Tag Archives: sustainability

A Small Oregon Creamery Thinks Big with Sustainability

Rogue Creamery, a small Southern Oregon artisan creamery internationally known for its award-winning handcrafted cheeses, is taking home a new recognition during June Dairy Month, by receiving the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing.

A selection of Rogue Creamery’s cheeses.

In October 2019, Rogue Creamery was rewarded for its high standards as the first-ever American cheesemaker to be named Grand Champion at the World Cheese Awards. But owner David Gremmels’ commitment to excellence extends far beyond cheesemaking to business practices that create a culture around doing the right thing.

“The food industry is a challenging environment with an ever-changing landscape. It takes passion, energy, awareness of food safety and a high level of professional business skills to understand, create and adapt,” said Cathy Strange, Vice President of Specialty, Product Development and Innovation at Whole Foods Market. “My experiences with Rogue Creamery and their owners and employees is that they are committed to represent themselves, the dairy community and United States artisan cheesemakers at the highest level.”

Founder of Rogue Creamery, David Gremmels, with cows in his pasture.

The sustainability awards program is managed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was established under the leadership of dairy farmers and dairy companies. For 10 years, award recipients have been recognized for their commitment to dairy sustainability with nearly 80 winners and from more than 270 nominees.

This is the fourth recognition for Oregon’s dairy community since 2017. Rogue Creamery joins Rickreall Dairy (2017), Tillamook Creamery (2018), and Threemile Canyon Farms (2020) in exemplifying award winning sustainability efforts.

The heifer barn at Rogue Creamery’s dairy.

Rogue Creamery became Oregon’s first certified B Corporation in 2014, inspiring other like-minded businesses to follow suit and pursue this rigorous certification. And since 2017, it has consistently ranked in the top 10% of B Corps worldwide for its impact on people and planet. This recognition affirms Rogue Creamery as a force for good—balancing purpose with profit and considering the broader, community-wide impact of every business decision.

As a leading proponent of renewable energy and waste reduction, Rogue Creamery has installed solar panels, reduced packaging waste, and created an employee commuter program. And, through team volunteer days, giving campaigns, sponsorships and food drives, Rogue Creamery advances core goals, which include alleviating hunger, increasing access to education, and building awareness about sustainable agriculture. Its “Cheese is Love” campaign has resulted in more than 3,500 pounds of cheese donations for those who have been impacted by fires that ravaged Southern Oregon in September 2020.

The team in front of Rogue Creamery’s marketplace in Central Point, Oregon.

“Oregon’s dairy community has long embraced the importance of sustainability,” said Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council’s Executive Director, Pete Kent. “Dairy farms, co-ops and companies recognize that their businesses can be used to exemplify sustainable choices. We are proud to have Rogue Creamery represent Oregon on the national stage this year as a standard for these efforts.”

This small creamery’s commitment to quality, sustainability and doing the right thing has substantial, sustainable impacts within its local community and beyond – enlightening partners, neighbors, and customers worldwide.

Dairy Plays an Essential Role in Sustainable Food Systems

From farm-to-table, in Oregon and across the U.S., the dairy community is committed to nourishing people while minimizing impacts to the environment and preserving natural resources.

Sustainable Wellness
Dairy is a nutritious and affordable choice that fuels overall wellness. 

  • Dairy foods are linked to health benefits like reduced inflammation, improved digestive health and healthy immune systems.  Read more about the Health Benefits of Dairy.
  • Milk is a nutrient powerhouse with 13 essential nutrients. Check out more Milk Facts.

Sustainable Planet
Dairy is committed to being an environmental solution – raising the bar on social and environmental responsibility. 

  • In 2020, U.S. dairy set aggressive new environmental sustainability goals to achieve carbon neutrality or better, optimize water usage and improve water quality by 2050.  
  • Everyday 306 million pounds of food by-products are kept out of landfills thanks to dairy cows’ unique ability to upcyle. Find out why we think cows are nutrition superheros
  • Two Oregon dairy farms and one dairy co-op have received national recognition for their sustainability. Learn about award winning dairy in Oregon.

Sustainable Communities
Dairy contributes to strong, thriving communities and is accessible to all. 

