Capital Press | Dairy Capital Press Fri, 27 May 2016 15:13:15 -0400 en Capital Press | Dairy Regional dairy co-op preserves rich history Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:15:53 -0400 Erick Peterson Darigold is a farmer-owned dairy co-op with a long history of growth across the Northwest.

The fifth-largest dairy co-op in the United States, Darigold produces consumer and export products. Whey powder, cheese and butter are just some of the items made. The company processes more than 8 billion pounds of milk annually, said Michelle Carter, communications coordinator for Darigold.

The co-op’s history dates back to 1918, when several dairy farmers’ associations came together. They were small local co-ops, she said, and they joined to create a regional presence and find a market for their products.

The Darigold name was created in 1925 and was popularized in the following decades. Through marketing campaigns, including the “Got Milkman” campaign of the 1990s and the “Local Cows Working Hard” campaign of the 2000s, Darigold established itself as a household name.

Meanwhile, Darigold continued to grow through several mergers with such organizations as Mayflower Farms of Portland and the Dairymen’s Creamery Association of Idaho.

Though fluid milk sales are slipping in the United States, some segments of the market are increasing, and products such as chocolate milk, lactose-free milk and Omega 3-fortified milk are strong sellers for Darigold both domestically and internationally.

Food manufacturers are also strong buyers of Darigold products, said Steve Rowe, senior vice president. Whey powder is a top seller in foreign markets.

Darigold increased its sales from $2.2 billion in 2013 to nearly $2.6 billion in 2014.

The continued strength of Darigold is important, he said, because many people depend on the company’s success. In addition to its 500 member families in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, Montana and Idaho, Darigold employs 1,400 people at its 11 plants and the corporate offices.

Wherever these plants exist, they help support local communities. The Sunnyside, Wash., plant processes mostly cheese — around 200 million pounds of it per year and is a major employer in the area, Rowe said.

During the past year, two other facilities underwent upgrades or other work. A new dryer was installed to replace one lost in a fire in Lynden, Wash., and improvements were made to the Chehalis, Wash., facility.

Grants help dairy address runoff, other issues Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:16:13 -0400 Gail Oberst BROWNSMEAD, Ore. — Some dairy owners take to heart the bumper sticker adage: “Every day is Earth Day for farmers.”

Dirk Rohne, Clatsop County commissioner and dairy farmer, is one of those. His family’s 179-acre dairy is 20 miles upriver from Astoria near the village of Brownsmead. A few years ago, Rohne got a small grant, $3,520, from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, a state agency that supports watershed improvements, to add gutters to his main dairy building.  The gutters rerouted rainwater from the dairy’s roof, away from high traffic areas and away from the liquid manure storage tank nearby.

“The high volume of rain water used to inundate the manure system and would require time, labor and electricity needed to handle the increase in volume in manure that needed to be processed,” Rohne said. The new gutters now keep rainwater out of the system, save electricity and increase the amount of storage available for manure that once filled with rainwater. Increased water and manure management also reduces the chance of run-off into nearby fish-bearing waters. Blind Slough is home to Chinook, coastal cutthroat, chum and steelhead.

“Blind Slough has a huge run of salmon,” said Wendi Agalzoff of Clatsop Soil and Water Conservation District.

It is not the first environmental improvement project on Rohne’s dairy. With Clatsop SWCD’s help, the family dairy has also accessed grants from OWEB that funded installing native plants along the riparian area of Blind Slough to provide shade and fish habitat, as well as erosion control. He also installed fencing to keep cows out of Blind Slough.

The projects were all part of Rohne’s farm plan, created with help from the Clatsop SWCD.

Dairy owners in Oregon have access to OWEB funds to pay for projects that improve water quality, officials say. Oregon’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts, tribes and watershed councils can apply for the small grants, on a landowner’s behalf.

The small grant program from OWEB is only available in Oregon, according Wendy Hudson, OWEB’s Willamette Partner Coordinator. Small grant teams consisting of representatives from watershed councils, SWCDs and tribes are given about $100,000 each biennium to divide among local landowners in the team’s grant area. Small grants are $10,000 or less, with the average being about $6,000, Hudson said. Landowners have to provide at least 25 percent of project’s costs, either in cash or “in-kind” work or equipment.

Dairy industry takes its case to the Capitol Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:13:43 -0400 Geoff Parks SALEM — Dairy industry representatives were hopeful that servings of Oregon dairy products at the April Dairy Day at the Capitol event would help sway lawmakers to vote ag’s way on bills working their way through the legislative process.

Dairy Day at the Capitol was created in 2011 by the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. It is held each April at the beginning of the legislative session in the State Capitol Galleria for the benefit of legislators, Capitol workers and any of the public who happen by during the day.

