Deer Park, Wash. — Having spent her life on a dairy in Eastern Washington, Stephanie Littrel remembers a time when nearby dairies were more plentiful and much smaller than they are today. She said her dairy has survived because of the love and hard work of her family.
Littrel co-owns Dunrenton Ranch with her husband, Scot Littrel, in Deer Park, Wash.
In 1953, her grandfather, Bert Porter, moved from Cheney, Wash., and started the dairy. He built it up and then passed it on to a second generation, Littrel’s parents, Larry and Judy Porter.
She said her parents and grandparents belonged to special generations. They, and their contemporaries, worked hard, and they found great joy in their labor. Despite the occasional disappointments that are part of dairy work, they persevered.
This same spirit is more rare in her generation, she said. Fewer people her age have a willingness to stay with their dairies, especially during hard times. As a result, many of the dairies around hers closed, switched to other production or were sold.
Some of the remaining dairies grew larger, but her family’s operation maintained around 120 milking cows.
As she walks through the dairy, she calls out to individual cows, greeting each one by name, and she expresses gratitude for the life that the dairy provided throughout her childhood.
“I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” she said.
The dairy gave her a place to play and gave her goals to share with her family. And it gave her purpose.
Unlike some children, who drift for years without setting career goals, she knew what she was going to do with her life. From the age of three, when she was playing in the dirt near the barn, she knew that she was going to inherit the lives of her parents.
As a child, she started helping with the cows, feeding and milking them.
Meanwhile, she enjoyed the sights and sounds around her — nearby barley blowing in the wind and cows calling out for attention.
These are things that she continues to enjoy to this day. The dairy still gives her reason to wake up early and go to bed late.
She said her life is improved further because she works alongside her husband Scot and her son. Scot spends most of his time in the fields, growing feed for the cows that she tends.
Both husband and wife try to pass on their love of agriculture to their son, 14-year-old Derek.
Already, he has taken to the family work. He is raising seven animals of his own and participating in a 4-H club. He spends much of his time doing chores at the dairy, folding towels for the cows, feeding and doing other tasks.
His mom said that he is learning that this sort of work is difficult but both rewarding and exciting. Profitability is sometimes beyond the control of an individual dairy owner, who is at the mercy of fluctuating market prices. Still, it is a good life that brings people closer to nature, Littrel said, and it can be financially profitable.
In addition to teaching her son, she instructs other young people. She is involved in local agricultural clubs and organizations.
She explained that both her parents and grandparents placed a high priority on education. They knew that the continuation of their farming lifestyle was dependent on teaching young people. And she means to do the same thing.
Date started: 1953
Location: Deer Park, Wash.
Owners: Scot and Stephanie Littrel
Number of cows: 120 milking