Country Life June 2021

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Country Life Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • •

Dairy • B7 Gardening • B3 FFA/4-H • B3

Barbie’s Berries u-pick season starts

The old-time Oltman barn on Van Dyk Road is an example of one repurposed to other uses. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

The Family Farm Deciphering Whatcom County’s ‘empty-barn syndrome’ ‘We have seen a major economic and social change in our community’ Young William Zediker obtains a half flat of strawberries from the Barbie’s Berries stand, operated by Cindy Norris, in the Lynden Fairway Center on Friday, so his mom can make a strawberry-rhubarb dessert. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

By Mick Vander Griend Submitted to the Lynden Tribune

Later varieties of berries won’t be in stands until mid-June

This spring, retired Lynden dairy farmer Marius “Mick” Vander Griend submitted this piece to the Tribune as his thoughts on “The Family Farm” and its decline in Whatcom County. Specifically, it is about dairy farming, in which Vander Griend was engaged for nearly 40 years. He grew up on the Guide Meridian dairy farm he later operated.    We took the opportunity last week to retrace Vander Griend’s imaginary drive up through the county from Bellingham along Hannegan Road and then

By Brent Lindquist

WHATCOM — The upick operation out at Barbie’s Berries on Melody Lane between Ferndale and Lynden is up and running as of Tuesday, June 8. Barb Kraght, who co-owns Barbie’s Berries with her husband Randy, said the berries currently offered have been blanketed, a method used to retain heat for the plants’

growth. “We put them on before bloom so it keeps whatever heat there is in the soil, it keeps them warm. If there’s a light frost, they don’t get that,” Kraght said. “They don’t come on way, way early, but quite a bit early.” The farm doesn’t blanket all of their berry plants, Kraght said, just enough to make sure they can be the first grower ready to go with u-pick.

“As those start dwindling, then the normal ripening happens,” she said. “These allow us to get an early start on the season. There really isn’t any competition.” The demand for berries has been high, Kraght said; people were calling all the way back in May asking about berries. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t affect their berry growing operation, but it did affect the Barbie’s Berries frozen stock. “We sold everything we had in our freezer last year,” Kraght said. “We’re

down to nothing in the frozen. That’s not typical at all. We’re basically trying to catch up on that right now. We’re picking extra to freeze. That’s become a pretty good market for us.” The Barbie’s Berries U-Pick operation is located at 7655 Melody Lane, which is about in the 1500 block of Willey’s Lake Road. Sales stands are located in Fairway Center in Lynden and Raspberry Ridge Golf Course south of Lynden. Visit for more information.

north from Lynden on the Guide. Along the way, we encountered Paul Parrish, six years retired from dairying on Hannegan Road. He noted that at one time his was the ninth of about 12 dairies on Hannegan between Lynden and Pole Road and now there are none.    Photos are of barns or farms along the routes, but VanderGriend — whose family was the 1972 Whatcom County Dairy Family of the Year — preferred to remain unpictured. — Calvin Bratt, editor    What is the family farm and who is this person called the family farmer who owns and operates the family farm? For the better part of my life I was that person.    I was born into a family farm family and owned my own farm all of my 40 working years. It always brings a smile to my face See Barns on B2

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when I hear the cry to arms on the part of food supply experts and environmentalist that “we must save the family farm.” The cry most often is made by individuals who have little or no knowledge of what they are speaking.    In my mind I try to picture what they are imagining. It looks like this: it is a fine sunny May morning and the dairy cows are grazing on bright green grass. In the background are a red and white barn with a white house and a manicured lawn. Oh yes, each cow in the field has a name such as Betsy, Janie, Spotty, Switcher, etc. (You can see that I just pictured a dairy farm.) May I tell the people who think that this is what a family farm looks like today that it is long gone. It began going in the 1960s and by 2010 had disappeared. (These were generally also my years of farming, 1958-1997.)    In my story I wish to portray what has happened to the family dairy farm in this county, Whatcom. (Other agricultural counties may have a different type of farms, but the same cause and effect.) To illustrate a bit of what I wish to tell, I want you to take a little imaginary drive with me in my county. Let’s start in Bellingham and drive