ODFA organizers had the help of the Oregon Dairy Women and its current State Dairy Princess Ambassador, Emma Miller, and First Alternate Megan Shrute. Members of the Oregon State University Dairy Club and the Cascade and St. Paul chapters of the FFA also participated in serving up Oregon cheese samples, yogurt, chocolate milk and other products.

Staci Sherer, Mitchell Evers and Rebekah Golurley of the OSU Dairy Club passed around information about the event to all areas of the Capitol during the morning set-up for the event, and the two Dairy Princess Ambassadors pitched in to arrange other public relations items such as buttons and other wearables for the crowd.

An afternoon “ice cream social” featuring Umpqua ice cream, chocolate topping and Darigold whipped cream served as the event’s finale.

Tami Kerr, executive director of the ODFA, said the idea of the event “is to bring in our producers so that they can tell their story.”

“There are a lot of issues being voted on that will impact our dairy producers,” she said, “so it’s a way for them to have a voice to share their stories and let their elected officials know how those measures will impact them as business owners across the state of Oregon.”

Kerr said the dairy industry was targeting what she called “job killer” bills — “minimum wage, paid sick leave and mandatory 401(k) on Day One” — under consideration in the Legislature.

“Our margins (on milk prices) are extremely thin, and we simply can’t afford it,” she said. “We’re meeting with all the representatives on some of the natural resources committees, and producers are meeting with their own representatives.”

But of course, the way to someone’s heart is often through the stomach, the saying goes, and the treats — cheese, yogurt, milk and ice cream — laid out for the Capitol crowd disappeared quickly.

Oregon Dairy Women dedicated to promoting industry Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:08:02 -0400 Sophia Kuenzi The longest line for ice cream at the Oregon State Fair each year leads to the Red Barn and a princess.

Volunteers there serve shakes, cones and sundaes and the proceeds go to the Oregon Dairy Women.

Established in 1963, Oregon Dairy Women is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the dairy industry through educational programs and college scholarships for students from dairy families. ODW sponsors the Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador, a college student who visits schools and community events around the state to educate the public about dairy products.

Emma Miller, the 2015 princess, will visit 80 schools, interact with over 12,000 children, and connect with thousands more at 35 fairs and other events this year. Miller will serve 110 days out of the year, and Megan Sprute, the first alternate, will serve 30 days.

Jessica Kliewer is the state dairy princess director and the only paid employee of ODW. She has a full-time job scheduling visits, developing programs and traveling across Oregon.

The princess does presentations promoting dairy for children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

“The kids are always excited to see the princess and they ask her great questions. They’re curious about how cows are treated and what cows like to do,” Kliewer said.

Jill Hewitt, current president of ODW, said the women share a passion for dairy.

“I went through the dairy princess program, and the Clackamas County ladies got me involved again,” Hewitt said. “I’ve been really involved the last 12 years or so, but I’m relatively new compared to many of these women.”

Joan Jongeneel, ODW president from 1997 to 1998, has participated in the organization for 29 years. Besides serving as president, she was vice president for two years and has done product demonstrations, built floats for parades and managed the ice cream booth at Oregon Ag Fest and the state fair.

Jongeneel’s involvement mirrors the dedication of ODW’s many volunteers, and her exposure to agriculture started early in life.

“I was raised on dairy farms in Oregon, Washington and California,” Jongeneel said. “I learned to work at the dairy in first grade. I fed calves and helped with milking.”

She later married Arie Jongeneel, and they established A.J. Dairy in Mt. Angel, Ore.

Agriculture has shaped Hewitt’s outlook.

“I learned that if you want to do well, you have to put a lot of work and effort into whatever you are doing,” Hewitt said. “I apply this to every aspect of my life, from dairy farming to raising kids.”

Balancing her ODW responsibilities with a young family is complicated, but Hewitt finds the time because she values the organization.

“The women running ODW have been doing so for years,” Hewitt said. “I feel strongly it’s time for my generation to make sure ODW stays strong for the next generation.”

The next generation is already showing interest in ODW and the Dairy Princess program.

“You can see the gleam in her eye and the little shy smile,” Hewitt said about her sixth-grade daughter. “She wants to do it when she’s old enough.”

Dairy association official sees challenges ahead Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:06:06 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER California’s dairy industry — the largest in the nation — is brimming with vitality and promise, but Western United Dairymen CEO Paul Martin says big challenges also lie ahead.

“In 2014 the over base milk was $21.16 (per hundredweight) and in February 2015 it was $13.83 — a huge drop,” he said. “This created a challenge for people to deal with and especially making it difficult to pay the bills.”

The challenges come from within the U.S. and overseas.

“We operate in a world market and there are a lot of factors from outside, plus the strong dollar, that have an influence on how much we can export,” he said. “China is a big market for us and they have slowed their buying, resulting in a drop in prices. I believe China is probably wanting to develop its own (dairy) industry.”

