Category Archives: on the farm

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.”

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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.”

Dairy Princess Ambassador Goes International

Linn and Benton Counties Dairy Princess Ambassador Stephanie Breazile recaps her travels to dairies abroad, noting similarities and differences.

My name is Stephanie Breazile, and I am the 2017 Linn and Benton Counties Dairy Princess Ambassador. I am currently attending Oregon State University majoring in Agricultural Sciences with a minor in Leadership to become a high school agricultural education instructor.

At the beginning of the summer, I attended a two-week study abroad program in England through the College of Agricultural Sciences. We spent one week in Nottingham and the last week in and around Cheltenham. One on the main things that we focused on throughout the two weeks was the dairy industry.

I was able to visit the University of Nottingham – Sutton Bonington Campus Dairy. This is a commercial dairy that is also used for research for the school. There were four robotic milking machines, one of which was used for the research cattle. The main research that was being done was feed trials, which Oregon State University does as well. One thing that surprised me at the dairy was that they still manually push the feed for the cows, when it seems that many dairies in Oregon are getting automatic feed pushers.

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I also was able to go to Westcomb Dairy, which also has their own creamery. We were able to go into their cheese cellar where their cheddar cheese aged. Their cheese ranged from 12 months to 24 months. They also had a machine that automatically flipped the cheese blocks so employees did not have to do that.

England is adding more technology to their dairy industry to become more efficient and have less human input because there isn’t enough people that want to work on dairy farms, much like here.

Being able to attend this study abroad program was very rewarding, and I learned so much more about the dairy industry as a whole. I will now be able to use the knowledge I gained as I share the story of milk as a Dairy Princess Ambassador and to future students as a high school agricultural education instructor.

The Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council is a proud sponsor of the Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador program. Learn more about the program at oregondairywomen.com/dairy-princess.

For This Nurse, Dairy Farming Provides the Perfect Antidote

Jennifer-Evers_Wismer_s-Dairy

When she isn’t caring for her patients, she’s caring for her cows.

For Jennifer Evers, a critical care nurse at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro, Oregon, spending her days off working on a dairy farm is the perfect antidote to a stressful work week. And it’s something she wouldn’t miss for the world.

“I really appreciate the farm as my outlet from nursing,” Evers said. “I really enjoy just going out there and relaxing, enjoying the environment, the peace, and just being with my family.”

Jennifer-Evers_farm-and-family-time Evers, who grew up on her family’s Wismer’s Dairy in Gaston, Oregon, married a fellow dairy farmer, Zack Evers, who now helps run his family’s operation, Ever May Farms in Forest Grove.

These days, Evers works three 12-hour shifts at the hospital each week, 4 to 8 hours a month at a nearby cardiologist’s office, and splits her time “off” between the two farms, pitching in where she’s most needed.

“I’m just a set of helping hands,” she said. “They’ll call me when they need a driver, or a milker, or someone to feed calves, or to move cows around. I’m just an eager helper, because it is not my everyday routine. I am refreshed and recharged, and it is a way for me to de-stress from my full-time job.”

For many young adults who were raised on a farm, it was never a doubt as to whether they would stay and work the family farm. For others, staying on the family farm was not their calling. Evers is sort of a hybrid.

“When I was in high school, my dad used to ask me why I wanted to leave him and leave the farm,” Evers remembered. “I told him [it was] so I could make a career for myself and because I wanted to help people in their worst of times and their best of times. And I still can’t think of anything else that I would rather do than nursing.”

jennifer-evers_critical-care-nurse It was when she was fresh out of college and still living on the family farm that Evers came to realize just how much farming meant to her.

“I really started to value my lifestyle and what I grew up with,” she said. “I could see how lucky I was compared to my co-workers. None of them had this outlet that I had. It was a place to go to be with family.”

During an intensive regimen of college courses, Evers continued to work the farm on most weekends and during college vacations. Her senior year, she started a two-year stint as a Dairy Princess Ambassador, advocating for the industry at events around the state and in classroom settings.

To this day, in fact, her fellow nurses call her the Dairy Princess.

“They tell all my patients, ‘You have the Dairy Princess taking care of you today,’” she shared.

Evers doesn’t mind the teasing and, in fact, uses it to advocate for the industry.

“I get very passionate when I talk with my patients and their families and staff about dairying,” she said. “My co-workers know I’m a farmer, and when they have questions, they come talk to me. About once a week we’re in a discussion in the middle of the nursing station, talking about a particular farming practice, or about how a farmer takes care of their land, about how they treat their cows if they are sick, and just kind of correcting misunderstandings that they may have from misinformation.”

