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Readings for Week 9: Dairies in Washington

Tuesday, May 24

The first thing we will do today is go over the paper assignment for the dairy unit.

Then we will have a guest presentation by Katherine Steensma, daughter of a dairy farming family in Whatcom County, who is now a consultant for DeLaval, an dairy equipment and services corporation that, among other things, manufactures and services robotic milking equipment.

In preparation for her talk, Kate would like you to read three articles:
  • Don Jenkns's article in Capital Press, a farmer-oriented website, explaining farmers' complaints about urban environmentalists
  • Rebecca Schewe and Diana Stuart's recent research paper on how farmers actually use robotic milking equipment
In addition, I would like to discuss the issue of rBST or rBGH, a recombinant hormone often added to milk, but now prohibited in Washington and Oregon. Please read By 7 p.m. on Monday, May 23 please post at least two, and preferably more questions you would like to ask Kate Steensma on Tuesday. She will go over your questions and be available to comment on them.

We will also go over details of the Saturday field trip to Whatcom County.

Thursday, May 26

Today we will look at a further series of dairy farming issues from a local perspective: Washington State in general and Whatcom County in particular. To inform our conversation, in addition to pulling in relevant material from last week's readings, you should consider the following sources:
  • For an overview of the agricultural region we will be visiting, look at the Whatcom Farm Friends site. Pay particular attention to how the organization approaches the public, and also to how they show their concern with environmental issues.
  • For a more general overview of dairy farming in Washington State as a whole (including the Yakima Valley that you may remember from that now-distant day in mid-April) please see what I would characterize as the more overtly propagandistic Dairy Farmers of Washington site.
  • For a view of the most important (some would say monopolistic) cooperative in Washington, visit the site of Darigold, and for a different cooperative, see the site of Organic Valley.
  • For producer-handler views, see websites from the small farms of Twin Brook Creamery, Jackie's Jersey Milk, and Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, and also the biggest farm in the county, Edaleen Dairy, which has developed a website in the past year.
Armed with all this web-based knowledge, you should post regarding your opinion on two or more of the following issues, by midnight on Wednesday, May 25.
  • Given the general issues with the environmental impact of milk production, how would you regulate production in Whatcom county to minimize negative environmental impacts?
  • Think about the comparative ecological impacts of dairies and other possible uses of the land, including development--be sure to look at the development rights section on the Farm Friends site.
  • What kinds of appeals do dairy organizations make to the public in order to make a stinky, messy form of resource production seem completely benign to the milk-drinking public? In this context, think of course of Melanie DuPuis's article that you read last week.
  • How do you think that dairies might effect the riverine and estuarine ecology, and potentially the shellfish industry, in coastal areas of Whatcom County?
Class Activities
In class, after we assign drivers and slide show creators for the field trip, we will discuss these issues.