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Dairy seeks to be good neighbor

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Family found that Washington has 'perfect cow weather'


By ERICK PETERSON


For the Capital Press


J&K Dairy is owned and operated by four dairy professionals, Jason and Karen Sheehan and Tony and Brenda Veiga, who believe in being good neighbors.


"We want to be good neighbors and do the best we can," said Jason, who is on the Lower Yakima Valley Advisory Committee, an advisory board for dealing with groundwater concerns.


As they handle issues such as the high price of feed, which greatly affects their success, they also attend to the environment. They try to make decisions that will reduce the amount of nitrate getting into the ground.


It is about being a good neighbor, but also about trying to create a business that lasts over generations.


"I think the industry is constantly changing, and it's a moving target," Jason said. "You have to get better at what you do, whether it's taking care of the cows, or taking care of the land. As long as you're doing that, you'll have a sustainable business."


This is something that the family has been able to do since 1978, when Tony and Brenda began their own operation, Veiga Dairy, in California.


California, however, was not without its problems.


"We wanted a larger farm base with more land to grow crops and milk a few more cows to be profitable in this industry," Tony said.


They visited Washington. Not only did the state have more available land for a dairy, Sunnyside appealed to them.


"We really like it. It's perfect cow weather. It doesn't get really, really hot in the summer, and the cows can take the cold," Brenda said. From her experience, she believes that cows prefer mild weather with low humidity. Cold is all right, as long as it is not constantly windy at the same time.


Now in their 60s, Tony and Brenda mostly deal with the overall management of the dairy, while Jason and Karen are more involved in the day-to-day operations.


"We've been at this a long time, we're getting older and we can't continue the operations forever," Brenda said.


All four of them reflect on the differences between dairies and other businesses. Farmers care about passing their businesses on to their children, who will hopefully pass it on to their children, and so on.


With four kids of their own, including a new baby, Jason and Karen are thinking about the world they want to create for their children. They hope that they can care for their land, and their business, in a way that makes it available to their children in 20 years.


After all, dairy work has treated the family very well, they said. It's something they love and something they wish to continue.


"It's a passion," Jason said. "It's not a job when you wake up and you're happy to go in to work."




J&K Dairy LLC


Location: Sunnyside, Wash.


Owners: Tony and Brenda Veiga, Karen and Jason Sheehan


Years operating: J&K started in 2004


Co-op membership: Farmers Cooperative Creamery


Total cows: 2,800


Employees: 33


Quote: "We want to be good neighbors and do the best we can." -- Jason Sheehan



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