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Country Life Wednesday, June 17, 2020 • lyndentribune.com • ferndalerecord.com

Gardening • B4 Dairy • B5 FFA/4-H • B5

County dairy farms down to about 70

Randy Kortus, still milking about 12 cows in April, now has just two remaining. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

The Widen family — from left, Levi, Brianna, Gracie, Ryan and Dean — operate Widnor Farms, and they take pride in offering truly local meat to their customers. (Brent Lindquist/Ferndale Record)

Local food, from the pasture Widnor Farms of Custer sells USDA meat straight to customers By Brent Lindquist brent@lyndentribune.com

   CUSTER — For the owners of Widnor Farms on Valley View Road, “local” is a way of life.    “We are basically your grocer for your meat,” coowner Brianna Widen said during a recent visit. “We’re your personal rancher.” The partner in this operation is

her husband, Ryan.    The Widens sell pork, beef, lamb and chicken, all ethically sourced from their Custer farm plus leased properties in Whatcom and Skagit counties. There’s no middleman when it comes to purchasing from Widnor Farms, Brianna said. Customers can buy meat directly via the farm’s website and either pick it up fresh or have it shipped.    “The demand for locally sourced food is insane,” she said. “It’s grown exponentially. I think people are starting to open up their eyes and starting to realize where their meat sources are coming from. They’re just not happy with

the fact that they’re not locally sourced.”    Brianna said that this reality has become even stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was so much demand for food when the pandemic first impacted grocery shelves that the farm sold through a year’s projection worth of meat in just two weeks.    Luckily for the Widens, they had decided in February to fully commit to provide locally sourced food to the community. What began as a way to locally source food for their family, now five, had turned into an operation and a philosophy that the community was ready to adopt.

   “We really wanted to be able to source ethical food for ourselves, and we bought property and we were homesteading and then all of a sudden we had people asking us, ‘Do you have anything for us?’” Brianna said.    The farm, which produces USDA-certified meat, scheduled out all its butcher days and quickly sold out.    “We sold out of product, but we already had the dates available for us, so we just filled the dates with more livestock,” Brianna said.    The Widens decided See Widnor on B2

Some farmers speak on their reasons for going out now By Calvin Bratt editor@lyndentribune.com

  WHATCOM ­ — The number of dairy farms in the county, once in the hundreds and even in the thousands decades ago, is now down to around 70.   Several local farms have gone out of business within the past year, as the farmgate price of milk has continued to struggle and farmers themselves get up toward retirement age.    Also, a new assessment on the milk checks of Darigold producers for a $67 million investment in the company’s Boise, Idaho, processing plant was a factor in some farmers’ decisions. Darigold, operating a powder-making facility in Lynden, is the main receiver of Whatcom

County milk.    “The future just looked very, very grim,” summarized John Vander Veen, 59, who grew up on the family TJ Veenacre Farms off Van Buren Road. His 24-year partnership in dairying with Rolf Veening saw cows leaving the farm on March 6.    “If you borrow money, you have to pay it back,” he said. After that, updating obsolete equipment must be a top priority for a farm going forward before seeing a profit.    Vander Veen can keep up the dairy nutrition consulting he does and has acreage in raspberries. Veening will stay busy this year still raising heifers on the premises and doing field work while assessing what’s next for him, and if it is in agriculture. “We kind of go through doors as we live our lives,” he said.    The number of dairies in Whatcom County edged below 100 approximately See Dairy on B6

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Widnor Continued from B1

to dump all their resources into the growth of the farm and meeting customer demands. The high demand for their meat is indicative of the public’s desire for locally sourced product, Brianna said.    “We even have our own dairy cow,” Brianna said. “Everything that we possibly can is sourced here at our farm.”    They source their feed locally as well, using local corn and local barley. This does lead to higher prices, Brianna said, but it’s also more sustainable and ethical.    “A lot of the reasons that mass-produced meat is cheaper is because they cut corners. Chickens are packed into barns where they have literally 18 square inches to move. That’s it. That’s all they get.”   At Widnor Farms, animals are pastured. That term doesn’t actually have any regulation on it, but Brianna said the term “free-range” does and she clarifies that it doesn’t

mean what some might think.    “For an animal to be free-range, it just needs access to the outdoors,” Brianna said. “There’s no grass requirement or anything like that. Our chickens see grass pastures their whole life. I think people are just starting to kind of wake up and they’re also just starting to want to support their neighbors.”   Widnor Farms is unique in that customers need not order meat to fill an entire freezer. An order can be customized to smaller amounts.    The farm is now sold out of some of its products, although pre-orders can be made, Brianna said. She points customers to organizations such as Eat Local First and Sustainable Connections.   Both Brianna and Ryan hail from Skagit County, where they met in high school. Ryan got a job in the refinery industry in Whatcom County, and Brianna went to college in Wyoming, working as a ranch hand and wrangler

