Tag Archives: on the farm

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.”

Eight Questions for an Oregon Dairy Mom

Mary Chamberlain is a dairy farmer alongside her husband, Jason, and in-laws Warren and Lori, at Dairylain Farms in Vale, Oregon. Mary and Jason have three boys between the ages of one and seven, and she coaches a cross country running team at the local high school. We asked Mary eight questions about her life as a farmer, community volunteer, and a mother.

Why do you farm?

It’s a family tradition that goes back to our great-grandparents. I was raised on a dairy farm, and I married a dairy boy. It only made sense to work on his parent’s dairy and raise our kids to love dairy cows as much as we do. Raising calves, fostering them to cows, and giving them what they need to produce wonderful milk — that is the pretty basic description of what we do. But in reality it’s so much more.

When our first born arrived, I tried to stay home, but the farm needed an extra set of hands. I found myself pushing a stroller along as I fed calves, vaccinated cows, or checked heifers. Now on our third child, we start our mornings by heading to the barn to get milk to feed the calves, and end our day checking on the robots (we added robotic milkers last July). I’m very proud to have my boys working with us every day.

What’s life like for your kids on the farm?

They all have different levels of love for the farm and our way of life. My one-year-old just loves to watch the cows, and of course, sample their food.

Dairylain_2017_2048My four-year-old plays for hours with his farm toys in the sandbox. Every once in a while we catch bits of his make-believe land, where he is the ‘dad’ and he drives his loader and feeds the cows. We even get hints of a girl he likes as she makes an appearance in this pretend world to feed baby calves. When he isn’t in the sandbox, he loves to follow his dad around or ride along while I check on the heifers.

Our seven-year-old is starting to connect the dots that feeding animals and taking care of them is essential for them to not just survive but to helps us survive. When an animal is born, he is one of the first to let us know, and then help his dad move her to the barn. He helps with every task on the dairy. Some he hates (he thinks feeding calves is too boring) and others he loves (like picking out animals to train for fair).

And you’re also involved in your local schools?

Yes, I’m the local cross country head coach, and I substitute teach when I can (which is a bit rare these days with a one year old). Before my boys, I ran marathons and did triathlons all over the country. These days, it’s important for me to stay fit for my sanity and my health. Coaching running is great way to give back to the community and teach kids a way to deal with their own stress and worries.

With a master’s degree in dairy science and a love for running, I’m a bit of a quirky sub. I encourage getting outside to do work. I believe there is this huge connection to moving and learning that we don’t utilize in the classroom.

How important is nutrition to your family and your cows?

Dairylain Farms Chamberlain jerseyAs a three time mom in her 30s who still runs and bikes when she can, what’s in my food and my boys’ food is a concern. We all burn a lot of calories. I don’t want any food around that is just going to give a quick energy high and then leave me with a headache and cranky kids. Protein, carbohydrates, digestible and usable sugars, vitamins and minerals: that’s what I look for in all my food, and I try to balance the levels based on what we need and when we need it.

Good nutrition is also important to our cows. They are sort of like a pro-athlete; they will burnout if they don’t train and eat right. We feed the cows to increase milk supply naturally by giving them the correct amount of energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals (and plenty of water). We have to make sure their nutrition allows them to milk plenty but doesn’t deplete their bones and body.

Do you use antibiotics or hormones?

Out of 375 milking animals, we have only one that’s getting antibiotics right now. We use antibiotics on our dairy according to the label, and no antibiotics are allowed to enter the food supply. If she gets an antibiotic shot, her milk gets dumped.

I think there is a misconception that as dairy farmers we are constantly giving shots for sickness. Really we give very few. My one year old has received more doses of antibiotics for ear infections this winter than we gave the entire milking herd for the same four months. We all work hard to give our animals the best chance to fight colds and viruses on their own. When they can’t, we call the vet and get the medication they need.

As for hormones, cows don’t need additional hormones to make them give more milk, they have enough natural ones.

How do you take care of your cows and calves?

Dairylain calf feedingWe feed them, ensure they are safe, healthy and comfortable, and we provide clean homes and bedding. We give the calves blankets and warm water in the winter and cold water in the summer. Sometimes when my kids are sick, it’s hard to leave the house to work at the dairy. But the cows and calves need us too.

Cows are not humans, and sometimes they can hurt or neglect their calves. So to the calves, we are their foster parents. They depend on us to understand their language, like a wagging tail and licking tongue means ‘I’m good!’ — droopy eyes and not getting up right away means something doesn’t feel right.

How do you care for the environment?

Improving the land around us is a big priority. Since we grow our own crops for the cows to eat, there is always plenty of land that could use more nutrients. We sample the soil to decide where nutrients are needed and that’s where we spread manure from our pens and barns. It’s natural, organic fertilizer.

We ensure that the water used in our barns for cooling milk is recycled, so the cows can have plenty to drink. We are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste in all forms and recycle what we can. We use solar powered electric fences to keep the heifers in, and solar powered pumps to run our pivots to keep the fields watered and the grass growing.

Are there any parting thoughts that you’d like people to know?

Dairylain_2017_1972Just as none of us are perfect parents, there are no perfect farmers. But we honestly do the best we can do on this day, and hope for the same or better tomorrow. Every day is another chance to do even better. I trust what we do, what my neighbors do, and what our fellow friends and dairy farmers across the country do. We are proud of the quality foods that we help bring to your table and ours!

