Meeting New Farmers

Our family farm is a member/owner of Northwest Dairy Association ~ aka “Darigold”.  Our farm has been a part of this coop since the early 1960’s.  There are many benefits to belonging to our coop and one of the biggest benefits is the Young Cooperators “YC” program.  My husband and I have been participating in this program for over 12 years.  The YC meetings have taken us all over the Pacific Northwest ~ Boise, Twin Falls, Portland, Spokane, Sacramento, Tulare, and Bellingham.

The YC program is a great opportunity to meet young dairy farmers within our coop.  The cool thing is many times you meet fellow dairy farmers that are living very similar situations to yourself.  Kids in diapers?  Pregnant with Baby #?  Working through a transition of farm ownership?  Many times you meet at least one or two fellow dairy farmers experiencing the same kind of events in their life as you.

As my time in the YC program comes to an end, I will treasure the many friends and experiences that I have had over the past 12 years.  I encourage all young dairy farmers to take advantage of this amazing program.  But do not just attend.  Get involved and become a leader within the program!!  You will learn so many skills that will benefit you down the road.


Hotel Bellwether ~ Beautiful location for the 2017 Spring Darigold YC Meeting


Why I Love Being a Dairy Farmer

When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a Physical Therapist.  This choice of occupation probably was due to the thousands of hours I spent doing gymnastics.  Tumbling and flipping for over 15 years will result in a few injuries that require a physical therapist.  Well fast forward to college and the quick realization that I was just not cut out for life as a Physical Therapist.  Instead I found myself graduating with 2 Bachelor of Science Degrees ~ Agribusiness and Crop Science.

As I left the beautiful campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, one would think I should naturally find employment in some area of agriculture. I mean I grew up in Napa, how about a winery or vineyard gig?? But when you meet and fall in love with a dairy farmer from Washington State, life takes a different path.  My destiny was to become a dairy farmer and work side by side with my husband and 3 kids running an organic dairy.

Now for the record, I had no idea about dairy farming.  I had never milked a cow, driven a tractor, or fed a calf.  I was a “green” or “naive” as anyone could possibly be.  So when you pair that with the fact I was a true “city” girl, I didn’t have much going for me.  But I will say this, I had the desire to learn, the desire to listen, and the ability to just go with the flow because quite honestly I did not know any better.

So what do this have anything to do with “Why I Love Being a Dairy Farmer”?  Dairy is full of all different types of people, opinions, cows, farm types, and styles of farming.  As long as you have a desire to learn and listen, the dairy community is full of all kinds of people willing to teach and help.  As long as you are humble, willing to listen, and respectful to those around you, anything is possible.  As for this former “city” girl, I am so blessed I can work along side my husband every day running our successful organic dairy.  For the record, I still enjoy a nice trip to the city ~ I can always find something to bring home from Macy’s and Costco.


Is Farm Life Reality??

I love raising my kids on a farm.  My kids are learning to work hard, work together, as well a developing a good work ethic.  So many families do not have the opportunity to provide this for their kids.  With that said, the horrific massacre that occurred in Orlando drove home the disadvantages of farm life.  I spent quite a bit of time explaining to my kids not just what happened but why it happened.  Now don’t get me wrong, my kids do not live in a version of Disneyland.  Our farm definitely IS NOT the happiest place on earth.  My kids are very aware of the current political sideshow in Washington DC, the traffic nightmares in the Puget Sound, and the issue of unemployment in our local community.  They understand bad things happen to good people.

What happened Saturday night in Orlando was truly a tragedy.  Hundreds of families were affected and lives were forever changed.  Explaining the reason(s) of why this happened to a couple of farm kids was very difficult.  What makes it even more difficult is when I don’t understand why.  I can answer why the sky is blue, why my stomach hurts after eating a gallon of ice cream, or maybe even why some girl broke my son’s heart.  But this horrible display of hate and anger leaves no explanation.  Looking out my back window at a group of beautiful cows grazing in the sunshine does provide a little solace.  I pray for those in Orlando.  While I may not be able to explain to my children why this happened to you and your loved ones, I can explain and share the love and strength you are sharing with the world even during one of the most difficult times in your life.

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Farm Tours – I love showing off our farm!!

I love when people come to visit our farm!!  It is so easy to get focused on all the day to day things it takes to run a successful organic dairy.  Healthy calves, clean barns, accurate and up to date paperwork, and on……  It is very easy to lose sight of the fact that so many people are 2-3 generations removed from agriculture.  Many people have never seen a “live” cow.  For me, I can not imagine that.  But I must remember that it is not necessary to be acquainted with your local farmer in order to eat.  Everything you need to provide good nutritious food for your family is in the grocery store, farmer’s market, or big box store.

I love to show people what we do everyday.  If they get a 1st hand experience of where their organic milk comes from, chances are they will make the decision to buy milk, cheese, or butter on their next trip to the grocery store.  As the dairy industry struggles to find ways to increase dairy consumption, I believe opening our farms to the public can be part of the solution.  It is scary because you always worry you may end up on YouTube or whatever website is featuring the negative aspects of dairy farming.  We have a great story to tell!!  Do not be afraid!!  Open your farm to the public and help get people connected to agriculture again.  Let me know if you ever are interested in a tour!!


