we enjoy doing,” he said.

Robotics are just one of many ways that modern dairy farmers are evolving, sources said. Automated feeders, solar panels, methane digesters, GPS driven tractors and computerized irrigation are other examples of high-tech influence transforming this otherwise traditional industry.

More than any other single advancement, however, robotic milking systems appear to be generating the most buzz within the industry.

The systems do much more than milk cows. Through the use of software that reads radio frequencies from a sensor attached to a cow’s ear, or, in some cases, to a collar that cows wear, robotic milking systems identify unique characteristics of a cow when she enters the system’s milking area. Systems can then deliver a customized amount of feed based on a cow’s milk-production level, with cows that produce more milk receiving more of the high-protein, grain-based mixtures dairy farmers supply in the milking area than lower-producing cows.

“Because the robot is feeding every cow for her production, she has a chance to really shine as an individual, versus being part of a group,” Mizee said.

Next, while cleaning a cow’s udder, the robot utilizes electronic mapping to locate a cow’s teats before milking the cow with suction-cup-like devices. When milking is complete, the system will re-clean the udder and spray a mist over the floor of the milking area, which signals the cow to move on and let the next cow enter.

Cows enter the milking area by pushing through a swinging gate. “It takes them a little while to realize that there is grain there, and to realize they can get some,” Chamberlain said. After that, left to their own devices, cows push through the gate on their own volition. “There is that feed incentive,” Sichley said, “and they want to get milked, as well.”

In addition to feeding and milking cows, robotic milking systems also analyze each cow’s milk for production elements, such as fat and protein content, and for warning signals of health issues. If the milk doesn’t meet strict quality standards, it is immediately diverted away from storage tanks.

Mizee also has an app on his smart phone that sends alerts when a cow is losing her appetite, resting more than usual, or engaging in other activities that indicate early stages of a health issue. The app, he said, helps him proactively treat cows before they get sick.

“It is all about getting to the point where you can be preventative and proactive, rather than treating for the condition,” Mizee said. “Probiotics and other preventative options can help you avoid using antibiotics.”

Not all dairies are equipped to operate robotic milking systems. For one thing, the cost for a system can be prohibitive. Among several competing brands of milking robots, all of which have unique characteristics, prices range from $175,000 to $250,000, with an expected payback of five to seven years.

Still, more and more dairies in recent years have come to realize the technology can work for them.

“Since we put ours in, in our area of Western Oregon and Western Washington, there has been basically one robot install going in almost all the time,” Mizee said. “We are getting to the point now where there are two or three going in at any one time.

“Part of that growth is that bigger farms have recognized the value of it. They are seeing value not only the labor savings, but in the fact that we are able to treat the cow better, and profit because of that. It is not just about quality of life anymore,” Mizee said.

“The fact that we are developing systems that are better for cows and better for people, I believe is pretty significant,” Mizee added. “That is going to keep generations farming, and that is going to keep our industry viable long into the future.”

Generations Deep: Oregon Supports Dairy Diversity

Dairy in Oregon began back in the 1800s, and there are more than 200 dairy farms of all different types and sizes in the state today. While many of the farms have changed and evolved over the years, most have been in the same families for several generations. These are some of their stories about where they came from and where they are today.

DRAWN TO DAIRY

Darleen Sichley of Abiqua Acres, a 100-cow dairy in Silverton, Oregon, wasn’t sure she wanted to return to the family farm after graduating from high school. Upon further review, however, the choice became obvious.

“I spent a year after high school working odd jobs in town,” she said. “Then I decided I wanted to come back here. The lifestyle – working for myself, and being able to work with my family and with animals that I enjoy – I decided you can’t beat that.”

