It’s dinner time yet again, and you pull the milk jug out of the fridge to pour each family member a tall glass of farm-fresh milk. It's a nightly tradition you cherish and overlook all at once. Across town and across the state, countless families are doing the same thing -- sharing a meal made a little more perfect with milk. Milk helps create special moments like these every day. That’s why the dairy farmers of Washington work hard everyday to keep fresh, delicious milk in the store and on your table.
A lot more goes into a glass of mik than you think. Up before the sun most days, dairy farmers rise early to feed and care for their other family: the cows. Cows are a dairy farmer's best friend and Number One resource, so farmers take great pride in keeping them happy and healthy. In turn, these happy and healthy animals produce the safe, wholesome dairy products you feed to your family.
As citizens and stewards of the land, dairy farmers also take great pains to minimize the environmental impact of their work on the dairy farm. With recent scientific and technological advancements, dairy farmers are able to turn cow manure into a renewable resource. Some of this dairy byproduct is used for fresh, clean cow bedding or natural fertilizer. Even more impressive is the ability to turn manure into energy; the Werkhoven Dairy in Monroe, Washington, has a system in place that converts dairy waste into electricity which is dispersed by the Snohomish County Public Utility District. There are a half-dozen of these "anaerobic digester" systems in operation across Washington, with more in the planning stages.
The sustainability efforts of the dairy farmers of Washington do not go unrecognized. Skyridge Farms in Sunnyside earned a U.S. Sustainability Award on 2013, one of three won by Washington's dairy industry in the last two years. But like most dairy farmers in Washington, owner Dan DeGroot doesn’t implement strict sustainability protocols on his dairy to win awards. Rather, he does it to promote the health of his cows, his employees and his community; and to ensure that his grandchildren can prosper in a Washington that’s cleaner and more beautiful than when he started.
As part of these sustainability efforts, dairy farmers in Washington prefer that their products travel the least distance possible to reach your home. Cutting down on milk’s travel time decreases vehicle emissions and preserves freshness, making for a better dairy product. Most milk sold in Washington grocery stores was still in the cow 24 to 48 hours before.
So while you enjoy your nightly glass of milk, think about the care and commitment behind it. The dairy farmers of Washington are hard-working family farmers committed to a long tradition of producing a world-class product while caring for their animals and our environment in the process. It is their efforts that allow us to enjoy fresh, delicious milk in the wonderful place we call home: Washington.