Levi Widen hugs Toby, Widnor Farms’ bottle lamb, in the farm’s Icelandic sheep pasture. (Brent Lindquist/ Ferndale Record)

near Cody. They reunited in 2007 and were married in 2008, moving to Whatcom County not long after. They started their Custer farm eight years later with

chickens, eventually bringing on beef cattle, heritage breed pigs, Icelandic sheep, sweet milk goats and the family milk cow, Patty Cake.

  The name Widnor Farms comes from a combination of the last names of Ryan’s grandparents, Roy Widen and Esther Nordin.

   For more information about Widnor Farms and to order meat, go online to WidnorFarms.com. The farm is also active on Facebook and Instagram.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020 • lyndentribune.com • ferndalerecord.com • B3

Plagerman is the new dairy ambassador    WHATCOM ­ — Jewel Plagerman was named in April the new Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador for 2020-2021. She is a daughter of Leroy and Rhonda Plagerman.    She replaced Maddie Martin as Dairy Ambassador, who served along with alternates Ashley Archer and Alyssa Boersma.    “We are thrilled to have Jewel representing the dairy farmers of Whatcom County this year!” said Marlene Noteboom of Dairy Women. “We look forward to her year as Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador.”    With the normal coronation event for this occasion cancelled by COVID-19, Jewel was able to share her speech in writing only. It may be viewed on the Whatcom County Dairy Women Facebook page.

Jewel’s speech    Did you know that 97% of dairies in the United States are family farms? My name is Jewel Plagerman and I am proud to say that my family is a dairy farm family. This means I work with my dad and many of my 11 siblings, which is something I really enjoy (most of the time)! I believe Jewel Plagerman helps out in the operation of her family’s dairy farm. (Courtesy photo/Brooke Weimer)

See Ambassador on B4

“ Thank you to our Whatcom County dairy farmers

for feeding our community! Dairy products are great for you because they are full of nutrients! Since June is dairy month, celebrate with a milk and greek yogurt smoothie blended with fresh berries! As a dairy farmer, I value the hard work of all dairy producers! Jewel’s Summer Smoothie Recipe 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup greek yogurt 1/2 cup blueberries 1/2 cup blackberries 1/4 cup cherries Blend and enjoy!

- Jewel Plagerman, 2020 Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador

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B4 • Wednesday, June 17, 2020 • ferndalerecord.com • lyndentribune.com


Battling the effects of June gloom positively    To say that this year has been unusual is, in so many ways, an understatement. And although the cool, damp weather we’ve had the last several weeks seems unusual, it’s not unprecedented — after all, Washingtonians are the ones who coined terms like “June gloom” and my favorite, “June-uary.” While the last few years have brought us beautiful weather in June, it’s not uncommon for gloomy weather to hang around until just after Fourth of July celebrations. As you settle in to caring for the plants you’ve planted this spring, here are few items worth addressing around the yard and garden this month.    First, the last month of cool weather has given us more than our fair share of fungus issues. The seemingly constant threat, and reality, of showers and below-normal temperatures has created ideal conditions for many common fungal issues, and frankly, until warm, dry weather returns with any dependability, the problems will continue.    To fix issues with plant diseases, one of my go-to fungus control sprays is Bonide Fungonil, a great all-purpose spray that can safely be used on a wide variety of plants, from trees to roses to vegetables. Great for controlling rust, shothole, mildew, mold and more, Fungonil is an

By David Vos excellent tool for any gardener’s “medicine cabinet.” If organic options are your preferred route, copper fungicide is another great all-purpose disease control spray, and neem oil is effective at eradicating powdery mildew as well as controlling insects.    In addition to plant fungus issues, you may find your lawn is starting to suffer from red thread. This common disease typically shows up when moisture and/or humidity levels are high and temperatures are mild — and this June has been the perfect combination of those factors! Red thread appears as brown blades of grass tinged with pink when viewed up close, and while it doesn’t kill grass, it does make for an unsightly appearance. To correct red thread, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like Scotts Turf Builder. And if it has been six to eight weeks