Talking about the Flood of 2007 in our parlor.


My son with his show cow.


YoYo the Jersey.


Calves are always the cutest part of the tour!!


Explaining commodities.


Looking at our 300 cow Free Stall Barn.


Even Dairy Farms have preemies

As a 4th generation Dairy Farmer, one would think we have seen and are able to handle almost anything.  Every now and then we are surprised when a cow calves EARLY!!  We make every effort to make sure when our cows calve they have a nice clean area in which to have their babies.  When a cow calves early it is very difficult for the calf to survive.  They tend to suffer from the same issues a premature human baby will be susceptible to – Lung Issues.  With that as a challenge, if the calf survives, we make sure to vaccinate the calf for these issues and then hope for the best.  Right now I have an adorable bull calf that was born very early.  So far he is doing well and I hope he will continue to make progress.  Needless to say my kids and I have become very attached to him and of course we named him Chocolate.  So, for now “Chocolate” has a great spot in our shop where it is dry and warm.  Stay tuned for updates on his progress.

Chocolate at 2 days old

Chocolate at 2 days old

Chocolate is about 21" tall at 3 days old

Chocolate is about 21″ tall at 3 days old

7 Screws and a Plate

So this dairy farmer has a bit of a break from posting any news blogs.  The reason I titled this blog “7 screws and a plate” is because that is what is holding my right foot together now.  A little less than 2 years ago, I was involved in a farming accident.  My husband and I were on our way to move in a heifer to be bred.  As I was opening a fence, the “gator” rolled forward before I got all the way back on the vehicle.  Unfortunately it rolled over the top of my right foot.  I had thought I had snapped my Achilles Tendon and with a quick surgery and some time in a cast I would be back to normal.  Not the case.  The summer of 2011 was spent in a walking boot.  Apparently lower foot injuries take a LONG time to heal.  I followed the doctor’s instructions and spent a lot of time working around the dairy in a boot.

After I was given the ok to resume normal activity I started slowly back to recovery.  The foot never felt right.  In 2012, the doctor decided to perform a Liz Franc reconstruction procedure.  It should have fixed it.  6 weeks in a cast and 6 weeks in a boot and it should be good.  In the meantime my kids had 2 fairs, a trip to Cougar Youth Weekend, and a business trip to Washington D.C.  We survived but it was a long 12 weeks.  I was given the go ahead to resume normal activity.  It never felt right but the doctor said keep working through it.

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7 screws and a plate out to do it!!

December 2012 – I had had enough. Foot pain all the time and just getting worse.  Next procedure – Foot Fusion.  In a matter of 12 days, I met a great Orthopedic Sports Medicine doctor and he spent almost 2 hours with my husband and I explaining what I needed to get back to normal and scheduled the surgery ASAP.  Why ASAP?  When you are a dairy farmer and have 3 children who are involved in 4-H, Junior Holstein Activities, and School activities, a mom has no time to sit around and wait.  So now it is recovery.  My doctor is very happy with the progress and loves the fact that I am such a compliant patient.  After almost 2 years, I am ready and willing to do anything to get back to normal.  I miss being at the dairy feeding calves, working with our vet, working with the hoof trimmer, just being at the barn.  The clock is ticking and I am on the road to recovery.


As we begin the month of November, many take time to be thankful for the gifts they have in their lives.  Our family just returned from the trip of a lifetime.  We had the honor of serving as the NMPF National YC Chaircouple for the 2011-2012 year.  Part of that position allowed us to travel to Orlando, Florida for the annual meeting of the dairy industry.  Since we were flying all that way, we decided to take our kids, my parents, Lonny’s parents, Lonny’s sister,niece, nephew, and brother and his girlfriend.  Basically we asked the entire family to travel with us and enjoy all the fun of Disney World while we attended meetings.  What a trip!!

What an amazing trip.  Our entire family was able to enjoy all the incredible rides and shows at all 4 Disney World parks.  We even managed to squeeze in a “down” day and swim and BBQ at one of the hotels in the area.  If you ask any one of us, we all have a favorite ride or memory.  But what we all have in common is we enjoyed our time together.  We all live in different regions of the United States, but for 1 amazing week we created memories together that will last a lifetime.  I will be forever thankful.

From “City Girl” to Farmer!!

Welcome to Sun-Ton Farms!!  I am a former “city” girl.  I was born and raised in one of the most beautiful places in the world – Napa, California.  Napa is home to some of the most amazing vineyards, wineries, restaurants, and people.  Most of my family still resides in Napa.  Why the heck would I leave such an amazing city??

As luck would have it I fell in love and married a dairy farmer from the state of Washington.  We have 3 amazing energetic kids, live in a small town located half way between Seattle and Portland, milk 220 cows, and farm approximately 400 acres.  Needless to say every day is an adventure and the fact that I am from a city creates many exciting and sometimes pretty funny learning opportunities.

This blog is to share the experiences that come with running a dairy farm in Western Washington while raising 3 amazing kids. I want to share my enthusiasm about dairy farming, growing a garden, raising some chickens, and driving big tractors!! Life on a dairy is hard work but I hope I can give you some insight about how much fun it can be to milk cows.  If anything when your family is driving you crazy on Christmas or Thanksgiving, stop by and check out what we are doing.  Remember, dairy cows never take a holiday!!