Tag Archives: wildfires

Hindsight is 2020: Looking Back on the Year in Review

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.

Top Ten Stories of 2020:

OREGON’S THREEMILE CANYON FARMS WINS NATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY AWARD

IN MEMORIAM: MARTY MYERS

MEET SIX WOMEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN DAIRY FARMING

NINE REASONS TO ENJOY REAL MILK IN YOUR HANDCRAFTED COFFEE DRINK

“BLUE CHEESE DAY” CELEBRATES AMERICA’S FIRST GRAND CHAMPION CHEESE

OREGON ICE CREAM TRAIL

DASH DIET EATING PLAN

THROUGH THE FIRE: OREGON DAIRY COMMUNITY SHOWS RESILIENCY, GENEROSITY

GET CONNECTED WITH DAIRY EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ONLINE

VIRTUAL TOURS BRING DAIRY FARMS TO THE CLASSROOM

#Thanks4Giving highlights local dairy community heroes

You could say that 2020 has been quite a year with the triple challenge of Covid-19, wildfires and food insecurity for communities across Oregon. Following in the tradition of giving thanks, we’re highlighting people and organizations in the dairy community who have given generously to make a positive difference this year.  Join us in saying #Thanks4Giving to these community heroes.

Thanks4 Helping Schools in Need // This year hunger impacted many communities throughout Oregon.  We’d like to say #Thanks4Giving to Safeway/Albertsons and GENYOUth whose “Help Feed Families During the Crisis” campaign generated $450,000 in emergency grant funding for Oregon schools to aid them in distributing free, nutritious meals to children during the school year.  

“The support from Safeway and Albertsons has shown how communities can rise up and come together to support the needs of children.”  said Alex Singer, Nutrition Services Director for Central School District in Independence/Monmouth. 

Thanks4 Clearing the Air // We’re also thankful for Darlene Sichley of Abiqua Acres, who cared for her community during the recent wildfires by procuring 72 much-needed air filters to help clear unhealthy smoke from their homes so that her neighbors could breathe more easily.

“We may have had some difficulties, but the power of the community of helpers is greater than the fear and is the brightest light of hope,” said Darlene in a recent issue of Cowsmopolitan.

Thanks4 Helping Communities with Hunger // Incredible generosity makes for an incredible community.  When Sarah Marcus of Briar Rose Creamery heard about hunger in her community, she donated over 250 lbs of their delicious, handcrafted Fromage Blanc cheese to the YCAP Food Bank

Thanks4 Community Teamwork // And thanks to the team at Rickreall Dairy, who decided to pay things forward on their farm’s 30th anniversary by giving away over 400 bags of groceries, including fresh milk and meat from their farm, to their community.  

“We just pray that this random act of kindness will give everyone the hope they need as we all struggle through these crazy times,” said Rickreall owner, Louie Kazemier.

Thanks4 Caring for First Responders // Oregon has no shortage of farmers who want to give back. Derrick Josi, of TDF Honest Farming in Tillamook, called on his 400,000+ Facebook followers to support their local first responders during the wildfires earlier this year. His call to action resulted in a Tillamook coffee shop receiving over $1,000 to cover breakfasts for firefighters working to save homes and dairy farms threatened by the Pike Fire.

Thanks4 Feeding Families // And when wildfires swept through Southern Oregon, Rogue Creamery stepped in association with Rogue Food Unites and the ACCESS Rogue Valley Food System Network to donate between 400 and 1,000 lbs of their cheese every month to help feed families in the area, particularly those who had lost their homes in the fires.

On behalf of the Oregon dairy community, we’re thankful for you!  When you buy delicious dairy products, you support local dairy families, communities and businesses throughout the state.  Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

RELATED INFORMATION:

THROUGH THE FIRE: OREGON DAIRY COMMUNITY SHOWS RESILIENCY, GENEROSITY

DAIRY FARM CELEBRATES 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY BY GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

STAY HOME, STAY SAFE, STAY HEALTHY

Through the Fire: Oregon Dairy Community Shows Resiliency, Generosity

As if the year wasn’t already challenging enough, 2020’s wildfire season has been named one of the most destructive on record in the state of Oregon. Burning more than one million acres, the fires destroyed thousands of homes, and blanketed the entire state in heavy smoke for many days.

In early September, unusually high winds combined with an extremely dry summer caused multiple wildfires to expand quickly throughout the entire state, including Southern Oregon, the coast range, and the Willamette Valley. The fires caused level 3 “go now” evacuations for about 40,000 people and placed 500,000 people in evacuation zones, including more than 10% of Oregon’s dairy community.

As evacuations levels were announced, 20 of Oregon’s dairy farms were faced with the terrifying realization that they could lose their homes and livelihoods to a wildfire. Many packed up family members and moved some cattle, but in most cases the difficult decision was made to not evacuate the milking cows. Instead, farmers worked hard to create fire breaks around their farms, using their tractors to plow the ground to mineral soil, moving combustible materials, and using sprinklers designed for crop irrigation to keep the fields surrounding their barns wet and therefore safe from floating embers.    

The decision to wait out the fires was not made lightly, and it was based on the best care for the cows. Milking cows require a specially formulated diet, a comfortable place to rest, and consistency. Darleen Sichley, one of Oregon’s dairy farmers faced with evacuation orders shared her story online stating that care for their animals was, and always will be, their top priority:

“Long term, yes, these conditions are not good for us and them. But honestly the stress of trying to move them to another farm at this point would be worse… I know that seems like a crazy concept to not evacuate the cows and we pray we are making the right decision, but conditions in our whole area make us confident they are safer staying then maybe having to move them multiple times as these fires continue.” – Darleen Sichley, Farmer, Abiqua Acres

In Southern Oregon, thousands of families lost their homes to the Almeda fire. Among those thousands were several employees of Rogue Creamery.

“After a harrowing night of wildfire blazing through our community, we are heartbroken and devastated to learn this morning that several members of our team have lost their homes. Many others are waiting to return home to see what’s left … For now, Rogue Creamery has been fortunate as our cows are safe and our facilities have been spared. But our hearts ache for all those in our community that have lost everything.” – Rogue Creamery

And yet, through this tragedy, the farming community demonstrated their dedication to their families, farms, and communities through their bravery and resiliency. Some spent long nights sleeping in their barns or offices, others helped their neighbors evacuate animals, and many farmers donated hay and feed to local fairgrounds housing evacuated animals.   

As Mister Rogers is famously known to say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

In Tillamook, one helper was dairy farmer Derrick Josi, who called on his 400,000 Facebook followers to support their local first responders. His call to action resulted in a Tillamook coffee shop receiving over $1,000 to cover breakfasts for firefighters working to save homes and dairy farms threatened by the Pike Fire.

Also in Tillamook, the helpers were at Tillamook Creamery, where they provided free boxed meals to families in their community who were required to evacuate.   

In Saint Paul, the helper was dairy farmer Brandon Hazenberg whose farm was safe from evacuation zones. He spent his days hauling feed and bedding to nearby shelters and offered his dairy to neighboring farms in need of a place to house their animals. 

In Rickreall, the helpers were from Darigold where single-serve milk was donated for food boxes provided to evacuees. In Central Point, the helpers were located at the Rogue Creamery, where, after several of their own teammates faced unprecedented tragedy, they offered fresh, hot food and women’s necessities to those displaced by the fires.

And in Scotts Mills, the helper was Darleen Sichley, whose farm was only miles away from the fire. She quickly shifted from saving her family’s farm to caring for her community as evacuation zones were downgraded and her neighbors returned to find unhealthy air conditions both inside and outside of their homes. Within a day, Sichley was able to secure 72 difficult-to-find air filters for her community to use to help purify the air inside their homes.    

Many farmers are volunteer fire fighters, which proved extremely valuable with preparing for the approaching wildfires. Sichley’s husband, Ben, has been a volunteer fire fighter for over 16 years, and her father, Alan, has been serving the department for 39 years. “I think volunteer firefighting and that farmer mentality just go hand-in-hand in serving our neighbors in their time of need. It’s that sense of community service that has us not only caring for our farms and cows, but the future generations of our community.” 

“Farmers just know about helping other people. You help your neighbor, it’s just what you do.” – Steve Aamodt, former dairy farmer and volunteer firefighter for over 28 years. 

As summer came to an end and rain provided a much-needed assist for fire fighters, the smoke has dissipated and flames and hot spots are being extinguished. This has been yet another surreal chapter in the book of 2020 that we hope is behind us. Once again, it showcased an enduring theme of the Oregon dairy story – the resiliency and generosity of our farmers and processors.

RELATED LINK

Oregon Wildfires Response and Resources