  • Dairy farmers are proud members of America’s essential workforce.
  • The dairy community is working hard to ensure every child has access to nutrient-rich foods, including dairy foods, to help them grow, learn and thrive. Read about school breakfast and child nutrition programs in Oregon.
  • Each year, farmers and dairy companies work with local food banks to deliver nutritious dairy foods to those in need, providing 469 million pounds of dairy- including milk, cheese and yogurt –  to Feeding America in 2020 alone. Find out more about how farmers fight Hunger.

Looking for more information on how dairy nourishes people while responsibly caring for our planet and animals?  Join the Dairy Nourishes Network.

Members of the network receive the latest dairy research, resources and recipes, as well as opportunities for free continuing education.

In the Loop on Sustainability: Threemile Canyon Farms

What’s the secret to winning the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award? For Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, it’s putting sustainability and its animals first.

The Closed Loop System: Recycling dairy waste to create energy

“We’re major recyclers,” said former General Manager Marty Myers, explaining how their dairy fits into operations at the farm. “Whatever we create, we utilize.”

Manure provided by the 30,000 milking cows at the dairy is an essential part of the farm’s closed loop system. By recycling the waste and water from it’s dairy into essential nutrients for crops, the farm has grown from 200 acres of organic farming in 2002 to over 15,000 acres in 2020.

Animal Care: Caring for cows comes first

Animal care is a top priority for all Oregon dairy farmers. In fact, most Oregon dairies offer their farm for voluntary inspections that are science-based and cow-focused to be sure they are providing the best care possible.

At Threemile Canyon Farms, Dr. Mike Paros, an independent animal advocate and veterinarian, also helps provide third-party oversight at the farm. “My main focus is taking the perspective of the animal and do whatever I can to provide the best care for them,” said Paros.

Water Use: Recycling water throughout the farm

Using water in a sustainable way is another way this farm makes a commitment to the environment. “Water is everything. Without water, there is no farm,” says Greg Harris, Director of Agronomy.  By recycling waste water as part of it’s closed loop farming system and using technology to monitor it’s water usage closely, Threemile Canyon Farms helps to preserve the land and aquifers around it. 

Click here for more information on Threemile Canyon Farms and other US Dairy Sustainability Award winners.

Related articles:

OREGON’S THREEMILE CANYON FARMS WINS NATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY AWARD

DIVERSE COMMUNITY OF DAIRIES THRIVES ON COLLABORATION

GENERATIONS DEEP: OREGON SUPPORTS DAIRY DIVERSITY

Oregon’s Threemile Canyon Farms Wins National Sustainability Award

An Oregon dairy was among the winners of the 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards announced in a presentation by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, was one of three dairies nationwide – and the only one on the U.S. West Coast – to receive the award for Outstanding Dairy Sustainability.

Threemile Canyon Farms was recognized for demonstrating how growing crops and milking cows can complement one another in a regenerative, closed-loop system, resulting in little to no waste. “We find what traditionally would be considered waste and redeploy that waste to beneficial use,” said Marty Myers, general manager and part owner for Threemile Canyon Farms.

For the past nine years, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has recognized dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. Selection involves a rigorous nomination and review process, and the winners serve as a replicable model for best practices that yield economic, environmental and social benefits.

Dairy farmer Sam Schwoeppe introduces Threemile Canyon Farms as an Outstanding Dairy Sustainability award winner, on behalf of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Threemile’s 70,000 Jersey cows are located at the center of the 93,000-acre farm. Practicing precision agriculture, the farm also grows organic blueberries, onions, carrots, potatoes, and corn, as well as a variety of conventional food, feed, and cover crops. Manure from the dairy serves as organic fertilizer for the crops, and the cows consume byproducts from food processing for human consumption that would otherwise go to waste.

Modeling creativity, innovation, and efficiency, their efforts to continuously improve farm practices generate positive results for food safety, air and water quality, animal care, and community benefits. “Our philosophy and approach is continuous improvement, with our team members bringing new ideas to our operations in farming, livestock, and renewable energy,” said Myers.