Her interest in representing the dairy industry led her to join the Oregon Dairy Products Commission as one of its newest board members. Looking ahead, Evers said she has no plans to choose between her full-time profession and her passion for dairy, preferring to leave things as they are for the foreseeable future.

“For me, it is the best of both worlds, to be able to work thirty-six hours a week as a nurse, and spend four days a week on the dairies,” she said.

It might not be your normal weekend activity, but it’s one that works just fine for Jennifer Evers.

 

This story also appears on the DairyGood website.

Brews to Moos: Cows Savor Brewery Byproduct

As an estimated 80,000 locals and tourists taste samples at the 30th annual Oregon Brewers Festival in downtown Portland this week, cows in Astoria will be enjoying the spent grains from one of the participating brewers.

This story began more than 10 years ago, when dairy feed costs started soaring in the wake of the U.S. ethanol mandate. Dirk Rohne of Brownsmead Island Farm near Astoria, Oregon, had one of those “what if” moments.

What if he could use a byproduct generated by the beer brewing process at nearby Fort George Brewery as feed for his 170 cow dairy?

“I had this conversation with the owners of Fort George, and it came out that Fort George had a problem,” Rohne said. “They had to get rid of all this grain, and, intuitively, I thought it could be a resource for my dairy.”

Rohne and Fort George began an arrangement that today is providing Rohne a valuable feed source and helping Fort George dispose of its byproduct in an environmentally friendly manner.

The arrangement is one of dozens in place today between Oregon dairies and Oregon microbreweries, arrangements that Rohne characterized as “a winning scenario for everyone involved.”

“This (arrangement) is way better than sending it to a landfill, because it is a valuable feed commodity for Dirk,” said Fort George founder Jack Harris. “And if we had to landfill it, it would be very expensive, because we make a lot of it.”

Use of spent grains as dairy feed, although a practice dating back decades, had a slow start among Oregon microbreweries, primarily because the smaller breweries weren’t making enough beer for dairies to justify hauling it to their farms.

“Initially, it was really difficult for a lot of these microbreweries to get rid of their spent brewers grains,” said dairy nutrition consultant Mary Swearingen. “I remember when I was younger, there were producers that used to get it for free, because the distillers needed to get rid of it. Today is has become an up-and-coming trend, and a hot commodity for producers to get their hands on.”

“Originally, it was very challenging time wise, driving back and forth with a flatbed carrying four fish totes,” Rohne said. “Then Fort George got larger, and I bought twenty fish totes. They would fill up the totes, and I would use their forklift to load the totes onto my truck and trailer in the middle of the road outside their brewery.”

Today the dairy hauls between forty and fifty tons of spent grain a month from the downtown Astoria brewery to the dairy in a one-ton truck with a triple-axle dump trailer that Rohne purchased solely for hauling the spent grain.

“Now it is a well-oiled machine,” Rohne said, “and because I was willing to do that in the beginning, a level of trust developed that allowed me to invest more into the hauling.”

Spent grains bring several positives to a dairy cow’s diet, Swearingen said. “Their number one characteristic is they are relatively high in energy, and they are very digestible,” she said.

“We feed alfalfa hay and corn silage and grain during the winter months when we are unable to pasture our cows,” Rohne said. “Those are very dry, so when you have that spent grain, which is very wet, it makes the consistency more palatable for the cows.

“The cows do very well on it,” Rohne added. “When I have a lot of spent grain on hand, everything seems to go a little bit better. The cows seem to eat more and do better, and I cut back on my feed costs.”

Dairy consultant and nutritionist John Rosecrans said he’s been using spent brewers grain in his practice for decades. Before Oregon became a leader in the microbrewery industry, dairies would purchase the feed from Henry Weinhard’s Brewery in Portland and from Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, Washington, among others brewers, he said.

“There were several brewers here back thirty, thirty-five years ago, and it doesn’t matter if a brewer is big or small, livestock is far and away the best use for that brewer’s grain,” Rosecrans said.

In most cases, spent grains make up only a small part of a dairy cow’s diet, Rosecrans said. “It might make up just five to ten percent of a dairy cow’s total intake,” Rosecrans said, “but it is a valuable part of their diet. And we’re turning what would be a waste product into a feed product. That should be good for everybody.”

Rohne even takes this environmentally friendly use of spent grains to another level, turning his dairy’s manure solids into compost and selling it back to the local community as fertilizer.

“In Dirk’s case, we send the spent grains out to him, he runs it through his cows, and we scoop it back up and put it on our garden,” Fort George’s Harris said. “It is a true cycle of life we’ve got going on between us and Dirk.”

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