north on the Hannegan Road to Lynden and then continue further north to the Canadian border. I want you to look along the way for farm buildings, in particular dairy barns. For the first few miles, empty barns will be very small and aged, but by the time you pass the Laurel hill curve the county opens up and you can see larger fields and farm buildings. It looks like farming, but pay attention. These are not working farm buildings. The houses are well maintained, but the outbuildings have a sense of abandonment. The land is being used, but not in conjunction with the farm buildings. A little farther north you will reach where you can look out on the Nooksack River valley and to the town of Lynden. You can see ten miles east to Everson and five miles to the west beyond Guide Meridian Road.    In this vista every farm with the exception of two or three has one thing in common, the empty barn. Some became empty recently, but others longer ago, almost all between 1960 and 2010. Continue the drive with me a bit further north of Lynden via the Guide to the Canadian border. This is the road that my farm was located on. Between 1958 and 1970 on this 3.5-mile section of

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Above: Mick VanderGriend appreciates this October 1961 photo for the simplicity and cleanliness of farm operation it conveys, plus fun with his son Steve. (Courtesy photo) Below: Paul Parrish, dairy farming on Hannegan Road until about five years ago, now has mostly empty barns and sheds, although one item stored is bald eagle decoys to scare away ducks from his leased fields. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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road there were 20 dairy farms owned and operated by an individual man with family help. Today there are two. What in the world happened in those 50 years? North of Lynden are perhaps 10 north-south roads similar to the Guide. Every road tells a story like this: the empty barn and abandonment of a certain activity.    Consider all the rural roads in our county and your mind will begin to understand what I mean — the Whatcom County empty-barn syndrome. Are there 1,000? 1,500? 2,000? We have seen a major economic and social change in our community. The changes have touched not only the farmer and his family, but the entire support and supply system that was needed for the maintenance of each farm.    You have seen the evidence of the demise of the family dairy farm. One thing is obvious: Farms were not being passed on to the next generation. They were simply discontinued.    There are a number of reasons why a farm ends. Let’s consider some of the reasons. There is the financial income, the affordability of technology, and government regulation.    The physical and mental stress on farmers and their families is because of uncontrollable natural events such as weather and disease. (Sometimes I will write from my own experiences and other times from my observation of fellow farmers.)    As you look at the history of when farms ended, it seemed that it happened in spurts. The first related to the decision to produce Grade A milk. One needed to improve your facilities so you could get the best price for your milk, but there were substantial costs and ongoing inspections. A

certain number of farmers quit.    When I started farming, the technology of the bulk refrigerated milk tank rather than milk cans was introduced. This was a major financial commitment. Again, for some it was time to quit. In the early 1970s the price of grain doubled in just a few months. The reason was a wheat embargo by the United States against Russia, disrupting world markets. Purchased grain represented almost half of the monthly expenses of Whatcom County’s dairy farms. Within a year a number more farms were forced out of business by unpayable grain bills.    During these past two decades, expenses doubled while the price for milk increased 20%. With higher grain prices the “experts” told farmers to grow highquality home-grown feed. This took more expensive technology (irrigation and machinery), which took more money which the banker was glad to furnish with the advice that if we had 10 more cows we would make it then.    Ten more cows meant more time in the barn and less time for leisure. To grow quality feed on our land we began to constantly work at trying to beat the weather rather than work with it.   Do you sense the pace of life speeding up? First I had months to complete field work. There was a month for planting, a month to make hay, a couple of weeks for oat harvest, and a week for silo filling. Later it needed to be done in a day or two and now in an hour. All our work became a race or competition between neighbors about who could get done the quickest and whose herd produced the most milk when the monthly testing report was published in the See Barns on B8

