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Farming with Innovation and Heart Earns National Award for Rickreall Dairy

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A dedication to protecting the environment, maintaining good employee relations and preserving herd health has earned Louie Kazemier of Rickreall Dairy an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

The award, now in its sixth year, is awarded for a dairy’s use of sustainable practices in areas of cow care, energy conservation, water conservation, nutrient management, and business and employee relations.

Rickreall is the first dairy from Oregon to win the award. It was one of only three such awards in the country this year, and the only one west of the Mississippi River.

Kazemier, who has managed Rickreall Dairy since 1991, summed up his commitment to sustainability as a constant effort “to do the right thing.”

“I believe that if we know a better way to do stuff and don’t do it, I don’t think we are honoring our purpose here in life,” he said.

His work on the dairy, more than defining him, he said is an extension of his philosophy on life.

Among reasons cited by the U.S. Dairy Innovation Center for Kazemier’s award are his philanthropic efforts to help others.

Kazemier travels regularly to Uganda to instruct dairy farmers, build housing and mentor young men. In Oregon, Kazemier built Camp Attitude, a camp for families with special-needs children.

In Rickreall, residents know him for his open-door policy, and the steps he takes to be a good neighbor.

“We are ultra-sensitive to the public,” Kazemier said. “We only irrigate certain fields, certain times of the day, because of wind direction and concerns with odor. And we have an open door policy, where anybody who wants to see the dairy can come in. We bring in a minimum of 2,000 school children a year at no cost to the schools.”

Rickreall-Dairy-signWhen it comes to the environmental improvements, Kazemier worked with Energy Trust of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade his barn lighting and parlor laundry systems, steps that have reduced his energy use by hundreds of thousands of kilowatts per year.

Kazemier’s nutrient management plan involves applying only the amount of nutrients plants take up, so nutrients don’t leave the soil profile. He conducts water-quality tests in a nearby creek on a quarterly basis, and takes soils tests on the farm’s cropland on an annual basis, just to be sure.

Additionally, Kazemier provides neighboring farmer Scott Zeigler excess manure nutrients from Rickreall Dairy in exchange for feed, an arrangement that has proved beneficial to both parties.

Kazemier’s father-in-law, Gus Wybenga, a third-generation dairy farmer who expanded and redesigned Rickreall Dairy when he purchased it in 1990, designed it with water conservation in mind. Kazemier has refined the system to capture and conserve water, and ensure that tap water is recycled at least three times before being used for irrigation.

And Kazemier has arranged with a local food processor to take excess waste water off the processor’s hands, an arrangement that, again, benefits both parties.

When it comes to his 3,500 cows, Kazemier works closely with a nutritionist, a veterinarian and a herd manager to regulate and monitor herd health. And he uses computer software to track daily milk production and maintain health and treatment records.

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Rickreall Dairy meets most of its feed needs through double-cropping ryegrass silage and corn silage and on the dairy’s 1,100 acres of cropland. Kazemier supplements that with high-quality alfalfa hay, along with two byproducts from a local biofuel production plant, plus mineral supplements, beet pulp, cottonseed, hominy and corn grain, and the feed he gets from Zeigler Farms.

Kazemier uses composted manure solids for cow bedding, a practice that, in addition to providing a comfortable and sanitary bedding, also provides another beneficial use for dairy waste, and he has removed exterior walls to improve air circulation in the dairy’s five free-stall barns.

According to John Rosecrans, the dairy’s nutritionist, Rickreall Dairy cows consistently rank as an “A” herd, exhibiting high milk-production-to-feed rates, low cull rates and high pregnancy rates – all key elements in a dairy’s success.
“This is one of those dairies where you can walk through the cow pens and they don’t run from you, they follow you,” Rosecrans said. “That tells you a lot about a farm.”

Then there are the dairy’s twenty-five year-round employees, workers with an average a tenure of twenty years.

“People don’t quit very quickly here,” Kazemier said, “and I take a lot of pride in that, because agriculture is a tough business, and my guys, they know that I’ve got their back if they put one-hundred percent into this job.”

Indeed, cows, people, the community and the environment all seem to benefit from their association with Louie Kazemier and Rickreall Dairy.