since you last fertilized, your lawn could use a feeding again anyway! If fertilizing alone doesn’t cure red thread, apply a lawn fungus control product to further aid in stopping the spread of the fungus.    Second, fungus isn’t the only thing working against you in the garden this spring. Slugs and snails love the wet weather, too! Whether these mollusks are munching on your hostas and leafy greens or have discovered just how tasty your ripening strawberries are, it’s time to sprinkle some Sluggo around. Unlike many slug and snail killers, Sluggo is organic and entirely pet- and kidsafe. Moreover, I’ve found it to be very effective and long-lasting in my garden and I typically apply it only once or twice over the course of the entire growing season, with excellent results.    Third, with soil moisture levels high and temperatures mild, it’s still perfect planting weather for most shrubs, trees and perennials. Just keep in mind that as dry summer weather arrives, you’ll need to provide water through the summer to help your plants continue to get established. As the last of the springblooming shrubs fade, hydrangeas are great for adding summer blooms to your garden. While many older varieties of hydrangea can be fussy about when

they’re pruned — prune at the wrong time of year and you’ll lose your flowers for the coming season — many newer varieties are reblooming, so even if you prune off the coming year’s buds too late in fall or winter kills off the buds, they’ll still rebloom on new growth, just a little later in summer.    One of my favorite newer reblooming hydrangeas is “Tuff Stuff,” which starts with its first round of pink or purple lacecap flowers a few weeks earlier than most hydrangeas and continues to rebloom throughout summer. “Invincibelle Ruby,” a dwarf Annabelle or smooth hydrangea, is a rebloomer with pink flowers that will be unaffected by soil pH, so will never turn purple or blue. And finally, “Little Lime,” a dwarf version of the hugely popular “Limelight,” while not technically a rebloomer, blooms with lime-green cone-shaped flowers on new growth, so it can be pruned in fall or early spring without sacrificing any blooms.   With summer just around the corner, Juneuary will soon be in the rearview mirror and we can look forward to warmer, drier days. In the meantime, enjoy all the free watering!   David Vos is manager of Vander Giessen Nursery Inc. of Lynden.

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The Plagerman family dairy farms with both the Jersey and Holstein breeds of cattle. Continued from B3

family farms are great because they teach children to have a strong work ethic and responsibility, and install a passion for farming that is passed down through generations.    Growing up on a dairy farm meant I not only spent quality time with my family, but I also learned important life lessons. While I was growing up, I had the opportunity to work closely with my dad. I sat on his lap and “helped” him drive tractors. When I was 8, he taught me how to drive one on my own.    Now my main role on our farm is caring for the calves. I really enjoy it and personally think it’s the best job on the farm because I work outside, get my hands dirty, and spend time with adorable little calves. Another big task I do is field work during the summers. We harvest grass several times a year to be fed to our cows. I rake the grass into windrows for chopping. After each harvest I inject manure nutrients into the soil to help crops grow.    Along with my farm work, I am also a Running Start student at Bellingham Technical College where I am completing prerequisites for the veterinary program at Washington State University. My long-term goal is to become a large-animal veterinarian and work primarily with dairy cattle.    Our farm on Beard Road, Bel-Lyn Farms, was started by my grandpa in 1978 and that is when our family began dairying. He started with a herd of 80 cows from Idaho and gradually, over time, grew his herd. Now at this farm we milk about 450 Holsteins. Also, nine years ago, we started a Jersey farm in Ferndale called Paradise Jerseys. Here we milk 450 Jerseys. One unique thing about this farm is the eight robotic milkers we installed two years ago.

   As farmers, our number one priority is the care of our animals. We know that a content, healthy cow produces more good quality milk. We do this by making sure the cows have water, feed and clean bedding at all times. We make certain the cows have a regular routine to keep them as comfortable as possible. The animals’ comfort comes before our own, even if it means we are soaking wet outside while they are in a dry barn. Or we are feeding them in the morning before having our own breakfast. It takes a lot of hard work to help our cows produce milk for quality dairy products.    Milk is a very nutritious food with nine essential nutrients. These are calcium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D. It is recommended that each person consume three servings of dairy products each day. While it is common knowledge that dairy products are important for growing children, they are also great for adults as well. Among many other health benefits, milk keeps bones strong, aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis.    I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to grow up on a dairy farm. I am also thankful and proud to serve as the 2020 Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador.    Thank you to all who continue to make dairy an important part of their nutritious healthy lifestyle and supporting our local dairy farmers. I am also grateful for the life lessons I have learned while growing up on a family farm. I have had hard-working people in my life from day one who have taught me how to drive tractors, care for cows, deliver calves, not complain when cows get out in the middle of the night and, most of all, believe in what I do. I am proud to be a Whatcom County dairy farmer.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020 • lyndentribune.com • ferndalerecord.com • B5