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • • • B3

Proper timing for gardening success

Pictured from left are: coach Gerrit P. Van Weerdhuizen, Tess Van Loo (third individual), Maddie Zweegman (second), Tabby DeJong, Mackenzie Joostens (first) and coach Debi Gavette. This was the first State FFA Creed LDE won by Lynden Christian and Joostens will compete at nationals representing the state of Washington. (Courtesy photo)

FFA teams wrap competitions Baker wins state Ag Technology/ Mechanics event; LC Creed   WHATCOM — Mount Baker FFA placed first at the state Agriculture Technology and Mechanics Career Development Event held at Moses Lake’s Columbia Basin Skills Center on Saturday, May 22.    This was the only state in-person career development event in the state this year, reports Mount Baker FFA adviser Todd Rightmire.   Sophomore Jorey Johnson scored high individual in the state. Eli Freeman was second, Michael Weber third, Nico Johnson 10th, and Collin Favro was in the top 15.   Universal Technical Institute awarded John-

son a $10,000 scholarship, Freeman $5,000 and Weber $3,000.   Students completed a very challenging general knowledge test, small gas engine parts identification and problem solving, sprayer parts identification and calibration, electrical circuits and wiring, and welding practicums.     The team will have a virtual contest in all practicums and general knowledge test in September and travel to Indianapolis for the team activity for nationals.    Garrett Smith and Aidan Corning were also on the team this year and helped Baker to not lose a contest in over a year, Rightmire said. Also, Jed Grimes, who graduated last year, should get credit for mentoring, teaching and showing this year’s guys what to expect and he was not able to enjoy the success due to the

cancelled event last year, the adviser said.    • Lynden Christian FFA won the state Creed Career Development Event for the first time in school history. First, second and third places individually were won by Mackenzie Joostens, Maddie Zweegman and Tess Van Loo, respectively. Joostens will go on to represent the state of Washington at nationals in the fall.    • Two state marketing teams of Nooksack Valley FFA made top-8 in the state. Placing fifth was a team consisting of Nicci Vermeer, Aubree Bird and Faith Bartl. Placing sixth was a team of McKenzie O’Bryan, Ally Gebhardt and Macie McMillen.   From Nooksack FFA is this shout-out: “So proud of the professionalism and hard work these ladies have put into the two marketing plans this year!”

In gardening, timing is everything. Whether getting your vegetable seeds or starts in the ground at the proper time, feeding your lawn and garden when needed, and spraying or treating for insects before an infestation ruins your fruit or flowers — the success of your endeavors hinges largely on doing things at the right time.    As you wrap up planting your vegetable garden for summer and begin to focus on maintaining your yard and garden in a new season, here are some time-sensitive tasks to focus on this month.    First, now is the best time to prune your springblooming shrubs. Rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs and other spring bloomers have just wrapped up their show of color, so to ensure they bloom next year, now is the time to prune. Because these types of shrubs bloom on the previous year’s growth, if you wait until fall or winter to prune, you’ll end up pruning off next year’s flower buds. Prune now and your plants will have time to put out new growth and set next year’s flower buds yet this summer.    In conjunction with pruning spring bloomers, your second can’t-miss task for early summer is feeding rhododendrons and azaleas. As they enter their growing season, late spring and early summer is a great time to feed with an acid-based fertilizer like Espoma Azalea-Tone for lush growth and plentiful blooms next year.    Now is also a good time to feed roses, and to treat them with a systemic insect and disease control to battle aphids, black spot and powdery mildew. Use a systemic like Bonide Rose Shield Drench every six weeks to keep your roses healthy through whatever summer brings.   Third, planting. Chances are if you’re new to gardening in the last