Martin said the price challenge combined with the drought, which is now it is fourth year, make it hard to be optimistic.

Western United Dairymen is California’s oldest dairy association, dating back to the 1930s. As a grassroots, voluntary membership organization, WUD represents more than 60 percent of the milk produced in California. The association is dedicated to supporting California dairy producers with full-time political advocates in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

“There is also an ongoing debate over California joining the federal milk marketing order pricing system and the outreach to members necessary to understand potential change,” he said. “We won’t know what U.S. Department of Agriculture will come up with for a couple of years.”

There are mounting court challenges over the environmental impact of dairy farms, which means that policy is being made by the courts and not legislative bodies.

“Most producers want to protect the environment but there is nothing more damaging than uncertainty,” Martin said. However, “there is light on the horizon because some of the environmental agencies are interested in the outcome and getting the job done.”

Also on the list of challenges are labor, animal care, endangered species, regulatory fees, antibiotic use, food safety and relationships with other dairy trade associations, state and federal regulatory agencies and with research institutions.

Labor is a huge, looming challenge for dairymen.

Labor and immigration reform are “an absolute must for agriculture and the dairy industry,” he said. “We need to have people available year around, but most reform has failed to address that and hasn’t made it through the Congress.”

In spite of all the challenge, Martin said he is optimistic about the future because of the human factor.

“They are ag people who are resilient, innovative, committed and in it for the long haul,” he said. “We have traveled rocky roads before and this is just another rocky one. We will just have to put it in four-wheel-drive and go.”

Dairy family runs Tillamook farm Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:04:13 -0400 Geoff Parks TILLAMOOK, Ore. — Daryl Fletcher is a fifth-generation dairyman who came into the world one month to the day after his parents bought Mistvale Farm in December of 1971.

So he can be forgiven if he speaks from the heart about the dairy operation, which he now runs with his wife, Roxanne, herself a fourth-generation dairywoman.

“I grew up here,” he said of the 195-acre dairy situated just southeast of the Tillamook, Ore., city center. His parents, Marion and Anita, still live adjacent to Daryl and Roxanne’s home and help with the milking and other chores. Mistvale constituted only 75 acres when they purchased it from Marion and Anita.

Daryl said Mistvale added registered Brown Swiss in the early 1980s and the Jerseys from Roxanne’s family’s Molalla-area Fallen Oak Jerseys operation when the couple was married in October of 2005. Of the nearly 500 cows, calves and heifers they hold on the property at one time, Daryl said they milk about 230. About 80 percent of the herd is Holstein and the rest are the other two breeds.

“We’re 100 percent registered,” Roxanne said. “Every single animal on this place, Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jerseys.”

Roxanne also comes by her dairy expertise honestly. In addition to working on her family’s farm from an early age, she was an Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador from Clackamas County for two years and the State Princess Ambassador First Alternate for two more.

Mistvale continues to be a family farm, as Daryl and Roxanne have three young children to help out as they grow older: Nolan, 8; Nathan, 4 1/2; and Jacoby, 9 months. At present, Mistvale also has Daryl’s sister, Kristi Sherer, working with the cows, one other employee and a high-school student who helps out as well.

“My parents and I each take off two milkings a week,” Daryl said.

“They are well past the age of retirement and still truckin’ on,” Roxanne added.

Part of their new acreage on their rectangular-shaped farm — 30 acres — was planted to field corn last year.

They bumped that up to 40 acres this year, Daryl said.

He said Mistvale has had “stray voltage issues” for years and the Fletchers had to put filters on their electric fences, replace a filter on a vacuum pump, change panel boxes and other measures until, “knock on wood, we finally had a full tank last week.”

Despite the stray voltage problems that vexed the Fletchers, operations at the dairy generally proceed in the expected manner, leading to a rolling herd average for the Holsteins of 21,882 pounds of milk per cow — a bit lower than expected.

“We’re 26,000 to 27,000 usually, but the stray voltage issue has really hammered that number,” Daryl said.

“It’s really been exasperating,” Roxanne added.

Service company helps keep the milk flowing Thu, 4 Jun 2015 11:01:49 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas IDAHO FALLS — Behind every good dairy there’s a dairy supply service.

Robert Taylor, general manager at the Idaho Falls branch of Mountain West Dairy Services, says his company covers a lot of turf, with branches in Preston, Idaho, and in Montana.

“We cover dairies all the way to the Canadian border and down to northern Utah,” Taylor says.

A good service company provides one-stop shopping for dairy owners, he says.

“We provide all the necessary chemicals that dairies use — the iodine, acids, detergents for cleaning out the pipelines. We have 24/7/365-days-a-year on-call service because dairies can’t stop milking,” he says.

