Culture of sustainability

Written by Jason Nichols

“It’s something that’s been passed down by our parents and grandparents,” she said. “We don’t sit down and talk about it; it’s what we do and how we think.”

These efforts, however, have also been good business decisions, she says. The partners want to be sustainable in a variety of ways.

“When we make a decision, we look at how it affects the environment, how it affects the cows, how it affects our finances. If it’s not going to cash flow, it’s not going to be sustainable financially,” Maria says.

Take a quick trip around the farm and it’s obvious it’s often visited by people in the community. Wooden signs mark important locations like the freestall barn, digester and milk parlor, and there’s a large observation window where visitors can watch the milking process.

Just outside the dairy, the supermarket is always busy, and the restaurant is a popular spot for locals. Attached to the restaurant is a small ice cream shop and playground, which is frequented by local families. George partners with three of his brothers on the store and restaurant.

Oregon Dairy hosts about 2,000 school children for tours each year and each June hosts Family Farm Days, a three-day event that brings between 12,000–15,000 visitors to the farm.
“That’s part of who we are,” George says. “This is kind of a destination place for people, so it’s easier for us to open up our farm than it would be for some other farms.”

Family Farm Days began in 1983 as a simple open house at the farm with hay rides, a barbecue and tours. Today, there are a variety of educational presentations, pony rides and much more. Several local agricultural groups are involved, including swine, beef and poultry producers, conservation groups and local 4-H clubs.

“We want people to learn where their food comes from and how we care for our animals,” Maria says. “With all the misconceptions out there about food safety and mistreatment of animals, it’s extremely important to get people on the farm and show that those things are myths. We don’t want to be quiet about what we do.”

Earlier this year, Oregon Dairy received the National Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Award during the 2015 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” Tim says, “and I think it comes with a certain amount of responsibility.”

That responsibility is something Hurst welcomes. Being a good neighbor and an innovative businessman were traits passed down from his father and something he has imparted on his own children. The results of that way of thinking are all around him.

“It’s rewarding,” he says. “It’s really a blessing. We’re just trying to be good stewards of what we have.”