Welcome to our blog series, Dairying: Through a Woman’s Eyes. This series will highlight women who are actively owning and operating dairy farms around our great state of Washington. These women play pivitol roles in day to day farming operations; shattering the old stigma of dairy farming.
Volume No. 4
When you first drive up, it is impossible not to notice the giant “Got Milk” tank at the front of the barn. It’s a sign you have reached your destination, Darilane Farm, LLC – home of Lori Hanson and her family.
Lori is a second generation farmer with her brother Mark on their family’s dairy farm, Darilane Farm, in Elk, WA where they milk 200 cows. It is truly a family operation with Lori and Mark’s parents still being very active in running the farm.
The original farm was a much smaller operation and the family has worked tirelessly to make the farm as successful as possible. “We do everything we possibly can ourselves,” shared Lori. From bailing hay on their fields to drafting new building plans, the family makes sure they are as self-sufficient as possible. And they continue to try to diversify the farm. Whether that is planting more crops or the possibility of opening a beef operation, Lori explains they are always looking for ways to make their farm more versatile.
Darilane Farms has a unique story that holds a special place in Lori’s heart. “It’s a cool story and it doesn’t happen anymore,” Lori said with tears in her eyes. Dick Zienert, Lori’s father, grew up on the farm next door to their current farm. During high school, he would help out on the neighboring farm doing chores and helping with general operations. After getting married and having a baby, Dick attended Washington State University (WSU) to study engineering. After realizing the program wasn’t meeting his needs or those of his family, he returned to the farm and was given an amazing opportunity: buy the farm with no money down and pay the farmer back as much as he was able to each month. So he did. And the rest is history!
As a young adult, Lori wanted to explore what the world had to offer so she moved to Washington D.C. for a while before traveling to Australia, where she worked on a beef operation and dairy farm, before coming back home. When she returned, she followed in her dad’s footsteps and journeyed to WSU where she also studied animal science. However she felt her time was better spent on the farm learning from her father.
After getting back on the dairy, she dove head first into making sure the farm was operating at 100% and continues to do so to this day. Lori is in charge of all herd health and the heifer program. From breeding to calving to generalized care, Lori has a hand in it. These responsibilities mean that she has an excellent relationship with her veterinarian and animal nutritionist, who visit the farm monthly to check on the herd’s progress.
Not only is she managing all herd health on the farm, Lori also is a full time mom to four children, two of whom she homeschools. Lori is passionate about education and instilling a good work ethic in her children. ”Always complete what you started,” she tells her children. “It’s okay to change your mind and go a different route, I mean we’ve all done that. But at least have a plan and be headed somewhere; if you aren’t headed somewhere you’re going nowhere.”
While she loves her career as a dairy farmer, Lori regrets not finishing her years in college and getting a degree so she encourages her children to pursue higher education. Her two oldest children are attending college and plan to go into agriculture after they graduate. Although she would love to have her kids on the farm after they graduate, they are not allowed to come join the farm’s workforce until they have held down jobs elsewhere first. Her reasoning for this is to help them gain some valuable life experience off the farm.
However, during the summer and school breaks, the kids help out on the farm. “Our kids come to work at times and learn work ethic, how to think as a team and how to finish a project,” Lori shared. She also loves that raising children on a farm teaches them the circle of life.
Lori’s favorite part about her career as a dairywomen is that she gets to do what she loves with her family by her side. She enjoys watching her children learn the value in caring for animals and see importance in them learning where their food comes from, what it takes for the whole process to happen. “[For the kids to see] what kind of fruit comes from the time you put in... I think that is good.”
“I’m doing something I love,” she said with a smile. “I absolutely love working with the cows.”
Lori is passionate about building positive relationships with their surrounding community, from business partners to their next door neighbor she helps out when she can, whether that is plowing snow from their neighbors driveways or helping unload something heavy with one of their tractors, lending a helping hand is important to her.
“Those type of things are little,” Lori explained. “But they’re huge in the overall picture of keeping everyone happy.”