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Field Trip on Dairy Farming, Whatcom County, Saturday, May 31
We will meet at our three U-Cars, in the parking lot of the Burke Museum, at 7:30 a.m. (yea!), and be on the road by 7:45. It will take between one and a half and two hours 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 7:00 or 7:30.
- 9:30 Debbie and Jason vander Veen's Veen Huizen Farms. This is a large, commercial dairy that sells milk to the Darigold cooperative, the norm in Western Washington. They give great tours, and Debbie has been a leader in advocating for the Dairy farming community in Whatcom County. Our guest speaker and companion/guide for the day, Kate Steensma, will join us here and stay with us for the rest of the day.
- 11:00 John and Karen Steensma's dairy. Aside from being the parents of our guest speaker and guide, John (a full-time farmer) and Karen (a professor of applied ecology at a small college in BC) have a philosophy of "almost organic," and are very thoughtful and articulate explainers of how dairy farms in general work and how they fit into the larger ecosystem of the Whatcom County agricultural area.
- 12:00 Larry and Debbie Stap'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. The Staps will host us for lunch (bring your own), give us a tour of the bottling plant, and discuss philosophies of farming and stewardship.
- 1:30 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 week, 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.
- 2:30 The Bouma brothers' dairy. The Boumas are 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 work.
- 4:00 Hans and Colleen 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.
QUESTIONS FOR DAIRY FARMERS
To get full benefit out of seeing and talking about dairies and their local environment, we will compile a new list of questions that you probably should print out and bring with you on the trip.
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 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 list of questions that we will work out in class on May 27th and then post here. 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 3rd.
By midnight on Monday, June 2nd, 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.