A similar story played out at Hurliman Dairy, an 85-cow dairy in Cloverdale, Oregon, with Spencer Hurliman taking a year off after high school before deciding to return to the family farm.“I didn’t really know if I wanted to come back to the farm,” Hurliman, now in his mid-30s, said. “Then I spent a year traveling after high school, and when I came back here, it kind of made me realize that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

As a fifth generation dairy farmer, Bob Ross of Lee Valley Dairy, a 280-cow organic dairy on the Southern Oregon Coast, never doubted he was going to spend his life on a dairy farm. He admitted to being a little unnerved, however, after going into debt to purchase his dairy.

Louie Kazemier, who manages the 1,700-cow Rickreall Dairy in Rickreall, Oregon, grew up in San Diego, far from any dairies, but found his way into the industry through marriage.

“I met Lori (Wybenga) on my 18th birthday,” Kazemier said. “We met in August, and by April my father-in-law offered me a job. Before that, I had never touched a cow in my life.” Kazemier has been dairy farming ever since.

Notched into every Oregon dairy are backstories like these that help define an industry built on family values, work ethic and multi-generational sustainability. The stories resonate on small and large dairies, alike, and provide an authentic insight into an industry that is at once traditional and highly evolved.

EVOLVING TO THRIVE

The stories cut through decisions to install solar panels, methane digesters and low-energy lighting systems to generate power and cut energy costs.

“We have a lot of sun over here on the east side of the state,” said Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms, a 500-cow dairy in Vale, Oregon, who has installed two 10-kilowatt solar panel systems. “Solar panels just seemed like a natural fit for us.”

The stories can be found resonating behind decisions to build sophisticated water conservation systems that capture and conserve water for multiple uses, such as a system Kazemier installed at Rickreall Dairy. And they are at the leading edge of decisions, like Ross’s to conserve wildlife habitat on his farm.

“We’ve got some ponds that we’ve developed, some bird boxes, and we just finished a job where we set the fence back 50-feet from the ditch and planted a lot of native bushes, along with some blooming and colorful plants,” Ross said. “The waterfowl love it.

At the 25,000-cow Threemile Canyon Farms dairy in Boardman, Oregon, a full 23,000 acres, or slightly more than one-fourth the total farm, is dedicated to habitat preservation for four threatened species. The preserve, which is managed by the Nature Conservancy, has been used as a model by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and others for how private interests and public agencies can work together for effective environmental preservation.

ALL ABOUT COWS

The backstories can be found behind decisions to install cow comforts.

“Cow comfort is our number one responsibility, and our number one priority,” said Tami Kerr, director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, who also has a dairy farming background in the Tillamook area. “Healthy, happy cows produce a higher quality milk, and Oregon has consistently been in the top five states nationwide for milk quality, which shows we practice good animal husbandry.”

Oregon dairies work with veterinarians and nutritionists, Kerr added, who typically come out to farms twice a month, to ensure cows are healthy and well fed.

Threemile Canyon even hires an animal welfare advocate to stay on the farm for days at a time and issue quarterly reports to help the dairy see where it excels and where it can improve. And the farm hires an independent auditor to score the operation based on USDA animal-welfare standards. The farm, incidentally, consistently scores better than 95 percent, a mark rare in the industry, and recently notched one of the few 100 percent scores ever recorded.

GREAT DAIRIES NEED GREAT EMPLOYEES

The stories are behind decisions to treat employees with respect, provide them with good pay and good working conditions.

“Our producers are paying well above minimum wage, and treat their workers with respect,” Kerr said.

“Without good employees, we would not have made it to where we are today,” said Kazemier.

“I’ve got 300 families that are very dependent on what we do here,” said Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms and fifth generation Oregonian. “They are paid well. They make a good living with living wage salaries. And they are obviously in a sustainable business, so don’t have a threat of losing their jobs because of mismanagement.”

A TRADITION OF HIGH STANDARDS

Oregon dairies are made up of thousands of backstories that help the industry embrace standards of waste management unheard of in other states.

“Oregon is the only state in the U.S. that requires both the CAFO, or Confined Animal Feed Operation permit, and the Animal Waste Management Plan,” Kerr said. “Some states require one or the other, but to my knowledge, Oregon is the only state that requires both.”

