Skyridge Dairy Farm owner Dan DeGroot explains how nutrient rich compostis exported out of the Valley with Jamie Daniels, 4th Congressional District Director, during the farm tour.
On a recent rainy afternoon, Representative Dan Newhouse’s District Director, Jamie Daniels, toured Skyridge Farms near Sunnyside to see firsthand how a modern Valley dairy operation cares for cows, ensures the quality of milk and how a modern dairy farm converts manure into nutrient-rich all organic compost as part of their mandatory Dairy Nutrient Management Plan.
“It was interesting to see how a large dairy operation manages everything from milk to manure,” she said. “The Skyridge dairy farm is an excellent example of a forward thinking dairy farmer seeking to balance environmental stewardship with the practicalities of running a business.”
She says constituent services are an important part of her job, and by learning about such operations firsthand ensures Congressman Newhouse’s staff is working with relevant science-based information.
Dan DeGroot, who owns and has operated Skyridge Farms near Sunnyside since 1982, says tours for elected officials and staff is important to clear up misinformation about farm operations and show how advances in dairy farming fuel best practices. “We emphasized how nutritious feed increases production while reducing emissions, how new equipment is changing the way we irrigate, and how manure nutrients are applied to crop fields using GPS technology.” he said. “As I talk with other dairy farmers, no one wants to do things the wrong way.”
Manuel Carmona, who has worked caring for calves at DeVries Family Dairy for more than ten years, values the stability of full time, year round work.
Dairy farms operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year providing jobs for thousands of Valley workers, including many Latino workers who value the job security they get from full time employment in a positive work environment.
“Ag-employees can come and go to other places for full time employment, but treating employees with respect and creating a positive work environment is important,” says Tom DeVries whose family farm near Moxee provides 42 full time jobs, 40 of them Latino workers. “Our model is to treat people the way we want to be treated.”
Calf herd managers Jesus Gonzalez and Manuel Carmona have worked at DeVries Family Dairy for more than ten years. “It is a good clean operation where you can work full time all year around and make good money. Steady employment in a good place is important to give children stability,” said Jesus. He and Manuel care for more than 850 calves that live in large poly-hutches supplied with fresh straw bedding every day. “Seasonal work may make more money short term but our regular work at the dairy allows us to get lender credit to buy a house or a car.”
According to Steve Matzen, SVP, Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold , a farmer-owned cooperative of most dairy farms across the Northwest, competitive wages and related benefits help dairy farmers retain valued employees, but in many cases dairy farmers go far beyond that.
David Douphrate Ph.D., speaks to hundreds of dairy farmers and farm managers at the 2016 Washington Dairy Federation
Safety Conference & Annual Meeting.
David Douphrate Ph.D., MPT, MBA, a nationally-recognized authority on worker health and safety on dairy farms, encouraged more than 200 attendees, at the Washington Dairy Federation’s Safety Conference and Annual meeting, to demonstrate a commitment to farm worker safety by moving beyond the ‘checkbox’.
Dr. Douphrate said safety management components are driven by the owner/manager’s commitment to workplace safety. “Hazard identification and control, education and training, and worker participation are key elements in a farm’s written safety policies and programs,” he said. “With a focus on prevention and employee participation, safety training is effective when it is administered in both a language and vocabulary that workers can understand, which is vital given that the current dairy labor force is mostly comprised of non-English speaking workers.”
An Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Health Scieince Center Houston School of Public Health, Dr. Douphrate has focused on dairy farm worker safety for more than 13 years. “Proactive injury prevention using a safety management blue print enables workers to perform their jobs in safe and effective ways in safe working environments,” he says. “Continuous leadership with a well-structured plan and evaluation system will help prevent injuries but should be evaluated on a regular basis for effectivness.”
During two presentations and one break-out session, Dr. Douphrate offered four levels of effective training: reaction, or feedback from workers; retention, or how much did they learn; behavior change, or how workers help identify hazards so they can be fixed; and results or a reduction in injuries.
Several experts from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Washington Farm Bureau led breakout sessions including lagoon safety, online safety resources, cost saving safety inspections, main hazards & compliance, workplace safety policies, delivery of safety training, nutrient balance and nutrient record keeping.
Dairyland News is distributed to dairy farm families, business leaders/dairy farm suppliers, government staff, elected officials, and news media to show how dairy farmers contribute to the community, with safe operations, best farm management practices and effective stewardship of land and animals. Dairyland News is produced by the Washington Dairy Products Commission in cooperation with the Washington State Dairy Federation.