 


 


RELATED LINKS

Oregon Dairy Farm Receives National Sustainability Award
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Rickreall Dairy Lauded for Farming with Innovation and Heart

Dairy Farms and Businesses are Advancing Sustainable Practices, from Farm to Table
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Winners announced for sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, progress report released

Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold

Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold

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As a teenager, Louie Kazemier may have never envisioned becoming a dairy farmer as he was decorating wedding cakes, but he has always had a huge heart for helping people. From special needs kids and their families at Camp Attitude in Oregon to farmers in Uganda, Louie and his family continually give of their time and talents.

“The whole experience is very rewarding.” —Louie Kazemier

CAMP ATTITUDE, “CHANGING LIVES ONE CAMPER AT A TIME”

In 1998, Camp Attitude was nothing more than a shared dream between two men, a dairy farmer/youth pastor and a quadriplegic who wanted to make a positive difference.  Two years, countless volunteer and manual labor hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Camp Attitude became a reality under Louie’s leadership.

Over the next several years, Louie, his family and hundreds of volunteers poured their hearts and souls into Camp Attitude and its campers. Camp administration was run out of the same office as the dairy farm. Registrations doubled every year (there’s no cost to attend). In between caring for his dairy cows and farm, Louie spent his off-season recruiting high school volunteers to serve as “Buddies” for his special needs campers. “It was fun to sit back and see how the Lord was going to work it all out,” said Louie.

Today the camp is a thriving, fully accessible facility where special needs kids and their families come and actively participate in an uplifting outdoor environment. Camp Attitude’s vision is to help people become emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well and spiritually alive.

While Louie has stepped down as Director, he maintains many of the special relationships he developed with campers and their families during his time with Camp Attitude. He makes himself available to them whenever he is needed—and sadly, for these families, sometimes that means a midnight hospital visit or funeral. But there are happy visits too.  For example, when Bryten, a 16-year old girl with Brittle Bone Disease, gets to visit his farm and help in the milking parlor.

FARMING IN UGANDA

With a heart for the welfare of others, it wasn’t long before Louie found another opportunity where he could serve—halfway around the world.

Louie met Wilfred Blair Rugumba, Executive Director of Mercy Child Care and a young pastor from Uganda, when Wilfred visited Faith Christian School in Dallas, Oregon.  After a few minutes of visiting, Wilfred asked to see Louie’s “American dairy farm”. After asking dozens of questions, Wilfred was blown away by the technology, efficiency and expertise of Louie and his farming operation. Wilfred said, “You need to come to Uganda and teach us how to do this.”  One thing led to another and Louie found himself in Uganda about eight months later.

Louie was unprepared for what he would experience: a country slightly smaller than Oregon but with ten times the population, no or limited basic utilities, hand-dug wells, an average income of $3 per day, not even an address/postal system.

He recalled the time when he first arrived in Uganda missing some luggage, “There is no address system. So we instructed them to bring the baggage to Light the World Church along Hoima Road between this landmark and that landmark.”

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ll never see that luggage again,” laughed Louie. “But the next morning, the luggage was there.”

Louie’s first trip to Uganda was spent meeting the people, learning the culture and scoping out Mercy Ministry’s farm. He learned that Uganda has only two growing seasons for corn because of the rains.  During the off-season, this food staple is too expensive for Ugandan families.  So Louie’s first order of business is to help build an irrigation system to grow corn year-round and to raise money for a tractor.

Mercy Ministries also has seven dairy cows and Louie is sharing his knowledge and expertise in dairy production.  Baby formula imported from the United States is terribly expensive.  There are other dairies in Uganda, but only the wealthy can afford the fluid milk they produce. Nutrient-dense foods like dairy are in high demand in Africa and most experts think that the key to reducing hunger in Africa is to increase the food supply locally.

Not only does Louie lend his expertise and experience in farming and agriculture, he and his son, Nate, helped to build the Ministry’s Medical Center which opened in Summer 2016.  His son-in-law, a student at The College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lebanon, Oregon, plans to join Louie and Nate on one of their upcoming trips to Uganda to help out in the Center.

“The whole experience is very rewarding,” says Louie, “and I’m very close with the people there.”

Meanwhile, back on the dairy farm in Rickreall, ask his employees (aka extended family) what they think of Louie’s humanitarian efforts and they’d tell him “we do what we do here so you can go do what you do there.” Louie’s next trip to Uganda is planned for April 2017.

MORE INFORMATION

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Camp Attitude
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Mercy Childcare Ministry