“We have very diverse family businesses across the state,” Kerr said. “Some are organic. Some are conventional. Some are small. Others are large. But all are family businesses.”

And all, she might have added, have backstories that resonate across generations.

Former NFL Player Tackles Dairy Farming For a Day

Over his 12-year career in the National Football League, Anthony Newman regularly faced finely-tuned athletes weighing more than 300 pounds. But it wasn’t until he visited a dairy farm that he came eye to eye with a finely-tuned 1,300 pounder – a Holstein cow at Rickreall Dairy.

As a supporter of one of the nation’s largest in-school nutrition and physical activity programs, Fuel Up to Play 60, Newman regularly encourages kids to eat healthy, be active and make positive changes in their schools and communities. He’s a big fan of including milk and dairy products in a healthy diet, but he had never had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm.

Located outside of Oregon’s state capital of Salem, Rickreall Dairy was a 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winner. Newman took an all-access tour of the farm, and he was impressed. After seeing how well the cows are treated, what they eat, how natural resources are protected and meeting the employees, he said he gained new appreciation for how much hard work and dedication it takes to keep a dairy farm running.

Since retiring from football, Newman has been a successful sports broadcaster and devotes his time to support youth through sports camps, coaching and speaking about the importance of health and wellness for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Inspired and led by youth, Fuel Up to Play 60 was created by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is administered in Oregon by the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

View the embedded video to hear Anthony Newman’s thoughts and observations after experiencing dairy farming for a day at Rickreall Dairy.

Oregon Dairy Farmers Step Up for #dairydanceoff

Dairy farming can be tough. It’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week responsibility, and fluctuating prices don’t always compensate for the hard work. But dairy farmers are also resilient – and creative.

What started as a fun idea from dairy farmers Jessica Peters from Pennsylvania and Katie Pyle from Maryland became a nationwide trend on social media. Using the #dairydanceoff hashtag, they decided to dance the blues away and challenge others to do the same.

In her post, Peters says, “Let’s show the world that even though dairy farming is tough right now, you can’t keep a good famer down” Their challenge: stay positive and keep on dancing. And many dairy farmers responded with #dairydanceoff videos of their own.

Oregon dairies were no exception. Rickreall Dairy and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council asked the Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassadors to get the party started. And they sent a challenge out to other Oregon dairies who have followed suit:


Rickreall Dairy got the party started.


Eberhard’s MooMoo Belle milked it for all it was worth.


Cloud Cap Farm’s dancers deserve a round of applause.


Tillamook Dairy Farmer refused to participate … or did he?


For more #dairydanceoff fun, be sure to follow the hashtag! And be sure to show Oregon Dairy Farmers your support by following them, liking their posts and sharing them with your friends.

RELATED LINK:

Ten Oregon Dairy Farms to Follow on Facebook

Oregon Dairy Farms Milking Energy from the Sun

Steve Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms

For Steve Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms in St. Paul, Oregon, any project that is good for the environment and good for his bottom line generally is a go. That said, when the opportunity arose to install solar panels on his 300-cow dairy, Pierson didn’t hesitate.

Today Sar-Ben’s milking parlor and irrigation systems are powered by the sun.

“From a business perspective and an environmental perspective, solar panels make a lot of sense,” Pierson said.

Across the state in Vale, Oregon, where sunny days are the norm, Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms also found that solar panels could help him meet his power needs in an environmentally friendly manner. Today, after five years of enjoying reduced energy costs, he’s a firm believer in the power of the sun.

Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms

“As dairy farmers, we do whatever we can to protect the environment,” he said, “and because we have a lot of sun over here on the east side of the state, solar panels just seemed like a natural fit.”

Between solar panels and methane digesters that convert cow waste into renewable energy, dairy farmers are providing a significant boost to Oregon’s renewable power supply, according to Energy Trust of Oregon.