Record-high cheese price, 11-year-low milk price    It was a week of contrasts as we entered June “Dairy Month.� Cash block cheese set a new record high as the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the May Federal Order Class III benchmark milk price at its lowest level in 11 years. Go figure.   The COVID-incited plunge took the milk price to $12.14 per hundredweight, down 93 cents from April and $4.24 below May 2019. It is the lowest Class III price since September 2009. The 2020 average stands at $15.10.   However, things might improve quickly in a 2020 year that was supposed to be good for dairy — until COVID hit. The June 5 Class III futures settlements projected a rebound for June milk to $19.88, with July at $18.67, August $17.38, September $16.97, October $16.84,

4-H Reports BARN BUDDIES    As with most organizations, the last few months have brought some major changes for 4-H, from the move to virtual formats for 4-H activities to the cancellation of the 2020 Northwest Washington Fair. For Barn Buddies, the latter signifies specifically the cancellation of — or at least major changes to — the Small Animal Experience (SAE) that we run each year with the support of community and friends.    Despite all the things that we cannot do as we would like at this time, there are many things we can continue to do well. Among these is giving recognition to the people who have played important roles in our lives — in our case the Barn Buddies club.    We were excited to have our wonderful project leader, Pauline Van Weerdhuizen, recognized by the Lynden Tribune in May. Now, with graduation season upon us, we acknowledge this year’s two Barn Buddies seniors, Alyssa Boersma and Jony Garfia.    Barn Buddies leader Brooke Weimer shares this message of congratulations to both of them: “I am so proud of your dedication to community service and lifelong learning! We wish the both of you the very best, and are so proud to have you as our Barn Buddies 4-H Club graduating seniors!�    Alyssa, a Lynden homeschool graduate, plans to attend

By Lee Mielke

November $16.65 and December $16.34.   The May Class IV price is $10.67, down 73 cents from April and $5.62 below a year ago, the lowest level since August 2009. The average for the year stands at $13.96.    Cheddar block cheese set a record $2.5050 per pound on June 2 and then pushed even higher, closWhatcom Community College in the fall, eventually to attend Bellingham Technical College’s vet-tech program. What Alyssa has enjoyed most about her time in 4-H has been the hands-on learning experiences, the most memorable involving care of the animals. She has shown dairy heifers and guinea pigs at both the Lynden fair and Washington State Fair, and taken care of SAE animals before, during and after the fair. In her words, “4-H is just one big learning experience� — in taking on the responsibility of caring for a duck or a goat or showing an animal, as well as to leadership.    This past year, Alyssa served in the role of Whatcom County Alternate Dairy Ambassador, a culmination of her love for animals, particularly dairy cattle, and the leadership skills she learned through 4-H, community theater, mentoring and Lynden High School’s musical and cross country team.   A Lynden High School graduate, Jony plans to attend the University of Washington to study accounting, hoping to use the skills he learns to support ag businesses.    Having joined Barn Buddies relatively recently, Jony hasn’t had as many opportunities for hands-on 4-H projects such as raising animals, but he has had no shortage of community involvement and leadership experiences in high school. Jony was a part of ASB, the chess team, Knowledge Bowl and National Honor Society. His senior year, Jony was president of Lynden’s NHS chapter, as well as join-

ing the week at $2.5525, up 32.25 cents, a seventh week of gain. The previous high was $2.45 on Sept. 19, 2014. The barrels climbed to $2.37 June 4, then reteated to $2.36.    But the cheese rally could end as quickly as it began, said FC Stone dairy broker Dave Kurzawski. A “wave of buying� began with export orders in April, then became domestic “pipeline refilling and new orders as states opened up in May,� he said. “It was given rocket fuel by government buying,� in particular the US Food Box Program which got plenty of press for being so unusual.    Grade A nonfat dry milk weakened to June 5 and finished at 97.75 cents per pound, down 5.25 cents on the week and 7.75 cents below a year ago, on 24 sales reported.

  Lower feed prices could not offset a much lower All Milk Price in April, so the month’s Milk Feed Price Ratio fell for the fifth consecutive month. The USDA’s latest Ag Prices report put the ratio at 1.84, down from 2.23 in March.    The U.S. All-Milk Price averaged $14.40 per cwt., down $3.60 from March and $3.30 below April 2019.    Dairy farm margins continued to improve over the second half of May on strength in the milk market while feed costs held steady, according to the latest Margin Watch from Chicago-based Commodity & Ingredient Hedging LLC.    “Class III milk continues to advance on strength in cheese as June futures approach $20 per cwt., sending nearby margins over the 90th percentile of the past 10 years� was

MW’s analysis. “Deferred contracts also followed this strength to a lesser degree, with margins in both fourth and first quarter at the 80th percentile, offering dairy producers renewed opportunities to secure forward profitability.�   Reopening of food service outlets is increasing demand for cheese. Data from Open Table indicate that some markets in states which have begun to reopen their economies and allow in-dining service have recovered 40 to 50% of their capacity, an encouraging sign. “The strength comes despite growth in both milk production and stocks,� says the MW.    The Northwest Dairy Association makes these price projections for the Class III price and Pacific Northwest blend price: Month Class PNW III Blend

May $12.14 $11.97 (current) June $19.90 $15.30 July $18.70 $17.00 Aug. $17.20 $16.60 Sept. $16.50 $16.40 Oct. $16.20 $16.00 Nov. $15.70 $16.05 Dec. $15.40 $16.00 Jan. $15.40 $15.70 Feb. $15.50 $15.80    Dan McBride, director of business operations for NDA/Darigold, called it a market that has “gone crazy� since May 1, in recovery from the COVID impacts.    “The check we send out tomorrow will be the low point, so this will be a tough month,� McBride said on Monday, June 15. After that, prices look to rise sharply and then stabilize for 2020, he said.    Lee Mielke, of Lynden, is editor of the Mielke Market Weekly. Whatcom County has about 70 dairy farms.

Seniors Alyssa Boersema and Jony Garfia, recently graduated from Lynden High School, say good-bye to the Barn Buddies 4-H Club and its leader Debbie VanderVeen. (Courtesy photo) ing the cross country and swim teams, E-sports, the Environmental Conservation Club, and the school yearbook team. Even with many positive experiences in other clubs and teams that he is a part of, the culture of having fun while working together that he experienced while volunteering in the SAE stood out to Jony, so that when he was invited to

join Barn Buddies leadership, he enthusiastically agreed.    On the journey of working with Alyssa and Jony, club leader Debbie VanderVeen said: “It is an honor to work with and guide youth as they grow and mature through their years. Teaching leadership, citizenship and service learning are main focuses of our 4-H club. We learn to care

for a large variety of animal species and learn the proper way to interact with our guests at Small Animal Experience. Members are encouraged to challenge themselves by going beyond what is comfortable to them. The pride and excitement of achieving things they didn’t know possible are all 4-H attributes. Often members surprise themselves

by looking back and seeing how far they have come in meeting their goals of gaining self-confidence and public speaking. Trustworthiness, responsibility and honesty are traits they recognize to be highly valued. Being a 4-H leader is absolutely one of the best treasures I have discovered.�

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B6 • Wednesday, June 17, 2020 • ferndalerecord.com • lyndentribune.com

Dairy Continued from B1

The side of a truck provides a little promotion of Custer Hemp on the Guide Meridian in Lynden.

Hemp farming in Whatcom County Douma goes from dairying to promoter of a new product   This story is reprinted with permission from Save Family Farming, posted first on its website March 6. MJD Farms on Loomis Trail Road, once one of the largest dairies in the county, had a dispersal auction in June 2019.    Is hemp farming part of the future of farming in Whatcom County?    Mike Douma, former dairy farmer, sold his cows and is trying out hemp farming.    “Our family has been dairying for over 50 years,” Douma said. “In Whatcom County it’s tough to dairy and make money.”   The Douma family decided they were done milking cows and a friend suggested they grow hemp. They hired a chemist to help them make some product for their new business, Custer Hemp.    “One of the coolest parts is instead of dealing with cows, I’m dealing with people,” Douma said.   The Doumas have had to learn a lot about the plant. Douma said that hemp and marijuana are different, even though you

may not be able to tell the difference by looking at the plants in the field.   “Just the learning curve of this plant has been pretty cool,” Douma said.    CBD [cannabidiol] is an anti-inflammatory [derrivative of cannabis] and Douma says he’s been able to give his father some CBD to help with his Parkinsons and his daughter to help her with her epilepsy.    “It can’t cure anything, but it really seems to help manage,” Douma said.    Douma said they are working on developing a line of CBD that has zero THC in it, so workers who get drug tested will be able to use it.    “It’s unbelievable what they’re finding out about this stuff,” Douma said. “It’s endless, from medicine to clothing.”    Douma says the market is saturated now, but part of that is because there isn’t enough processing capacity to make the oil or turn the plants into clothing.    Another hardship is the stigma that comes with the term “hemp.” Douma struggled to get a checking account for the business because of federal government hurdles.    But Douma is excited for the future. He says it was hard to sell his cows and get out of dairying, but it was time.

in 2014. Using the fiveyear U.S. Census of Agriculture, the tally was 94 in 2017, with 45,546 milk cows. Going farther back, it was 120 farms in 2012, 151 in 2007 and 248 (with 61,457 cows) in 2002 .    Doing a count of actual farms in operation now, the Tribune comes up with between 66 and 72.    Darigold said Monday it has at least 70 milkproducing farms in Whatcom County. Sometimes locally one owner has more than one farm.    Washington State lists licensed Grade A dairy milking facilities, with the last available update from January 2018. That list was in the 90s for Whatcom County. However, close to 20 of those dairies have called it quits since then.    The closures include: Breckenridge Dairy, Perry Farms, TJ Veenacre, Clearbrook Holsteins, Ronelee Farms, Mainstream Holsteins, Larry DeHaan Farm, VanDyk-K Holsteins, Ron Bronsema Dairy, Glen Blankers Dairy and Heeringa Dairy.    After four years of marginal returns, 2020 was supposed to be a year of higher prices for dairy farmers. International trade was improving. The projection in February was for the Class III manufacturing-grade milk price to stay above $17 per hundred pounds of milk for the year, about break-even for farmers.    Then in March the

The Kortuses came home from their honeymoon to begin dairy farming. Jana passed of ovarian cancer in 2016. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune) the coronavirus pandemic shocked markets worldwide. Dairy was hit especially hard because of the closure of restaurants and schools that account for much consumption of milk and dairy products. From $17.05 for January’s milk, the price had plummeted nearly $4 for April’s, to $13.07. It will be $12.14 for May milk, a low point. But then the price will definitely strengthen and hold more steady as the U.S. economy begins to recover, say dairy leaders.    Vander Veen claims that additional “differential” deductions — relating to the milk marketing pools run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — is a further hit on producers’ paychecks in the end.   Another veteran dairyman who is gradually seeing his pedigree cows dispersed is Randy Kortus. His Mainstream Holsteins herd at the far west end of

Randy Kortus believes his flat barn, hard on a farmer’s knees, may have been the last locally.

Lynden’s Main Street was among the state’s highestproducing per head in the past, and Kortus received the Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder Award at the National Dairy Shrine in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2018.    Kortus, now 62, decided it was time to quit all the work of the milking operation — he believes he may be the last Whatcom dairy farmer still milking cows in a flat barn — that he and his late wife Jana began in 1981, cutting short their honeymoon to get back to the farm.    “I’ll tell you, there’s not very many people who can survive,” Kortus said of dairying. “This was supposed to be a good year.”    On 40 acres owned plus some rented land, the Mainstream Holsteins operation (and later also Jerseys and Ayrshires) got to 90 milking cows at most. That doesn’t do for the scale of efficiency needed in milk production today, especially as the high-quality breeding the Kortuses were good at has declined in value in the industry.    From about a dozen cows still being milked in April, Randy Kortus was down to two in early June. Sometime soon the last cow will depart.    Kortus is already in a role with a company of selecting quality American dairy cattle for export to

other countries.    For Rod Tjoelker, head of RTJ Farm on West Badger Road, the goal was to get out of the round-theclock demands of dairying by the time he reached 60. “We had been praying quite a while for God to show us how to ‘land the plane’ of the farm,” he wrote.    Daughters were involved on the farm, with Rod and wife Sharon, but not really positioned to take it over entirely.    Then, in late 2019, the opportunity came along to sell a farm’s “rights to produce milk” to Darigold, Tjoelker said. The company was doing some restructuring.    “We decided to jump on it,” he said. “We were not sure how long this opportunity would last. If Darigold increases plant capacity, there are no guarantees that the quota would have value or if the producers who really need it fill up on the quota, this chance could be over. We were able to get paid for that quota and still be able to sell the herd on top of that.”   The Tjoelkers, like Kortus, are able to keep all of their land and raise some dairy replacement stock if they wish, and keep looking for other opportunities with their land. “It will take a while to unravel what we have going yet,” Rod said.

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Country Life June 2020  

Country Life June 2020