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Every Day is Earth Day for Dairy Farmers

earth_dairy_farmers_care

Earth Day may be celebrated each year in late April, but for Oregon dairy farmers every day is Earth Day on the farm.

Most dairy farm families live and work where they farm. Each day they walk out their back door to take good care of their animals and land. It’s a responsibility they take seriously, and they’re proud of the work they do to bring nutritious food to our tables in a sustainable way.

Dairy farming has become advanced and innovative in Oregon and across the country.  For example, between 1944 and 2007, the dairy industry used 90 percent less land, consumed 63 percent less water and emitted 63 percent less carbon while quadrupling the milk supply. Today, the dairy industry is responsible for less than two percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The dairy industry is also great at recycling. Almost 20 percent of everything dairy cows eat is an agricultural byproduct inedible by humans. One major byproduct of milking cows – manure – is a valuable resource. Farmers use manure as a natural fertilizer on their crops, and some farms use methane digesters to recycle manure into clean, renewable electricity. Several farms generate solar power, and reusing water many times over is standard practice on today’s dairy farms.

Sustainable diets with low environmental impacts contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations. Dairy provides substantial nutritional value in a single affordable package, has continually reduced its environmental footprint, and has committed to additional improvements industry-wide.

So whether you’re enjoying dairy foods on Earth Day or any day, you can feel good about how they’re made.

Seven Things You Should Know About Large Dairies

Larger Farms

Oregon has 228 family dairy farms, ranging from fewer than 100 cows being milked each day to more than 30,000. Regardless of the size of the farm, there are certain values, standards and management practices that every Oregon dairy farmer has in common.

Farm size does not determine farm quality. It’s a misperception that larger farms are somehow not as good for the animals, environment, employees or community. Here are seven things you should know about large dairy farms:

environment1 They are good stewards of the air, land and water. No matter how many cows they milk, farmers care for their land and their natural resources. It’s important to them to do the right thing and be good neighbors and members of the community and they take the initiative to do so by voluntarily implementing best management practices on their own.
farmers work with nutritionists and veterinarians2 Their cows are well cared for. Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high quality milk begins with taking good care of their cows. On farms of all sizes, farmers work with nutritionists and veterinarians to provide a nutritious diet, great medical care and healthy living conditions. Cow comfort is key to a farmer’s livelihood.
State and federal standards3 They follow the rules. Large farms must meet state and federal standards, and they face the same kinds of regulations and oversight as smaller farms. They have regular inspections of their operations to check for and ensure compliance. Dairy is one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S.
Sustainability and efficiency4 Sustainability is not just a buzzword. Farmers are innovating and working toward a sustainable future. They are increasingly working smarter with robotics, automated feeders, methane digesters, precision agriculture, solar panels and beneficial use of waste to increase efficiency and reduce impacts. Large scale farms allow optimal use of scarce resources such as water, energy and land.
Milk testing5 Food safety starts at the farm. Milk is one of the most tested and regulated food products, and all farmers employ rigorous standards, practices and procedures to ensure that it is kept pure, cold and safe. Farmers are held personally responsible for the quality of the milk that comes from their farms.
Josi family6 Oregon dairies are family owned. Even the largest Oregon dairies are family owned. Dairy farmers take great pride in their work, and they want to continue working on the same land so they can continue providing the nutritious food that we enjoy and depend on. It is their legacy.
Milk cheese yogurt7They coexist alongside smaller farms. Large farms support smaller farmers and vice versa. Not all farms produce milk for the same processors or the same dairy products or the same consumer markets. There is room for farms of all sizes and types – organic and conventional – to thrive.

RELATED INFORMATION

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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21st Century Dairy Farm, 21st Century Dairy Farmer

Today’s modern dairy farm is a far cry from what many people envision. Technology plays a very important role in dairy farming — from caring for cows to caring for natural resources. In Oregon, more and more dairy farmers are installing robotic milking systems for their cows.

With robotic milking systems, the cows are responsible for their own milking. They voluntarily enter a safe and clean stall when they’re ready to be milked — usually two to three times daily. Using an optical camera and lasers, the robot cleans and preps the cow’s udder, attaches and retracts the vacuum milking cups, and treats the udder post-milking to prevent infection. A meter continually monitors such things as milk quality and content or milking intervals — how often a cow comes through the stall.

The system’s software management alerts the farmer if anything is amiss. So if there’s anything abnormal about the milk quality, it’s automatically diverted away from the main milk supply. Or if a cow isn’t following her normal schedule, it may be an indication she’s not feeling well and the farmer is alerted. It’s real-time insight to each cow, individually. The cows also respond exceptionally well to the predictability and routine of the robots.

Robotics is just one of many ways that modern dairy farmers are evolving. Dairy farms across Oregon are already using RFID ear tags to monitor herd health, in addition to automated feeders, solar panels, methane digesters, GPS driven tractors, observation drones, computerized irrigation and much more. Technology is used not only to help make dairy farmers more efficient, but also to better care for their cows, the environment and their communities.

You can read more about robotic milking systems at two Oregon dairies in these recent headlines:

Mechanized milking
Local dairy goes high-tech with robotic upgrade

The Argus Observer
Dairylain Farms | The Chamberlain Family | Vale, OR

Tilla-Bay Farms celebrates five years as a robotic dairy with open house
Tillamook Headlight Herald
Tilla-Bay Farms, Inc | The Mizee Family | Tillamook, OR
Full text of the article available here for those without a subscription.

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.

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Camp Attitude
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Mercy Childcare Ministry

 

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