TILLAMOOK, Ore. — After 56 years of marriage to Dan Leuthold, Carol Marie Leuthold still recalls “the boy in the blue jacket,” the FFA uniform Dan was wearing when she was 12 years old. She first saw him while attending a 4-H dairy judging event at his family farm in Tillamook.
“One of my girlfriends remarked about ‘that cute boy,’ but I wasn’t interested in boys at the time,” Carol Marie said. Still, she didn’t forget him. When they met again a few years later at an Oregon State University 4-H summer camp, Dan invited her to a social gathering for 4-H members on campus.
“I always said I would marry a farmer, and I did,” Carol Marie said.
Thus began the third of a six-generation Leuthold dairy operation that today, on more than 100 acres, includes 450 Holstein and Jerseys cows, and milks more than 220.
Born in tiny Blaine, seven miles up the Nestucca River in Tillamook County, Carol Marie joined the Leuthold family while the first generation, Dan’s grandmother, a Swiss emigrant, was still alive.
Dan and Carol Marie married in 1964 and helped Dan’s father on the farm, but by 1970, Dan, still in his 20s, took over. Four children — Todd, Crystal, Lorrie and Candace — arrived by 1974. Dan now helps son Todd and Dan’s 31-year-old grandson, Bryan, manage the dairy. As do most Tillamook County dairies, the milk the Leutholds produce — averaging 1,750 gallons per day — is sold to the Tillamook County Creamery Association.
Situated on the Trask River, the Leuthold land has occasionally flooded, taking out fences, eroding land and cutting off electricity, but has escaped some of the worst damage. After the 1996 flood that took out homes, fields and animals at neighboring dairies, the Leutholds bought a diesel generator to keep the milking parlor operational even when power from the utility fails.
When Carol Marie and Dan married, the dairy was milking 60 cows with surge belly strap milkers in a stanchion barn. Carol Marie and mother-in-law, Frances, assisted with milking, but Carol Marie’s main job — in addition to childcare — was feeding calves.
A few years into their marriage, Dan and his father built a herringbone-style parlor, outfitting it with automatic milking machines. Carol Marie recalls the day when Dan got sick, that she was enlisted to milk the herd in that new parlor.
“I knew ‘zip’ about operating those machines, so Dan, flat on his back in bed, sketched out the instructions. That was a little intimidating,” Carol Marie said, but her sister, who had worked on a similar dairy, helped her through those challenging times.
When the children were old enough, they took over the calf-feeding operation, and Carol Marie took over bookkeeping from her mother-in-law, a job she still does today.
“That task has grown tremendously with greater numbers of animals and the addition of new laws and regulations,” Carol Marie said.
“Paperwork once took an hour or so a month, but now takes at least eight hours a month, not counting the phone calls and research to keep up on regulations and fees. Sometimes it seems as though everyone out there is trying to tell farmers how to run their farms, how high to jump.”
“We have always been good stewards of the land — land that was passed on to us, and that we are passing on to our son and grandson, not forgetting the good women who stand with them!”
In 2006, Carol Marie became the first woman president elected to the Tillamook County Farm Bureau. For the past eight years, she has represented Region 8 — Tillamook and Clatsop counties — on the Oregon Farm Bureau Board. She currently serves on OFB’s Land Use, Tax and Water committees, as well as the its Political Action Executive Committee and is a director of the Oregon Ag Education Foundation. She’s also a past president of the Oregon Dairy Women, and volunteers with her church and community.
Although women have always been integral to Oregon farms, not all men have welcomed their leadership.
“We’ve been challenged,” Carol Marie said, but women have pushed back. Now, agricultural groups, including the Farm Bureau, welcome women in committee meetings instead of relegating them to separate groups.
“Women who are hard-working farmers should be part of all the sessions. Now, women participate in all groups,” she said. Proof positive: Today, Oregon Farm Bureau’s past and current state presidents are women.
What of the generations beyond?
“I’m always hopeful. I’m a person of faith. I have to believe our dairy is going to go on long past Dan and myself. Bryan, our grandson, is determined to keep the dairy in the family, which will certainly include future Leuthold women.”