The company also sells equipment parts and builds facilities.

“If someone needs an urgent repair they just call us and we send someone to fix it,” he says. “We do new construction and remodel older facilities.

“We do just about everything except milk the cows. Our technicians can fix it, make it work, do all the milk refrigeration.”

Every dairy needs a place to order supplies or get help with repairs.

“If something goes wrong with the milking machine system, you’d be milking cows by hand,” he says.

Dairies rely on dairy supply companies because many parts and products must come through vendors.

Most people don’t realize how much work goes into producing milk, and all the efforts behind the scenes.

“I came from a mortgage software background, to help with the office work. All I knew was that you could buy a gallon of milk at the grocery store. I had no concept of the complexities involved in getting it there,” Taylor says.

It’s quite a feat to keep everything working smoothly and the cattle healthy.

“We also help with animal health, supplying many products dairies use for health care,” Taylor says.

The Idaho Falls office employs a dozen people, full- and part-time. This includes bookkeepers as well as the technicians who go out and fix and install equipment.

A dairy supply is not like Walmart where all kinds of customers walk through the door.

“Our customers are very specific, and a dairy doesn’t pop up out of the blue. We know all the barns, we know what they have, what they need, and we have an ongoing working relationship with them,” Taylor explains.

There is also a large element of trust.

“The dairyman can call and tell us about a problem and have us come out and fix it. Often we’ll go fix it, and won’t even see the dairyman,” he says. “But he knows it will be taken care of and that we know his barn. We probably built it or upgraded; we are very familiar with all the barns we service.”

Dairy Supply Service

Owners: Craig and Susan Johansen

Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho

In business: Since 2000

Drought, immigration reform top issues for dairy Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:59:38 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER PETALUMA, Calif. — Dairyman Lucas Deniz said the best decision he made was converting from conventional to organic milk production.

“In fact, there is a shortage of organic milk and stores are running low,” he said. “The prices are high and that’s great for dairymen like me.”

For his operation, he said, it is not hard to follow the organic regulations such as pasturing cattle, avoiding antibiotics and using organic feed only. His dairy is now 80 percent organic.

Deniz and his father, Ernie, have worked the farm together since moving from Ripon in California’s Central Valley, where his grandfather founded the dairy 69 years ago. The 450-cow herd is primarily Holsteins.

The days are long. Workers begin milking around 8:45 a.m. and finish at 6:30 p.m.

Deniz Dairy sends its conventional milk to a wholesaler who sells it to Whole Foods, Petaluma Creamery and other outlets. The organic milk goes to Sierra, a broker. All of the milk stays in California.

The life of a dairyman agrees with Deniz.

“This is not really a job,” he said. “It is a way of life that I can share with my family.”

With California in its fourth year of drought, water is the main challenge.

“California is drying up, but drilling new wells is not the longterm answer,” he said, adding that many farms in the Central Valley are drilling wells just to survive.

“Everyone is drawing from the same aquifer and it’s a race to the bottom,” he said. “Wells are going dry because neighbors are going deeper.”

Deniz said the state’s water policies are outdated.

“We are way behind where we need to be,” he said. “Farmers, politicians and environmentalists should be working together.”

The second biggest challenge facing the dairy industry is labor, he said.

“Water is on everyone’s mind but labor is an underlying problem and we are having a difficult time dealing with it,” he said. “There is a shortage of good, reliable labor and the major problem is with immigration policies. California has relied historically on migrant workers as the backbone for the state’s agriculture.”

Dietz said the path to citizenship is long, involved and expensive for those who want to work in this country.

“I think it will take federal immigration reform to ease the problem,” he said. “Congress will have to sit down and do something that will work for agriculture. They will have to find an easier way for those undocumented people — who have been living in the U.S. and are not criminals — to get legal status.

“The horse is out of the barn and we should not make 5 million undocumented workers go to the end of the line and wait.”

Cheese-makers seek to grow with community Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:58:03 -0400 Erick Peterson TROUT LAKE, Wash. — John and Marci Shuman left Portland for a small Washington town in the shadow of Mount Adams where they could get involved in the dairy business.

From that desire grew Cascadia Creamery.

John, also the head cheese-maker, said his products — aged, raw, organic cow’s milk cheeses — are unusual.

“It’s a fairly unique combination, especially in the Pacific Northwest, having both certified organic and raw,” he said.

Few operations produce such cheese, he said, because it is difficult to obtain certified organic raw milk. Fortunately, they are in a small valley with nearby dairies, and he has easy access to raw milk.

He makes 800 pounds of cheese each week and distributes it around the Pacific Northwest and parts of California. High-end restaurants in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego are buyers, as are Whole Foods and other markets.