By David Vos year, you’ve tried growing some vegetables, and you’ve likely had both some great successes and utter failures. Don’t kick yourself for those failures, though — remember, timing is everything, and if you planted at the wrong time your plants may have been doomed from the start.   Planting tomatoes or squash unprotected outside in early April just doesn’t work well in our climate, no matter how nice those two days of warm weather might have felt! While I start planting my garden each year in early April, I’ve learned to do it in stages, starting with cold weather tolerant plants first and adding warm-season crops later in May.   Although the window for planting summer crops may be closing, you’re not too late to plant some things yet, including herbs, many of which grow prolifically all summer. One of the last herbs I put out in spring is basil; like tomatoes and squash,

it doesn’t like cool weather.    For a hardier basil than traditional varieties, I love Amazel basil, a newer variety with excellent hardiness, disease resistance and incredible yields. Unlike traditional basil that typically succumbs to downy mildew in late summer (typical symptoms include wilting leaves, even when properly watered), Amazel is nearly immune to downy mildew, continuing to produce huge harvests into October. Plant Amazel in a pot this time of year and you’ll have a harvest all summer and well into autumn.    Fourth, lawn care. After winter and before the weather warms enough to plant much in the way of flowers and vegetables, we all get into rehabilitating our lawns, from moss killing to thatching to reseeding bare spots. Then summer rolls around and aside from watering and mowing, we might not give much thought to lawn care.    If it’s been at least six to eight weeks since you last fertilized your lawn, though, it’s time to feed again. Fertilize your lawn with a good slow-release fertilizer like Scotts Turf Builder to feed over the next couple of months and enjoy a healthy, lush lawn all summer.    As we prepare for a new season, enjoy the long days and watching your garden grow!    David Vos is manager of Vander Giessen Nursery Inc. of Lynden.

B4 • Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • •

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • • • B5



June is National Dairy Month

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B6 • Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • •

Animals as Natural Therapy makes changes Home farm is now on Kline Road, and Jaime Arnett is new head person    BELLINGHAM — After 21 years at Windy Acres Farm, Animals as Natural Therapy has moved to a new location and welcomes Jaime Arnett as new executive director.    In November 2020, as part of a long-term strategic plan, ANT co-founder and former director Sonja Wingard handed the reins over to Arnett. Arnett had first joined the operation in 2015 as a grant writer and in 2019 took over operations and development for the organization.   Arnett brings more than a decade of experience in the nonprofit, government and private sectors. She was an assistant director for a Habitat for Humanity chapter and the administrative executive for the Boundary Fish Company in Blaine. In addition, Jaime also served a short term as an appointed Blaine City Council member.    Under Jaime’s leadership, ANT moved to a new home on Kline Road this past April. The farm is a short drive from Bellingham and sits on 10 quiet acres, doubling the pasture

Animals are at the heart of healing offered at the new Kline Road location. (Courtesy photo/ANT) space for therapy horses and providing ample room for additional small animals including goats, chickens and rabbits. With this move, ANT also welcomed several new herd members including seven horses, a miniature horse, a miniature mule and a goat.   While the location and leadership are new, ANT’s programs and mission remain the same: to improve mental and behavioral health through animal guided programs with special attention to youth and veterans.    The organization helps hundreds in Whatcom County each year heal, build life skills and develop resilience with the help of horses and other animals. Programs are led by longtime staff and volunteers, some of whom are former ANT participants themselves.    The move is ultimately

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part of a larger effort to one day expand services and capacity, a step toward a brighter future after a challenging year. Through COVID-19 the organization has experienced a 75% reduction in income while also seeing an increased demand for services. Even with the challenge, ANT continues to be hopeful.    “We are so grateful for where we come from and now look expectantly towards where we might go,” Arnett said. “We hope the community will come and grow with us.”    To help ANT finish getting settled into the new space and continue to weather the pandemic, a spring “Stable of Support’’ pledge drive has begun. Community members who sign up to make a monthly gift will be entered into weekly drawings for the month of June. Pledges start at $5 a month. Prizes include a private farm tour, a chance to have ANT animals join your next Zoom call, and more. Visit www. animalsasnaturaltherapy. org/donate for more information.

Come on in and help yourself, and pay, at the Mellema Farm Strawberries double patch for u-picking on River Road. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

Mellema self-serve fields on River Road    LYNDEN ­ — Mellema Farm Strawberries is entirely a help-yourself operation on River Road a half-mile west of the Guide Meridian and just beyond Flynn Road.    This is U-pick and a trusting U-pay, into a well-locked strongbox.   You also choose whether you want the no-spray organic field of berries (red flags) or the conventional field (blue flags) that uses chemical sprays. The advice to all pickers is to wash your fresh berries before eating them.    The Mellema price is $2 per pound for conventional, $2.75 for organic.    The fields were open for picking on June 7.

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an investment of up to $1 billion, including $500 million in American Rescue Plan funding, in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to support and expand the emergency food network so food banks and local organizations can reliably serve their communities   Building on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA will enter into cooperative agreements with state, tribal and local entities to more efficiently purchase food from local producers and invest in infrastructure that enables partner organizations to more effectively reach underserved communities.   USDA believes the food system of the future should be fair, competitive, distributed and resilient; it must support health and ensure producers receive a fair share of the food dollar while advancing equity and contributing to national climate goals.    This investment represents the first part of USDA’s new Build Back Better initiative to help achieve that vision and start building a better food system.    “Hunger is on the decline thanks to aggressive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, but we

must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Now is the time to apply lessons learned from food assistance activities early in the pandemic to improve how USDA purchases food and supports on-theground organizations with TEFAP. We will put special emphasis on reaching rural, remote and underserved communities, local and regional food systems, and socially disadvantaged farmers.”    In the coming months, USDA will make a series of additional investments under the Build Back Better initiative focused on building a better food system.    Build Back Better efforts will improve access to nutritious food, address racial injustice and inequity as well as a changing climate, provide ongoing support for producers and workers, and create a more resilient food system.     The June 4 announcement of up to $1 billion will help resolve lingering challenges directly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and start addressing

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long-term challenges to the nation’s food system exposed by the pandemic.    This effort is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act ($500 million) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 ($500 million) and includes:    • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will purchase $500 million in nutritious, domestically produced food for state food bank networks through TEFAP. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and AMS will work collaboratively with the state to distribute the food to TEFAP providers. USDA will purchase food from registered vendors for nationwide distribution. Small business, women-owned, minorityowned and veteran-owned set-asides during the solicitation process will provide an enhanced opportunity for USDA-registered small businesses to submit competitive bids. This funding will continue to support demand from states for the new TEFAP Fresh Produce offering.    • As part of this effort, AMS will establish cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments or other local entities to purchase food for the food bank network from local and regional producers (within the state or within 400 miles) and from socially disadvantaged producers. AMS will use innovative approaches to ensure these agreements facilitate relationships between farmers, ranchers and producers and local and regional food systems.     • FNS will administer a new grant program aimed at helping food assistance organizations meet TEFAP requirements, strengthen infrastructure, and expand their reach into rural, remote and low-income communities. This grant program incorporates lessons learned from the Farmers to Families Food Box program. It can help local organizations and former Food Box groups participate in the state’s emergency food network and help pantries build capacity for storage and refrigeration. These grants will help support organizations serving underserved communities and communities of color.   USDA will continue to make announcements through the Build Back Better initiative throughout 2021.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • • • B7

Milk price jumps to $18.96, but feed costs also up

By Lee Mielke    U.S. milk prices are making June Dairy Month a little happier for farmers.    The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the May Federal Order Class III benchmark milk price at $18.96 per hundredweight (cwt.), up $1.29 from April and $6.82 above May 2020. It is the highest Class III price since last November.    The May Class IV price is $16.16 per cwt., up 74 cents from April, $5.49 above a year ago, and the highest since February 2020.    Meanwhile, a jump in the

