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Field Trip on Dairy Farming, Whatcom County, Saturday, May 30
We will meet at our three U-Cars, in the parking lot of the Burke Museum, at 6:15 a.m., and be on the road by 6:30. It will take a little over an hour and a half to get to the Whatcom County farming region. We will be hosted by a series of dairy farmers in the area around Lynden. The agenda is as follows:
We will return to Seattle by about 6:30 or 7:00.
- 8:15 or 8:30 Bill and Jackie DeGroot's Jackie's Jersey Milk. This is a specialty dairy bottling and selling raw milk from a small Jersey herd. You will have an opportunity to ask questions about why raw milk and about the safety factor, as well as about the business side of this very specialized niche market.
- 9:30 or 9:45 Larry Stap's extended family's Twin Brook Creamery. They converted from more conventional dairying to a model of home-bottled, un-homogenized milk about ten years ago, and now they bottle their own milk and sell in retail stores in Whatcom County and around Puget Sound. Larry and his family will show us the bottling plant, in action, and discuss stewardship of the land as well as running a business and their recent decision to install robotic milkers. We will also see the bottling process in action. If everyone is hungry after a very early start we may be able to eat lunch here before moving on (bring your own, but there will be milk to go with it)
- 11:30 Darryl vander Haak Dairy's manure digester. This apparatus takes manure from several nearby farms (along with other by-products of agriculture in the area) and puts it through a digestion process that recovers methane to generate electricity and sells it to the local power company. They have recently added a liquid nutrient extraction process that intensifies recycling of nutrients within the local ecosystem. Just last year, it was announced that the vander Haak farm won a
2014 Dairy Sustainability Award. Darryl vander Haak and perhaps one of his sons will be there to explain how it all works, ecologically and economically.
- 12:15 Ice cream if we have time
- 1:00 The Bouma brothers' dairy. The Boumas were the first farm in Whatcom County to install a robotic milking system. They, along with Rick vander Veen and Kate Steensma of the DeLeval corporation will introduce us to how the robots operate, what they do for the cows, and how the economy of robots works.
- 2:00 The DeJong Family's Eaglemill Farms. This is the largest dairy we will visit, with over a thousand milking cows and several hundred other stock. They sell milk to Darigold. Rod, the father, was longtime board chairman of Darigold, including during the time when Darigold took a controversial decision to ban recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST or rBGH). Jon and his brothers now do most of the work of managing the farm. We will tour all their operations.
- 3:30 Hans Wolfisberg's Edelweiss Dairy. This was the first dairy in Whatcom County to produce certified organic milk, and currently sells to Organic Valley. This is the only certified organic dairy that we will visit today. Hans is from a Swiss Dairying background. He also maintains a complex system of rotational grazing.
WHAT TO BRING
WHAT TO DO AFTERWARD
- Check the
weather for the Western Whatcom County area and dress accordingly.
- Wear boots or shoes that will allow you to walk in mud and cow barns
- Bring enough food for a picnic lunch. We will probably eat at TwinBrook, who will provide milk to go along.
- Bring sun protection if the forecast is for sun.
- Most importantly, bring a field notebook, something to write with, and the questions you want to ask the various farmers. If you like to take pictures, bring a camera or be alert to take pictures with your phone, and then we can enjoy a slide show on Tuesday June 2rd.
By midnight on Monday, June 1st, post an analytical reflection from the trip. You should reflect on what surprised you, what you learned, and how what questions still remain in your mind about the ecology, economics, and philosophies of dairy farming, and how these might inform your environmental thinking generally.