Wife and co-owner Marci, who is also the sales and office manager, said the business started as a hobby and has since grown to support the family. Like her husband, she did not have a dairy or cheese background.

“It just made good business sense,” she said of cheese-making. Also, they were attracted to the lifestyle and history of the industry.

Cheese-making goes back well over 100 years in Trout Lake, they said. Its colorful history includes immigrants, farmers, cattlemen and entrepreneurs. Some of the old structures that housed cheese operations are still standing, over 50 years after the last of them closed.

They learned about the history as they were exploring the area and looking for a place to raise their children. Once they made the move, John worked for a local dairy for two years. During that time, he learned about dairy work and started taking cows as payment.

He built a small herd and then sold it to help support the cheese-making business, something he had started on the side.

He appreciates that the local dairy people took him seriously and showed him the ropes of dairy work. In return, he said, he wants to help improve the local economy.

He said he and his wife describe themselves as “wide-eyed entrepreneurs” who grew tired of corporate lives. They wanted to be part of a small town.

They employ local people from neighboring dairy families.

“The hope is to grow this to the point where we are supporting as many cows that we can and keep that money in the local community,” he said. “That’s our goal, to bring this business up and bring the satellite dairies up.”

Small Idaho dairy has lots of room to grow Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:56:50 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Rupert, Idaho — Six years ago, Don and Renae Halverson began marketing their own brand of bottled organic milk, which they delivered to the Sun Valley area.

Last fall, they started selling milk to Glanbia, marking a plan to grow their dairy in the coming year.

Don grew up on a dairy near Rupert, and his family owned a 400-acre ranch near Salmon, Idaho.

“When I was 21, I took over my parents’ dairy for a year,” he said.

Then the family sold the dairy and he went to work at the local cheese plant.

“I worked there for 9 years and then decided dairying wasn’t so bad. Renae and I bought a dairy facility and a few cows about a quarter mile from where I was raised,” Don said.

“At one point we had more than 100 cows and a hired man, but I realized I enjoy managing cows, not people. So we cut back to what we could handle by ourselves,” he said. “Our six children (three boys and three girls) helped as they grew up.”

Renae takes an active part in the dairy.

“She was a city girl, raised in Burley, and had never been around a dairy, but she adapted very well. In the summer when I’m busy with haying, she does a lot of the milking,” Don said.

The dairy currently milks 35 Holsteins.

“The main reason we’ve had such a small dairy is that this is all the market we had for our milk, with the bottling,” he said. “But Glanbia will now take all we can produce, so we recently purchased 33 heifers that will calve next spring.”

Glanbia has two plants — one in Gooding and one in Twin Falls — and recently bought a cheese plant in Blackfoot that makes organic cheese.

“The switch to organic production was relatively easy, he said. “We already were grazing our cows and doing more organic, so it wasn’t hard to go completely organic.”

When they first went organic seven years ago, they decided to market their milk independently.

“So we contacted Stoker’s bottling plant in Burley, and they agreed to bottle our milk under our label. It was an interesting adventure, doing the bottling and sending our milk to Sun Valley,” Don said.

“When we sent our milk to the bottling plant I needed a milk truck to deliver it there, and a refrigerated delivery truck to take bottled milk to Sun Valley once a week,” he said.

This was originally a traditional dairy, with the cows confined. In the mid 1990s they made a gradual transition to grazing.

“I was green-chopping hay and bringing it to the cows. I did that for a year and then thought it would be easier to just let the cows harvest it themselves,” Don said.

The cows graze through summer, starting in early May.

“They graze until our first killing frost — about the 10th of September — when the grass slows its growth,” he said. “We gradually feed the cows more and transition them back to harvested feed for winter.”

Cows are fed alfalfa hay and ground corn.

“We grow all of our hay and buy the corn,” he said. “Organic corn is very difficult to find in this area. It is generally shipped from Iowa, and the last corn I bought was $550 per ton.”

“One thing I enjoyed when we were bottling milk was meeting our customers. When I was stocking shelves in some of the stores, people would come up and say they wanted some milk, and I would introduce myself and tell them I was a dairyman,” Don said.

132-year-old dairy follows a unique strategy Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:51:51 -0400 Erick Peterson Trout Lake, Wash. ­— Jesse Pearson of Mountain Laurel Jerseys has been able to revive his family’s dairy by taking it in an unusual direction.

His great-grandfather established the dairy in 1883 and then passed it on to his son, who then handed it over to his son. Jesse’s father, Monte Pearson, took the operational reins and converted it to organic in 1995.

Then, three years ago, Monte and Jesse’s brother, Travis, moved most of the cows to another dairy.

Mountain Laurel, the family dairy farm for over a century, was vacated, but Jesse saw an opportunity.

He had been working with his father-in-law at another dairy where they produced raw milk. Jesse saw a small market for the product.