About one-fourth of dairy waste from Oregon’s 228 dairies is converted to renewable power through methane digesters, according to Energy Trust of Oregon. And many operations are now turning to solar panels.

Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms, a 200-cow dairy in Boring, Oregon, looked at installing solar panels for seven years before making the move in the spring of 2017. “For years, we thought it would be a great addition to the dairy,” Collman said, “but we never went through with it because of the cost and complexity of it.”

“All farmers are environmentalists at heart.”

When a company approached the dairy with an offer to install the solar panels and even rent the land they are sited on, Cloud Cap made the change. Cloud Cap won’t have access to the power generated by the panels for the first 15 years, but the benefits apparently are worth the wait. “At that point, once we take ownership of them, it should completely power the dairy,” Collman said.

Melissa Collman of Cloud-Cap Farms

Cloud Cap’s deal is one of many that dairy farmers have used to purchase solar systems. Many have utilized state and federal renewable energy grants to help defray some of the upfront costs.

Depending on the formula and the amount of kilowatts a system generates, the systems can pay for themselves in a relatively short period. Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms, for example, said the three ten kilowatt systems he installed will pay for themselves within four years. A more typical payback period is the seven years that Bouke deHoop of Holland’s Dairy in Klamath Falls estimates it will take for him to recoup his investment in solar.

Systems typically are installed on less productive farmland, and, according to Chamberlain of Dairylain, don’t take up much land to begin with. The two ten kilowatt systems on his farm run about 100 feet in length, he said.

Systems are relatively maintenance free after the installation, Chamberlain said. “All we have to do is wash the dust off during the summer a little bit and knock the snow off during the winter,” he said. “Other than that, we haven’t had to do anything to them. They just sit out there and produce electricity for me.”

Bouke deHoop of Holland’s Dairy

Most solar systems won’t power an entire operation, but are designed to supply a portion of a farm’s energy needs. That portion, however, can be significant. Chamberlain said that over the five years he’s run on solar power, he has saved about $35,000 in electricity costs, or about $7,000 a year.

Beyond that, Chamberlain noted, he’s also been reducing his carbon footprint, which is something he and other dairy farmers take pride in. “Anytime you are able to save money and do something that is good for the environment, it always makes you feel good,” he said.

“I think farmers are always looking for ways to be more sustainable,” said Collman of Cloud Cap Farms.

Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms agreed: “All farmers are environmentalists at heart. This is just one more way we help protect our environment. We use renewable resources whenever possible.”

Ten Oregon Dairy Farms to Follow on Facebook

Did you know there are more than 2 billion active users on Facebook, and the average person follows 338? You can follow your hairdresser, your kid’s school teachers and even your post office on social media – but are you following your local dairy farmer? You should.

By following farmers on Facebook, you can get to know the families who help deliver nutritious and delicious food to your table. Just like no two farms are exactly alike, their Facebook pages are unique, representing conventional and organic farms ranging from 20 cows to more than 20,000. Some include stories, behind the scenes videos, humor, answers to your questions, beautiful photography and even invitations to visit.

Here are ten Oregon dairy farmers you should be following on Facebook (in alphabetical order):

RELATED LINKS

New Adopt a Farmer Video Features Oregon Dairy

Thanks to Oregon dairy farmers like Bobbi Frost from Harrold’s Dairy, local students have the opportunity to experience a dairy farm and better understand agriculture. She is featured in a new video for Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer program.

“The majority of people in our country don’t have any experience with agriculture,” said Frost. “So really you’re bringing in your expertise, you’re teaching the teacher and giving her the skills to teach more kids and you’re giving the kids the opportunity to learn, too.”

The Adopt a Farmer program is an innovative program connecting sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to the sources of their food and fiber. Started in 2011, the program has grown from 300 students in the first year to more than 5,000 in six years. So far, the program has partnered with 48 Oregon schools, including interaction and experiences both in the classroom and on the farm.

