As we leave 2020 in the rear view mirror, we look back at a year that was unpredictable and exasperating for many. Time and time again, Oregon dairy farmers, processors and those in the dairy community proved to be resilient and rose to challenge after challenge. Among them; the pandemic, temporary supply chain disruptions, increased hunger, and historic wildfires. Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers proved they were there for their communities while working to provide nutritious dairy products – all without skipping a beat.
March abruptly impacted any previously made plans for the year. With the beginning of a statewide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, toilet paper made headlines as Oregonians began stocking up on supplies, but they also started to clean grocery shelves out of butter, cheese, milk and ice cream. Stores, and all those throughout the supply chain, quickly adjusted to meet the increased demand for milk and dairy foods. As restaurants and retailers closed their brick and mortar locations to the public, people were advised by government officials and medical professionals to Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Healthy.
Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassador and former NFL football player Anthony Newman helped by promoting good nutrition and health for kids quarantining at home with our ‘Stay Healthy’ series. His advice on how to stay mentally and physically healthy still resonates months later. You can now catch part of the series on the national Fuel Up to Play 60 Homeroom.
As the entire country shifted to working and staying at home, online learning and experiences took off. Farmers tuned in to industry professionals on our Lunch & Learn webinars. Local farmers and the Oregon Dairy Princess assisted with videos for classrooms and online farm tours. Even cows got in on the action, assisting Liz Collman from Cloud Cap Farms as she read books from their farm’s pasture to kids staying at home.
As the shutdown continued, restaurant and retail closures unfortunately followed throughout the year, with notable Portland establishments like Toro Bravo, Beast and the much-loved Cheese Bar closing permanently. The closures impacted dairy and many other locally produced foods that supply restaurants and food service companies.
More people took to making their meals at home, using pantry staples like butter, milk, yogurt and cream. Stacy Foster, from our own team, joined in with her daughter, creating a delicious recipe from Food Hero.
Although though most summer events, like the Oregon State Fair, were cancelled due to the coronavirus, ingenious solutions were created to keep traditions going. The Oregon Dairy Women celebrated the 51st year of their Red Barn Ice Cream event by taking it on the road with the help of Wilco. By the end of the summer, they had visited five cities in Oregon and served hundreds people their famous cones and shakes.
Hunger relief efforts also intensified as more people lost their jobs and businesses stayed closed. Safeway and Albertson’s Nourishing Neighbors program helped donate $450,000 in emergency grant funding to 159 local schools that aided school nutrition professionals in getting food to kids and families in need. Tillamook County Creamery Association, Rogue Creamery, Briar Rose Creamery and others also donated to food banks and their local communities.
Free summer meals were extended throughout Oregon through the year, resulting in nutritious food boxes and assistance programs that helped kids and families across the state.
And some farmers gave to their communities personally, like Rickreall Dairy, which celebrated the farm’s 30th anniversary by donating several hundred grocery bags full of food and milk to neighbors in need in their community. Tillamook dairy farmer Derrick Josi (aka TDF Honest Farming) bought meals for linesmen following a severe windstorm and for first responders during the subsequent wildfires.
In September, wildfires swept through California and Oregon, creating orange skies filled with smoke and haze that covered most of the state. Farmers kept their cattle hydrated and worked together to move livestock and supplies, while also helping their communities and supporting fire fighting efforts.
Despite the many challenges, bright spots appeared throughout the year. In October, Governor Kate Brown named October 18th Blue Cheese Day in Oregon, in celebration of Rogue Creamery’s historic win of “best cheese in the world” at the 2019-2020 World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy.
Threemile Canyon Farms won the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for its work demonstrating how growing crops and milking cows can complement one another in a regenerative, closed-loop system, resulting in zero waste. This recognition was a testament to the vision, leadership and commitment of the farm’s general manager, Marty Myers, and will serve as a lasting legacy following his untimely passing in early December.
Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers have been there, supporting their communities in ways too numerous to count, with delicious and nutritious food, helping their communities and caring for their animals and the earth. In 2020, dairy truly made everything better for a lot of people.
From our families to yours, we hope this next year is a safe, healthy and happy one.
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