Under his father-in-law’s label, North Land of Milk and Honey, they sold raw milk to nearby stores. Selling at $12 per gallon, they could turn a profit even with a small herd.

In recent months, he moved cows to the old Mountain Laurel Jersey property. He now tends 13 milking cows, which are grass fed and milked only once per day.

He believes that infrequent milking and good nutrition help him create milk that is nutritionally dense and tastier.

“It’s hard to drink other store-bought milk now,” he said. After consuming only his product, he has lost his taste for anything else.

His feelings, he said, are shared by enthusiastic buyers, who purchase the milk under the North Land label and the Mountain Laurel label. He produces 25 gallons per day and sells milk to stores and leaves it at customer drop sites in nearby towns. He also sells it from the farm store.

As the milk is not pasteurized, his biggest challenge is keeping it clean. To this end, he works closely with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which samples and tests the milk every month. Also, the cows are regularly checked.

He has to be more careful than he would at a standard dairy, but it is worth the effort, he said. In creating a raw product, he is able to charge enough to support the dairy.

Father Monte, still the owner of the dairy, said the raw milk dairy is a low-risk opportunity.

“I’m not going to lose my shirt over it,” he said.

Dairy owner holds onto her dreams Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:49:38 -0400 Gail Oberst Yachats, Ore. — Deb Hodel-Ostling was 5 years old when her Grandpa Joe sold his Frances, Wash., dairy, but she was old enough to know what she wanted.

“I begged my dad to buy it,” she said. He didn’t, but the man who bought her grandpa’s farm was happy to let her work on it. She grew up feeding calves and milking cows. At 17, she took on a paid position and her career began, moving from working in 100-cow dairies to 500-cow operations and was eventually assistant herdsman on a 1,000-cow dairy. She delivered calves, treated the sick, and managed the health of the herd.

She began dreaming of owning her own dairy, and purchased a few cows.

But life happens. She sold her cows and set aside her dreams for several years until 2001, when she moved to Waldport and leased the Carson-Kauffman Ranch.

“A dream reignited,” she said. The ranch had been a dairy in the past, but Hodel-Ostling restarted her farm with three beef cattle. Within a few years, she began purchasing milking equipment. In 2010, she bought her first dairy cow, then completed her milk room and milking parlor. Today she has 10 dairy cows, three of which she is milking, and 25 beef cattle.

She runs a herd share program. Her milk cows and goats are partly owned by people who come from Florence, Yachats, Waldport, Newport, Lincoln City, Siletz and other communities. The herd share owners share expenses and share in the herd’s products.

She has also worked for 10 years as a bookkeeper at Copeland Lumber in Waldport.

All’s well that ends well, right? Not quite.

Two years ago Hodel-Ostling was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow disease. True to form, she was upbeat:

“About one in a million people are lucky enough to get something so scary. I always tell people, I am the luckiest person they know!” Hodel-Ostling said. Avoiding bone marrow transplant surgery, she opted instead to try a anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) regime that uses antibodies developed from horse blood. Two months later, her blood counts began to revive. Today, she is still anemic and still taking immune suppressant drugs, but feeling better.

“Hopefully, I’ll be rid of that in another year,” she said.

Has it slowed her down? Not much, she says during her lunch break on a busy day at Copeland Lumber.

“I’m happy to still be doing what I love.”

For more information about the dairy, visit the website,, or call 541-270-4284.

Dairies, breweries make unusual partners Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:47:56 -0400 Gail Oberst Where would breweries be without dairies? It might not be apparent at first glance, but some breweries wouldn’t have gotten far without help from the diary industry.

For example, you might step into a former creamery that has been repurposed as a brewery, as at Klamath Basin Brewery in Klamath Falls.

Or maybe you’ll sidle up to a farmhouse beer at Agrarian Brewery near Eugene, which was built in a former dairy barn and uses some repurposed dairy equipment.

Or, you might sip a craft beer that was brewed in a stainless steel former dairy tank, as at Roseburg’s Backside Brewery, whose owner K.C. McKillip converted diary tanks into a mash tun and other tanks used in brewing.

Many of Oregon’s early craft breweries, including the Widmer Brothers, Bridgeport and McMenamins used former dairy equipment in their start-up years, according to Pete Dunlop, long-time beer historian and writer. The second wave of small craft breweries followed suit in the early 2000s. Alan Sprints, owner of Portland’s Hair of the Dog brewery, once used several former milk receivers as fermenters. One of these continues to operate as a mash tun at his popular brewery.

The trend continues today, and as a result, prices for used equipment are increasing in the beery Northwest.

Andy Walton, owner of Halsey’s Lake View Farms, which includes a small dairy operation, said the demand for second-hand stainless steel tanks can make it hard for small dairies to find used equipment.

