Friday, December 14, 2012

Abiqua Acres - A Family Dairy

Today we welcome Darleen of Abiqua Acres. This farming family is rich in history and tradition.

Situated in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain range, Abiqua Acres is on the edge of the diverse Willamette Valley. The valley truly is an Eden for agricultural diversity, and I feel truly blessed to call this region home! Our 100 acre farm is home to one of the nation’s few 100% registered Guernsey herds. We milk about 85 cows and raise all of our replacements on the farm. The whole farm is rotationally grazed for as many months out the year as the Oregon weather will allow. There’s just something truly special about seeing our fawn and white Ladies out on pasture, that’s a sight I will never get tired of! Except for grass forage that is baled for the calves and heifers all other feed is purchased and brought onto the farm, so we are not farmers, just dairy farmers. That in itself is more then enough work for our family operated farm that consists of a work crew of myself, husband and my parents.

I am the 4th generation, 3rd generation dairy farmer, since our farm came into the family in 1938. It was purchased by my Grandmother’s parents so she would have a chance to attend High School. Although I was born and raised here and grew up with a love for dairy farming, this isn’t what I always thought I would end up doing. It’s a lifestyle choice and one I struggled with deciding on. I guess I could say that choice was helped along by my boyfriend at the time. Together we decided this was the life we wanted and have never looked back. We were married in 2007 and joined my parents as partners in 2008. While my husband grew up in the country, he was in no way a farmer and I am so proud to see him jump in completely with both feet to take on this occupation. While it is hard work, it truly is a labor of love and we enjoy seeing our success reflected in our Ladies and our family. Since home and work go hand in hand for this lifestyle, I find it hard separating the two, but that was a big reason we made this choice. And in 2011 when we had our son, this choice just makes even more sense for working and raising our children together.

Currently my typical day is dictated by my 20 month old micro-manager, and I will admit it has been a bit of an adjustment for me! I can honestly say I have had my hand in all aspects of the operation, but daily tasks now include calf care, cow feeding, manure management and clean up, as well as several milkings a week. With my parents still fully involved we are currently blessed to have weekends to spend with family and friends. Nap time during the day for my son has opened a window of time for myself to put a face to dairy farming. I am just starting this adventure in blogging and also starting to use our farm facebook page to reach out. I really feel there is a shift in the public to know where their food comes from, but still see a huge disconnect. Most people are at least several generations removed from any kind of farming, and information I take for granted is usually completely unknown to most. I am finding it fun and easy to share our story and hopefully educating a few people about dairy farming along the way. Right now on our facebook page we are celebrating 60 years with registered Guernseys and I am having a blast going through our family history.

This isn’t an easy lifestyle and there are definitely days I really wish I could just leave work at the office and have a break from my colleagues. But the family that works together stays together and I have found a deep respect and understanding for my husband and parents through these daily deeds. This everyday togetherness I feel brings a strength that makes the good times that much better and the bad times that much more bearable. One of my favorite things about the farm family is that we all sit down for lunch together, it’s a great chance to connect and just take a breather during the day. And how many people can say they have lunch with their family almost everyday of the week?!

I wish I could say there was a clear and obvious path for the future here on the farm, but much of that is out of our control and dictated by the milk prices. There are quite a few updates and remodel projects we would like to take on for better efficiency on our farm. Our top priority is always cow care and comfort, the Ladies come first. I wish people knew more about how much we truly care for our animals. We don’t take care of ourselves until all the animals are cared for, for the day. We also work with a great team to make sure we are providing the best. This includes a veterinary that is on call night and day as well as monthly herd checks. A nutritionist who helps us provide the best ration for our hard working Ladies. As well as a dedicated hay grower, and a hoof trimmer who gives our Ladies a wonderful pedicure! It’s a 365 days a year job, yes the cows need to be milked twice a day every day, even Christmas, but we will continue to work hard for the lifestyle we love. There is definitely a daily sense of accomplishment when I see that milk truck leaving and I know our best possible product is inside!

Thanks Darleen for a great feature!!! Please check out Abiqua Acres on Facebook and on their blog!

Your farm or ranch can be the next FOA feature - contact Jamie or Elizabeth at to learn more!