Daughter becomes partner in family dairy
By Sarah Kickler Kelber
For the Capital Press
Creswell, Ore. — Bobbi Frost surveys the milking parlor at Harrold’s Dairy, where two rows of cows are being milked by machine while outside, a truck stops by for its daily pickup of milk from the tank.
“A kind of cool thing about the dairy industry is that when you drink a glass of milk, you’re the first person to contact it,” says Frost, 25 and partner in the farm with her father, Max Harrold.
“It goes from cow to tank, tank to truck, truck to plant, plant to bottle with no air contact until it’s poured.”
Frost is the fourth generation of her family to work on the farm, which opened in Creswell, Ore., in 1946. She’s been working on the farm since she was a child, and full time since just before she graduated from Oregon State University in 2011. She became partner in the business after her great-uncle’s retirement earlier this year.
Her husband, Pat Frost, whom she married in August, has also joined her on the farm since leaving the U.S. Marine Corps in October.
The move from military life to farm life hasn’t been easy, but he says he’s taking to it.
“It was hard at first,” he said. “I had a whole career change, and we got married in August, so it was like 10 things at once, but I’ve found my groove.”
Not to mention, he’s learned a lot.
“I’ve gone through the initiation of being a farmer,” he said. “I’ve done just about everything there is to do here.”
There’s always more to learn, as the business is constantly changing.
About three years ago, Bobbi persuaded her father to switch to thrice-daily milking from two times a day.
“It makes a big difference,” she said. “If you think about it, a calf just drinks whenever it wants, so milking three times makes the day more even and makes the cows feel a little better.
“It was hard to convince my dad to do it because it meant more labor, but it’s worked out well.”
In the past year, they’ve also altered their approach to feed.
“We aren’t feeding them alfalfa anymore, which saves money,” Bobbi Frost says. “They get some byproduct feed” — including some reject caramel corn from a local company and spent grain from area breweries. “It keeps it out of the landfills.”
They also bought a new processor for the corn feed, switching to Shredlage brand silage, which crushes the corn at a different rate so it opens the stalk but doesn’t destroy the fiber, meaning that fiber doesn’t have to be added back to the cows’ diets.
“It was kind of a leap,” Bobbi said. “But since I came home, my dad is a little more willing to try new things.”
They’re also close to completing a new barn, which adds to its existing free stalls and also includes new, more open calving pens.
“It’s a lot better for comfort because they get to lounge a bit,” Bobbi said. “We’re hoping to see a difference in our pregnant cows.
“Dad wasn’t sure, but I said, ‘Let’s try something new.’”
Bobbi and Pat keep abreast of what’s new in their industry through trade magazines and webinars and are members of the Young Cooperators leadership program, which allowed them to attend the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., last February.
“The way the dairy industry is, you try something new and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, you try something else.”
For his part, Max Harrold is glad to have his daughter and son-in-law on board in the family business.
“Ever work with a family member?” he asked with a laugh. “No, it’s fine. I’m glad they’re both here.”
In fact, he said he and his wife would be thrilled if Bobbi’s brother joined them, too.
“Our other child is in the Marines,” he said. “We’re not sure yet if he’s a farmer. We’ll see.”
“It’s a transition, but you learn in a hurry,” Pat added.
“You don’t have much choice,” said Max.
Where: Creswell, Ore.
Open since: 1946
Herd: 450 cows
Partnered with: Darigold