“There’s very little used stuff for the small guy anymore,” Walton said. “It’s all going to the breweries and wineries.”

Walton said small tanks under 500 gallons were once “a dime a dozen.” Today, not so. He recently went shopping for a stainless steel tank and found that the bargains had migrated outside beer country to the Midwest and eastern U.S.

In addition to craft breweries and wineries, small creameries and even small coffee roasters are buying up old dairy equipment.

Walton said he’s not complaining, though. As a long-time farmer who direct-markets his produce to the same people drinking craft beer, wine and coffee, he said everyone benefits from the demand for locally made products.

“It’s good for all of us to promote this craft community,” Walton said. Cheese-makers, dairy owners, brewers and winemakers all benefit from the exchange of information and equipment.

The “I’ll-scratch-your-back” attitude extends beyond equipment. For centuries, breweries have been disposing of their spent grain at local ranches and dairies, where it is used as silage supplement. Forwarding the spent grain benefitted the brewers as well: In one year in Oregon, breweries generate 140,000 tons of spent grain, which would cost $8.4 million to compost, where applicable, or $18 million for the landfill charges, said Brian Butenschoen, the Oregon Brewers Guild’s executive director.

In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules that would require additional and expensive packaging and testing to deliver the mash, citing food safety concerns. Brewers and farmers banded together and demanded a review, saying the proposed changes would be so burdensome that the practice would probably discontinue. With help from legislators, the FDA backed down and maintained the status quo.

“One argument that resonated is that FDA is attempting to provide a solution to something that isn’t a problem and hasn’t been for the thousands of years brewers have been feeding spent grain to animals,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, a national group that promotes craft brewers.

Fifth-generation dairy family continues to thrive Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:44:04 -0400 Geoff Parks St. Paul, Ore. — Milking 350 cows for the organic market takes up every bit of the 165 acres of lush grass pastures at Steve and Susan Pierson’s Sar-Ben Farms, near St. Paul, Ore.

Steve Pierson began working for Marlin Rasmussen as a herdsman in the early 1980s and married Rasmussen’s daughter, Susan. The young couple partnered with Rasmussen and his wife, Joni, and converted the farm to an organic operation in 2005.

“I’m the cliché,” Steve said. “I married the farmer’s daughter.”

“Grandpa (John Rasmussen) started here on this land in 1959, then dad (Marlin) took it over and now my husband and I are here with my dad and our kids,” said Susan Pierson.

She is the fourth-generation of the farm family. The whole enterprise was begun by her great-grandfather, who emigrated from Denmark and started Sar-Ben in Nebraska. Sar-Ben is taken from the first three letters of the name Rasmussen and the state of Nebraska, turned backwards, she said.

The Piersons’ children, Kevin, 27; Ryan, 23; and Sara, 19 are the fifth generation to work at Sar-Ben, and both Kevin and Ryan have homes adjacent to their parents’ on their 180 acres.

Kevin graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in agricultural sciences, while Ryan took an animal science degree from OSU. Sara is the reigning Marion County Dairy Princess-Ambassador and also attends OSU.

The Piersons milk registered Holsteins, registered Jerseys and some cross-bred cows, she said, with all the milk going to Organic Valley farmers cooperative. Susan Pierson said it was a “sharp learning curve” to move from conventional production to organic, but Steve, 60, was emphatic about the necessity of making the switch.

“We wouldn’t be standing here if we hadn’t gone to grazing and organic,” he said. “It allows us to be more sustainable economically and allows our kids to be able to do this.”

Sar-Ben Farms is certified organic through the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“When we’re grazing full-on, the cows are in the barn about 4 hours and spend 20 hours on the pasture,” Steve said.

“This is as good as it gets for a cow,” he said, pointing to fields of predominantly perennial ryegrass. He said he also has had orchardgrass, white clover and brassicas in the grazing fields.

“It’s a salad bar for cows,” Susan said.

Although Steve said organic milk products represent only 5 percent of the U.S. supply, “most people who go organic find that it’s economically a significant advantage.” The real stumbling block is that organic farmers must have access to large areas of pasture on which to graze their herds.

“A minimum of 30 percent of our dry matter intake is from the pasture” during the grazing season, he said, “Cows have to be on the pasture and not everyone can do that. If you have 1,200 cows, it’s tough to do.”

Family is important to Steve and Susan, who say they look forward to Sar-Ben Farms being productive for the next generations.

“I see the farm being here in 50 years with great-grandchildren running it,” he said on the farm’s website.

Dairy Commission hires new communications director Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:39:48 -0400 MITCH LIES PORTLAND — Some might call it a trial by fire. Josh Thomas considered it a stroke of good fortune when his first day on the job as senior director of communications for the Oregon Dairy Products Commission coincided with the opening day of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association’s annual convention.