April All Milk Price helped offset increased feed costs to pause the slide in the U.S. milk-feed ratio. The USDA’s latest Ag Prices report shows April at 1.75, same as March, but down from 1.85 in April 2020.    The index is based on the current milk price in relationship to feed prices for a ration consisting of 51% corn, 8% soybeans and 41% alfalfa hay. In other words, one pound of milk would purchase 1.75 pounds of dairy feed of that blend.    The U.S. All Milk Price averaged $18.40 per cwt., up $1 from March and $4 above the March 2020 average.    Unfortunately, the national average corn price hit $5.31 per bushel, up 42 cents per bushel from March and a pricy $2.02 per bushel above April 2020.    Soybeans averaged $13.90 per bushel, up 70 cents from March and a whopping $5.55 per bushel above April 2020.    Alfalfa hay averaged $187 per ton, up $6 from March and $7 above a year ago.    The April cull price for beef and dairy combined averaged $71.10 per cwt., up $4 from March, $7.10 above April 2020, and 50 cents below the 2011

Milk Price Projections    The Northwest Dairy Association makes these price projections for the Class III price and Pacific Northwest blend price: Month Class PNW III Blend May $18.96 $17.59 (current) June $17.16 $17.46 July $17.66 $17.48 Aug. $18.39 $17.92 Sept. $18.77 $18.28 Oct. $18.98 $18.26 Nov. $18.81 $18.30 Dec. $18.49 $18.21 Jan. $18.08 $17.71 Feb. $17.97 $17.38

base average of $71.60 per cwt.    Milk cow replacements averaged $1,310 per head in April, down $50 from January but $60 per head above April 2020.    Corn and soybean sales to China are driving feed prices higher for U.S. beef and dairy farmers. Dairy demand remains strong, but so is milk output. Uncertainty over the future of

Cover crop of 2020 can be a boost in 2021 But deadline to apply with FSA is June 15   LYONS, Nebraska — Cover crops are a conservation practice with widely recognized benefits, from improving soil health to

protecting water quality. Many farmers who planted fall cover crops in 2020 are now eligible for a discount on their crop insurance premium, thanks to a new program announced June 1.   The Pandemic Cover Crop Program, available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Man-

agement Agency, offers a discount of $5 per acre on a farmer’s 2021 crop insurance premium, but no more than the full premium price.    To be eligible, a producer must report their fall cover crops to the Farm Service Agency no later than June 15. The Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) will re-

pandemic-driven government food purchases is weighing on the markets even as the USDA announced Friday that it will spend up to $1 billion, including $500 million in American Rescue Plan funding, in The Emergency Food Assistance Program. It remains to be seen how much dairy will be included, but it appeared last week that only fluid milk and cheese will be purchased.     Block cheddar cheese at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange closed the Memorial Day holiday-shortened week at $1.50 per pound. The blocks were down for the fifth week in a row, losing 30 cents in that time period, falling to their lowest level since May 12, 2020, and were $1.0525 below a year ago when they gained 32.25 cents, hitting $2.5525.    The barrels finished at $1.6150, up 4.50 cents on the week, 74.50 cents below a year ago when they shot up 33.75 cents to $2.36, and are an inverted 11.50 cents above the blocks.    Midwest cheese producers are busy, reports Dairy Market News, and “milk availability is evidence that peak flush sea-

quire information such as cover crop variety, number of acres, planting dates and irrigation practices. Once the report has been submitted, eligible farmers will be automatically enrolled and see the discount reflected on their premium later in the year.   “Farmers should be mindful that the June 15 deadline is a month before the July 15 acreage reporting

son has yet to be achieved. Cool weather continued to put a surplus of milk into cheese vats.    Western cheese demand is steady in both retail and food service markets. Milk is readily available, allowing producers to run full schedules. However, cheese output is, reportedly, outpacing demand. Market tones are unsteady. Contacts believe the lower prices should lead to increased interest from international buyers, but port congestion and shipping issues are continuing to cause delays.   Butter finished Friday, June 4, at $1.7750 per pound, down 3.50 cents on the week and 15 cents below a year ago when it gained 26.50 cents and was trading at $1.9250.    Grade A nonfat dry milk closed the week at $1.26 per pound, down 3.25 cents but still 28.25 cents above a year ago.    CME dry whey fell to 60 cents per pound Tuesday, lowest since March 16, but closed Friday at 60.25, 2 cents lower on the week but 25.75 cents above a year ago.    Lee Mielke, of Lynden, is editor of the Mielke Market Weekly. Whatcom County has about 70 dairy farms.

deadline they are familiar with for federal crop insurance,” said Kate Hansen, policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs.    The program is available nationwide for most federal crop insurance policies. For producers in states with existing cover crop insurance incentives, such as Iowa, PCCP will provide an additional benefit. The discount is not available for

policies such as Whole Farm Revenue Protection or Enhanced Coverage Option.    “This opportunity is a win-win for both farmers and for our natural resources,” Hansen said. “It’s great to see farmers who planted cover crops last fall rewarded for their voluntary efforts.”    For more information on the program, visit

June is... National Dairy Month! Fun Dairy Facts to Bring to the Table • About 73% of calcium in food is provided by milk and milk products. • Dairy cows can be one of 6 breeds: • Holstein • Jersey • Guernsey • Brown Swiss • Ayrshire • Milking Shorthorn • One 8 oz glass of milk has the same amount of calcium as • 4.5 servings of broccoli • 16 servings of spinach • 5.8 servings of whole wheat bread • 95% of the dairy farms in the United States are family-owned and operated. • The average cow produces 8 gallons of milk per day, or the equivalent of over 100 glasses! • Milk is better than water for cooling your mouth after eating something spicy; the protein casein cleanses your taste buds

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B8 • Wednesday, June 9, 2021 • •

Barns Continued from B1

local Tribune. Now the specter of more short-term debt came, a new monkey on your back.    For an illustration in my life, at the beginning of these two decades between the morning and the evening milking I could drive into the mountains for a day of deer hunting or fishing. Twenty years later, milking chores took so much more time that if you wanted that lifestyle you needed to hire a relief milker. Then you needed to buy five more cows to pay for the milker!    As the size of the dairy herds increased, we were putting more cows on the same acreage. Manure became a big problem rather than an asset. Equipment and storage were being developed to solve this problem, but it was very expensive and then over the horizon a sh.t storm was coming, the EPA and all its regulations, more new expenses and not one more penny for milk.    This was going on when I was about 45 and I knew the cost of new manure spreading equipment could not be paid for with a 40- to 50-cow herd. Nor could I mentally cope with the fear of the EPA laws and its enforcement with five-figure fines.

Now I wish to stop a bit and tell what I consider to be a family farm and the farmer who works it. This is only my explanation and I am sure there are others. To begin with, a minimum of hired labor and feed are purchased, expenses are kept as small as possible by the labor of the family. Today, the term used is “self-sufficient.” When I chose to be a farmer, I wanted the pleasure of doing the work. I wanted to milk my own cows and do the field work as well as building improvements. That is what I enjoyed. Farm ownership as improvement and the pride that came with it was reward enough.    As more technology developed, the harder this became. After my army days I knew I wanted to be my own boss, always work for myself, and by improving my skills I could financially improve our family. This was the description of the first 20 years of my farming.   The most important thing of all my goals was that they were shared and supported by my wife. These were the best years for our family as well as the farm. Our sons learned to work responsibly alone or together. When they were older, with their learned abilities (farm sense), they always had jobs on neighbor farms. By the time they were high school seniors, they had been able

to buy their first car. Lifetime work ethics had been learned, as well as who they liked as a boss and, above all, where they had the best lunches! All these little things helped our family develop strong relationships that continue to this day.    Now begins the last half of my farming career. By now, some decisions were being made, either subconsciously or willfully. It was a given fact that our three sons would go to college. There was not going to be a family farm to take over. It was a dying business. Its growth and progression were stopping. I was not going to get bigger or assume greater debt. New methods would be used to maintain income. Some labor-saving ideas would be added as the sons left. My wife would have to help more.    Meanwhile, these very decisions were being made on the surrounding farms by my fellow farmers. More and more empty barns began appearing on the landscape. Some chose the route of expansion: more land, bigger herds, larger debt. Others formed family partnerships or a family member worked off the farm for supplemental income. It postponed the inevitable for a few more years.    Today the farms that are left are the few that have found a special way to market their produce or they have developed into large

All the elements of a former small county dairy farm are here on Hannegan Road: barn, milk house, silo, equipment storage shed. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

The dairy herd of operating farmer Peter Vlas are next door to where Mick Vander Griend farmed on the Guide Meridian Road. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune) “factory” farms, as they are called today. These two types of farms and the managers command all my respect and admiration for their skills and abilities. I hear of the younger generation that is trying to develop new specialized products for today’s consumer. It will not resemble the type of farm I owned.    What caused the demise of all these farms? In the capitalistic system we have, bigger is always better. This takes more capital, which the farmer was not able or willing to provide. Most new equipment that has been developed was always much too large for the family farm.   The equipment designed to meet new ecological manure regulations was for much larger farms. One size did not fit all. Never once did the adaptations of the new manure policies add to a farm’s income, only to the expenses. Liquid manure never added to the pleasant personal side or public image of dairying. It only seemed to antagonize your neighbor whenever the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Liquid manure was much more efficient in material handling, but made working conditions filthier (my own opinion).   Through my writings on the death of the family farm, you will notice “the elephant in the room” has been avoided. Basically, the price of milk did not go up at the same rate as inflation. As an illustration: in 1960 a tractor cost $3,000. In 2000 the

same tractor was $40,000. In 1960 the milk price was $5.00 per hundredweight. In 2000 it was $14.00.    Now I am getting into an area that I know or understand little about — who sets the price of milk — but I do understand the history and effect it had on our farm. During the 1920s the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to set the price of milk on what product the processor made from the milk purchased from the farmer. The pricing system was established so processors had to buy all of the farmer’s milk, not just what they wanted. It protected the farmer and that purpose was served for a number of decades.    Now we have come to the cause of all the empty dairy barns in Whatcom County. The milk pricing system developed into a method of repressing the price of milk for the benefit of the American consumer and for the detriment of the American dairy farmer. There were more voting consumers than voting farmers!    One other issue that did not help the ending of the family farmer was the robbing of the self-reliant independent spirit, which had been a common personality trait of the family farmer. In the 40 years of my farming, onerous government regulations entered every part of farming activities. At first if you needed a loan, a threeinch-by-six-inch promissory note was signed in duplicate. Now you have to sign 25 pag-

es and then initial and date every third line and then date every line as well.    In the morning as you planned your work for the day you worried which permit was required, whether it be plowing (moving dirt permit), or manure spreading (EPA permit) or fixing a fence (building permit) and if it was an electric fence (an electric permit). Then these activities would have to be inspected. All this for a fee and you hoped you had a license to do the work.    Most of this was not compatible with financial and good farming practices. They were good for a lot of mental stress in the years of my farming. It was always a battle.    This has turned into a bit of a pity party, so I want to conclude on some positive thoughts. The farm was a wonderful place for my children to grow up, for my wife and I to be able to work as a team. We were able to be part of our community activities. We learned to be good neighbors. We were recognized and honored for various achievements in life. We benefited many times from the care, love and kindness of our community. The one regret I have is this, that I could not pass this lifestyle on to my children and grandchildren, but I would like to think they learned good values from a family farm life. It was the best of places to serve my God and enjoy work in his creation.

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