As an example, Threemile recently partnered with Equilibrium Capital to invest in converting its methane digester from generating electricity to producing clean Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). This process sequesters about 136,000 metric tons of carbon emissions every year. This is the annual equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 28,875 passenger vehicles driven while yielding a beneficial product in the form of RNG. Renewable natural gas used in vehicles reduces fuel emissions by 80 percent or more compared to diesel fuel.

The farm also thinks beyond its borders, voluntarily placing 23,000 acres into a wildlife conservation area and donating 7,000 pounds of ground beef to Farmers Ending Hunger every month. It also supports internships and opportunities for local 4-H and FFA students and other local community projects.

This year’s U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners show how operations of all scope and size are doing their part to make a positive impact on Earth’s resources. Go to usdairy.com/sustainability to learn more about the winners and to see how U.S. dairy adopts conservation practices in sensitive ecosystems, recycles water, produces clean energy and more.

“Threemile Canyon Farms is a highly successful working model of how modern dairy practices can be an environmental solution,” said Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council Executive Director Pete Kent. “To feed not only our own local communities, but growing global populations, we must embrace such efforts as these to care for our natural resources, so we can rely on them continuously to produce our food in the decades ahead.”

RELATED LINKS:

Threemile Canyon Farms

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy

U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards

2018 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winner Tillamook County Creamery Association

2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winner Rickreall Dairy

Cows Set a Good Example for National Nutrition Month

by Josie Oleson
Graduate Student in Clinical Nutrition
Oregon Health & Science University

As a student of nutrition, I know a lot about what people eat. It wasn’t until I visited a dairy farm that I learned what cows eat and how well they eat while producing the milk and dairy products we love. During my time on the farm, I discovered three ways that cows set a good example for the rest of us during National Nutrition Month and beyond.

#1: Cows have nutritionists

When was the last time you saw a dietitian? Cow nutritionists visit dairy farms regularly and observe the herds, analyze the nutritional quality of their feed, and see how much milk the cows are producing. Using that information, a cow nutritionist can change the components of their feed to make the herd as healthy as possible.

#2: Cows follow tailored diets

Cows get a specific mix of grasses, grains, and byproducts from food processing to support a balanced diet. Cow nutritionists ensure the feed ingredients are in the right amounts for optimal cow health and milk production.

What happens if the cows get off track? Here’s Derrick Josi from Wilsonview Dairy having a talk with his Jersey cows about the importance of following a nutritious diet and not eating empty calories.

#3: Cows eat a lot of fiber

Almond hulls and citrus pulp are some of the byproducts from food production that are added to cow feed. Humans can’t digest these things, yet they are full of fiber and other nutrients. Instead of going to waste, cows can digest them and convert them into nutritious milk.

These are just a few of the ways cows stay at their best thanks to a healthy diet. Dairy farmers and their nutritionists are helping keep their herds healthy, making milk more efficiently, and managing their farms more sustainably.

Dairy Done Right: Tillamook Honored Nationally for Community Impact

Contributions include fighting hunger, advocating for housing and supporting youth

Guided by the “Dairy Done Right” philosophy, Tillamook County Creamery Association has earned top awards for its cheese, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream and butter. Now the dairy farmer-owned cooperative has earned a national award for its commitment to the communities where Tillamook employees live and work.

IMG_3589Tillamook County Creamery Association
Outstanding Community Impact Award

Among the many reasons why Tillamook rose to the top of their category:

  • Support for the Oregon Food Bank has included contributions of funds, food, a distribution truck, a food drive and research about food insecurity with the goal of eliminating hunger statewide.
  • Funded a study on the root causes of the local housing shortage, and its gift of $75,000 allowed CARE to continue its mission of providing emergency aid to the homeless and those in crisis.
  • Collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington on a dairy patch to educate young girls about STEM concepts, farms and food production.
  • Committed $1.5 million to a new food innovation center to Oregon State University.
  • As part of an employee-led volunteer program, 118 members of the company volunteered 1,200 hours within the first year.

“Tillamook exemplifies devotion to their community,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “From working to find the root cause of food insecurity to improving housing access, they are addressing large-scale issues that impact the people and the planet.”

IMG_4481

Sarah Beaubien, Senior Director of Stewardship for TCCA

The Outstanding Community Impact Award was the only one given in that category nationally. The announcement was made on May 16 at a special ceremony outside of Chicago, Illinois, where it was accepted by Sarah Beaubien, Tillamook’s senior director of stewardship, alongside staff and board members. True to the spirit of the award, CEO Patrick Criteser was unable to receive the award because he was in the middle of a 300-mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness to help end childhood hunger.

As James Dillard, corporate and community relations manager at the Oregon Food Bank, said, “They are not giving away money just to improve their brand rating. They really are passionate about making a difference in Oregon.”

With Tillamook’s award, Oregon went back-to-back with U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards following last year’s “Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award” for Rickreall Dairy. Also of note for 2018 was Kroger’s win for “Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability,” which includes Oregon’s own Swan Island Dairy.

To hear Sarah Beaubien’s acceptance speech at the award ceremony, watch the video below:

 

 

Related Links:

Meet the winners of the 2018 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards | DairyGood

Tillamook County Creamery Association Wins National Community Impact Award | NEWS RELEASE

Outstanding Community Impact: Tillamook County Creamery Association | FACT SHEET

Think Like a Farmer, Honor the Harvest

Erin Fitzgerald

What do sustainability and nutrition have in common? Everything. That’s according to Erin Fitzgerald, senior vice president of global sustainability for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

She addressed the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Educational Conference as keynote speaker on May 4, conveying the importance of consumers and farmers working together to preserve the world’s resources while feeding America and a growing global population. Fitzgerald leads efforts to enhance dairy’s contributions to a more sustainable food system.

At the conference, Fitzgerald addressed the world’s need for food and the natural resources needed to produce food, stating that:

“We are exceeding the caring capacity of this earth. And since the global middle class will triple by 2030, we need to be prepared to provide more food. But how? We are losing 50 acres of farmland an hour due to urban encroachment. Our farmland is our rainforest. It is our nation’s greatest natural resource.”

However, she offered a message of hope. “I absolutely do believe we can solve for this. But it’s going to take an incredible amount of innovation,” she said. Fitzgerald addressed three major pathways toward sustainable food systems:


   Reduce waste and inefficiencies.

   Manage natural resource constraints.

   Advance farm technologies for crops in a bio economy.

Fitzgerald sees incredible benefits to advancement in technology. “By unlocking the potential of agriculture we will be able to cycle and manage carbon through agriculture, to solve for climate change,” she said. She followed that the biggest need is to create a revolution where consumers commit to adopt a farmers mentality to leave this earth as a legacy for future generations. “How are we going to get people on a sustainability pathway if we don’t already have the values and commitment to leave this world better than we found it?” said Fitzgerald.

She encouraged nutrition professionals by saying, “Take comfort in this stat that 48% of our land, air and water is in the stewardship of our farmers. They are truly providing these ecosystem services that we have taken for granted.” She went on to explain, “Dairy was the first industry sector to make a commitment to climate change.”

But aside from the sustainable practices that are ingrained in a farmer’s way of life, Fitzgerald also points out how important the cow is to our food system. “Because of the cow, we don’t have to wait for plant growing cycles, but we get nutrition year-round,” she said. “We take that for granted, but globally, around the world, to be able to provide nutrition 365 days while you are waiting for the crops to come in is a very big deal.”

As for the consumer’s role in sustainable nutrition, she explained that we are currently throwing away a third of the earth’s food. “Farmers are not going to have the chance to get this right unless people are eating healthy and not throwing their food away,” she said. “They are not honoring the harvest. What we do on our plates that has the greatest significance to the environmental impact.”

Fitzgerald encouraged her audience to create a ‘food-cycle movement,’ which includes: nourish people, eat right (leftovers too), get food to the food insecure, do your part in your community, and create a social handprint with food. She said, “That’s why I get excited to talk to [dietitians]. If someone is not there working with the consuming public on behavior change, then we won’t be able to solve for climate change.”

RELATED LINKS:

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.”

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.”

Farming with Innovation and Heart Earns National Award for Rickreall Dairy

rickreall dairy_louies-portrait

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

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