Tag Archives: dairy farming

Meet the Miramontes Family: First Generation Oregon Dairy Farmers

In agriculture, farms are typically passed down from generation to generation – and dairy farms are no exception. These days, it’s unusual for a dairy farmer to start their own dairy. But that’s just what Jesús and Emma Miramontes did eight years ago.

Jesús at Miramontes DairyAfter spending 27 years caring for other dairy farmers’ cows, Jesús looked at his wife Emma one day and said, “Why don’t we just get our own cows and go for it?” So they did. They started Miramontes Farm with 80 cows and through hard work, excellent cow care, and teamwork, they are now milking 400 cows in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Before coming to the United States as teens, the Miramontes’ farming roots started in Mexico where Emma’s grandmother had a few farm animals. Jesús really enjoys the cows. He’s had strong mentorship from dairy farmers along the way who taught him about animal husbandry. For Emma, she loves caring for the calves. “I read a lot of [trade] magazines for information. It’s how we learn. There’s something new to learn every day,” she said.

When asked about some important lessons they have learned over the years, Emma responded without hesitation, “Working as a team.” Jesús and Emma have built their dairy while raising their three children, Manuel, Nancy, and Noah. She said there are good days and bad days in the dairy industry, but regardless the Miramontes family comes together as a team.

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Outstanding in His Field: Noah Miramontes on Dairy Farming and Soccer

Outstanding in His Field: Noah Miramontes on Dairy Farming and Soccer

Soccer Ball Miramontes Dairy

What’s black and white and can be found in a field? A Holstein cow or a soccer ball would both be correct answers – and ninth grader Noah Miramontes knows his way around either one.

As the son of first generation dairy farmers Jesús and Emma Miramontes, Noah has grown up on his family dairy near Grants Pass, Oregon. In addition to working hard alongside his parents on the farm, Noah Miramontes is now a freshman varsity soccer player for North Valley High School.

Making the varsity team wasn’t easy, especially as a freshman. He attributes his success to the lessons he’s learned on the farm and to eating healthy.

Noah Miramontes“The values I learned growing up and working with my family have helped me with success on the soccer team,” said Noah. “Values such as being a team player, keeping an open mind and not trying to control fellow teammates.”

There are so many tasks to complete in any given day on a dairy farm, Noah understands that routine is important as is every pair of hands and feet. Just like soccer. Farm work has also helped him prepare for any weather conditions as well as the hard work and physical demands that comes with playing competitive soccer.

When he’s not working, practicing or playing in a game, Noah enjoys snacking on fruit with peanut butter and washes it down with plenty of milk. In fact, Noah’s favorite dairy product is milk – especially chocolate milk. He recognizes the importance of nutrition to help make him strong so he can continue to improve.

While his big brother and sister have both left the farm to pursue their own passions, Noah knows he has at least a few more years of farm chores ahead of him. But he’s not complaining.

“If we didn’t have a farm, I don’t think I would get to hang out with my mom as often,” said Noah. “Growing up on a farm gives me some great moments with my mom.”

RELATED STORY
Meet the Miramontes Family: First Generation Oregon Dairy Farmers

What I Learned on My First Visit to a Dairy Farm

by Lindsay LeBrun, Graduate Student in Clinical Nutrition, Oregon Health & Science University

Lindsay LeBrunAs a nutrition intern for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, I recently had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm outside of Salem, Oregon, during my second week on the job. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm or have a background in dairy, this tour was an opportunity for me to learn about dairy production practices. I was also eager to learn what kinds of questions kids and parents had about milk and dairy.

After the hour-long car ride down I-5 from Portland, I made my final turn into a gravel parking lot and instantly knew I had found the right place. The excited yelps of fourth graders posing for a class picture made me turn my head as I stepped from my car. With cheesy grins they assembled in front of the wooden sign proudly proclaiming our location: “Rickreall Dairy.”

Cows eatingThis class is one of many that get a firsthand look at where their favorite dairy foods come from. At Rickreall Dairy, tour leader Stacy Foster conducts more than a dozen tours of the farm during the spring. The success of the program has allowed her to now expand to offering tours in the fall, and I was joining for the last tour of the season.

Foster, whose father owns the farm, began by acknowledging that she wouldn’t have hurt feelings if the kids (or parents) plug their noses. She admits it’s stinky, but that is to be expected when over 3,500 cows call this place home. Foster then asks the group if they know what milk is good for. Almost every hand goes up, and the chosen student announces, “bones.” “That’s right,” says Foster. “Milk has calcium and vitamin D for strong bones.”

Foster then leads us straight to the where the action happens: the milking parlor. This room operates 24 hours a day to ensure each cow gets two or three daily milking sessions. Foster tells us that each cow produces roughly 10 gallons every day, and overall the dairy produces 16,500 gallons daily! “Can you guys drink all of that milk?” she asks. A few cheeky responders reply with a “yes.” Foster laughs and says, “Well, you could probably eat all of that ice cream!”

We move on to the maternity barn where the sounds of the milking machines can no longer be heard. The children are excited to see two newborn calves beginning to take their first wobbly steps. This gives Foster the chance to explain the life cycle of a cow on the farm. The kids are surprised to hear that cows don’t just grow up and give milk – like humans, they have to have a baby first. As the kids peer over the enclosures to get a closer look, parents begin raising questions for Foster. “Is organic better than conventional milk?” “Can you taste a difference between different brands?” Foster points out that all milk sold in stores is held to the same standards for safety and quality. In fact, there are 27 regulatory agencies that Rickreall Dairy works with to be in compliance.

Calf milk bottlesWe end our tour by moving into the barn that houses the calves. “Who wants to bottle feed a calf?” asks Foster. She is met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from kids and parents alike. The children each grab a bottle and file down the row of calves, who eagerly stick their head out in anticipation of the meal. The children giggle as the calves gobble all of it down, and the bottles are drained within minutes.

For most of these kids, and for me, this is the first time they have seen a dairy farm firsthand. The tours at Rickreall Dairy are a unique opportunity to help kids connect the farm to table concept. Their faces light up when presented with the idea that the cows they met today could be the same ones that made the milk in their fridge. For parents, they enjoy having questions resolved to help them make good choices in what they feed their children. As for myself, I loved gaining insight into food system production and hearing about what the consumers wanted to know. A huge thank you to Rickreall Dairy and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council for making this experience possible!

Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold

Louie-Kazemier-working-in-Uganda

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

 

Dairy Farms Come in All Shapes and Sizes

There are 228 family dairy farms in Oregon, and no two are exactly alike. Regardless of the farm size, location and history, there are certain values and standards that every Oregon dairy farmer has in common:

  • Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high quality milk begins with taking good care of their cows. On farms of all sizes, farmers care for their cows by providing a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Animal comfort is key to a farmer’s livelihood.
  • Environmental stewardship is important to all farmers, no matter how many cows they milk. Farmers care for their land and their natural resources. They usually live on the land where they farm.
  • It’s important to dairy farmers that they be good neighbors and members of the community.
  • Farmers and the industry are innovating and working toward a sustainable future. They are increasingly working smarter with automation, methane digesters, recycling, precision agriculture and solar panels to increase efficiency and reduce impacts.
  • Food safety starts at the farm. Milk is one of the most tested and regulated food products, and farmers employ rigorous standards, practices and procedures to ensure that it is kept pure, cold and safe.
  • Dairy farmers take great pride in their work, and they want the next generation to work on the same land so they can continue providing the nutritious food that we enjoy and depend on. It is their legacy.

There’s a common misperception that larger farms are somehow not as good for the animals or environment. However, the large scale farms allow optimal use of scarce resources such as water, energy and land. Large farms also face the same kinds of regulations and oversight as smaller farms. If you have questions about dairy farming, use our contact form and let us know.

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