“When they have a chance to get out and actually go to a dairy farm and see the cows and see the whole process, I think it makes it more real for them and they have an appreciation,” said Mindy Hayner, a parent from Coburg Community Charter School who is featured in the video.

Various other Oregon dairy farms have been included in the Adopt a Farmer program in recent years. In addition to Harrold’s Dairy, this year’s farms included Cloud Cap Farms, Mayfield Dairy and Veeman’s Dairy. Bobbi Frost is a strong supporter of the program and encourages other farmers to get involved.

“By being a farmer and telling your story, you’re debunking the myths, you’re giving the answers that you want kids to know, you’re giving them a shot at what actually happens on a farm,” said Frost. “You are telling your story, and nobody can tell it better than the actual farmer can tell it.”

RELATED LINKS:

Dairy Meets Classroom: Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms

Adopt a Farmer, Oregon AgLink

Oregon’s Newest Creamery Invites You to the Farm

A new farm-to-table experience is coming soon, where you’ll be able to meet the cows that make the milk for your artisan cheese and watch skilled cheesemakers in action.

TMK Farm and Creamery is located about a half hour from Portland in Canby, Oregon. It is a small family farm that began 30 years ago when owner Todd Koch purchased his first Holstein cow. “It all started with a 4-H project that went too far,” he said. “I was supposed to sell that cow, but I kept her and the rest is history.”

By 1997, the milking herd had grown, so the Koch family built TMK Dairy. This year, they built a commercial creamery where Koch’s sister Shauna and brother-in-law Bert Garza began making farmstead cheeses.

As described on the farm’s website, the new state-of-the-art creamery on the dairy property “allows for an immersive experience for their guests that provides a transparent look at farmstead cheese-making, lets you meet the cows [and] explore the farm.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While the herd of 20 cows is relatively small by comparison to other Oregon dairies, like dairy farms of all sizes, TMK demonstrates great care and stewardship for their animals, natural resources, employees and their community.

The creamery is already operating, selling mostly to local stores and restaurants/wineries, with plans to open a boutique tasting room, store and patio on the site of the creamery where you can sample artisan cheese while watching the cheesemakers through large observation windows.

Currently, farm tours are offered any day of the week by appointment. You can check out more from TMK by visiting their Facebook page @TMKfarms, web page www.tmkfarms.com or by calling 503-705-2550.

Stacy Foster Selected to Manage Oregon Dairy Industry Relations

With more than a decade of experience leading farm tours for thousands of students, teachers and parents at a nationally recognized Oregon dairy, Stacy Foster knows a thing or two about dairy farming. That background will serve her well as the new Industry Relations and Communications Manager for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

In this position, Foster will serve as the primary liaison with Oregon’s dairy industry and affiliated agricultural organizations. Working with Oregon’s dairy farm families, industry leaders and others, she will promote the growth and advancement of the dairy industry in the state and surrounding region. Foster succeeds Melinda Petersen, who joined Dairy West in Meridian, Idaho, as Producer and Community Relations Manager.

Foster was selected through a competitive recruitment process. In addition to possessing a strong dairy background, she has a degree in communications from Corban University and is an experienced homeschool instructor. She created the tour program for Rickreall Dairy from the ground up and recently began offering fall tours in addition to her spring visits.

“After leading farm tours for the past 10 years, I have discovered a passion for Oregon’s dairy industry and the families that make this community thrive,” said Foster. “I look forward to working together to continue building on positive messages about dairy farming and its products.”

Foster was recently honored by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a recipient of the Farm to School Award. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that go ‘above and beyond to strengthen the relationship between kids, schools and food that’s being locally produced.’ Amy Gilroy, Farm to School Manager, presented the award to Foster on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol at a public event called Oregon’s Bounty in October. Earlier this year, Rickreall Dairy also won the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award.

“We are very excited to have Stacy working for dairy in Oregon,” said Pete Kent, Executive Director for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. “She brings a strong skill set to the table and possesses a vision and commitment to serve Oregon’s dairy farm families.”

« Older Entries