“I was really blessed,” he said. “From day one, I had a good opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry, and everyone has been very welcoming.”

Other than being what he described as “a very loyal consumer of Oregon dairy products,” Thomas had minimal association with the Oregon dairy industry prior to joining the commission in February. But, with 18 years of experience in communications, including an eight-year stint as marketing and media relations manager for the Port of Portland, Thomas has the skill set that has enabled him to hit the ground running.

His first priority, he said, is focusing on upcoming events, including helping plan the Farmers Fighting Hunger Campaign. The two-state, month-long campaign, which is spearheaded by dairy farmers, raises awareness and seeks food and funds to battle hunger among school children. As part of the campaign, Thomas is helping organize and promote the campaign’s flagship event, the Milk Carton Boat Race, scheduled June 7 at Westmoreland Park in Portland.

Then there’s the big picture.

“In the big picture,” he said, “I am developing a communications program that includes issues and crisis management, industry relations, media relations, communications strategy and consumer confidence.”

Thomas also hopes to work closely with Oregon dairy families in an effort to inform them of issues and to know about their issues.

“If there are macro-issues that could impact their businesses, we hope to keep them in the loop,” he said, “and if there are micro-issues affecting them, we need to know about those issues and bring that to the national front so we can interface with other states, because a lot of the issues we face in Oregon don’t stop at the borders.”

While at the port, Thomas learned what it takes to gain access to foreign markets and to recognize trends that could be utilized by exporters. He believes the dairy industry is well positioned to expand exports to Pacific Rim countries.

“In places like Japan, Korea and China, we are seeing increased interest in Oregon dairy products,” he said. “That bodes well for the future (of Oregon dairy products).”

Asked why he left the port to join the Dairy Products Commission, Thomas said: “It was appealing to me. It was a newly created position and it was attractive to be able to come in and build something from the ground up.

“It is a great industry to be in and one that has a lot of growth potential, so I want to be a part of that,” he said.

“We are not one of largest dairy-producing states by a long shot, but if you look at recent history, we’ve always been in the top five for quality,” he said. “When you talk about cheeses, ice cream, butter or some of the other products that Oregon companies do really well, those are some opportunities that may be in demand, not only in domestic markets, but also overseas in international markets.”

Pete Kent, executive director of the commission, said he is excited to have Thomas join the organization.

“I think Josh is an excellent fit,” Kent said. “He has a very unique skill set, in terms of understanding media relations, messaging, positioning and the ability to tie together a lot of pieces in the dairy industry all the way from the farm side, to the processors side, to the allied industry side.”

Seattle cheese-makers grow business in public Thu, 4 Jun 2015 10:37:24 -0400 Erick Peterson SEATTLE — In the early 2000s, Kurt Beecher Dammeier was looking for a business with permanence. After much deliberation, he chose to make cheese.

“We wanted a business that would be around for the next 40 to 80 years, at least,” co-worker Chris Birkeland said. In addition, they wanted something about which they could be passionate.

Cheese satisfied both of those criteria. It is a product that has been around for ages, he said, and it would be around for many years to come.

Nearly two decades later, they are still at it, and growing.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, four to five employees at a time make cheese in the 1,400-square-foot facility in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. They take milk from a pair of Washington state dairies and process it into cheese.

This is done in full view of the public; windows expose production to passers-by on the street. Diners inside Beecher’s café, which is in the same building, are also able to look through the windows and see cheese-makers at work. They munch on the company’s “world famous” macaroni and cheese, and other menu items, as they watch.

Dan Schleicher, senior cheese-maker, said the tourists are amusing, as they sometimes stand at the window for several minutes engrossed in workers who are doing rather ordinary activities.

He said the fishbowl environment is initially distracting for new cheese-makers, but only for “the first week or two.”

“You get used to it,” he said. “After that, you just see it as a job to do. You’ve got to stay on track.”

And it is a big job — processing four 10,000-pound vats a day. There is not much time to be distracted by tourists, who line up at the window and at the door waiting to enter the restaurant.

Being highly visible contributes to the company’s success, helping it grow. People see the sterile and professional atmosphere of the processing room, they taste the finished product and develop a connection with the company.

With a growing fan base, the company has mushroomed. Beecher’s has opened a second Seattle location at Sea-Tac Airport.

Beecher’s has even grown beyond Seattle, opening a facility in Manhattan in 2011 that is 30 percent larger than the Seattle location. Like the Pike Place facility, the one in New York City has large glass windows so the public can watch.

On top of the commercial success, Beecher’s has also attained a highly respected place in the industry. Its cheeses, including its Flagship Reserve (an 18-month-aged “cheddar style”) and Flagsheep (a cow/sheep’s milk blend), are regular winners at the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference.