ARLINGTON — A descendant of the dairy-farming Klein family, Vicki Klein Van Dam is sad to say they will soon no longer be able to claim the title of “dairy farm.”
She and her husband Nick are selling their cows.
The Van Dams own one of two last remaining dairy farms operating in the valley along 67th Avenue in Marysville’s urban growth area, though they still have an Arlington address.
The first load of 120 cows was taken away Friday, June 12, to Walt’s Meats, a processing plant in Woodland, Wash.
The rest will be taken in the next couple of weeks, Vicki Van Dam said.
“Our cows will be made into hamburger,” she said, explaining that they are getting a fair price for the cows through a national organization called Cooperatives Working Together.
The CWT program is not government funded, but rather it is funded by the dairy industry itself, Nick said.
“There’s just too much milk being produced,” Nick explained.
The son of Hank Van Dam who farmed the adjacent land when Nick was growing up, Nick Van Dam said he uses more than 400 acres, some rented, between Marysville and Arlington.
Nick and Vicki have been farming at this location since 1978. They will continue to raise heifers on the land.
Their former neighbor, Albert Van Putten stopped by to watch the first batch of cows leave.
“It’s too bad,” said Van Putten who sold his cows a couple of years ago.
“These farms keep a lot of people in business. From the gas and diesel, the employees, and all the other needs of the farm, like tools and repairs, it’s got to impact the local economy.”
Indeed, the Van Dams employ seven people to do the milking.
Though Vicki is a dairy farmer at heart, she works a day job maintaining student records at Granite Falls School District.
“I ensure data compliance for federal and state funding,” Vicki said.
“It can be high stress at times, but nothing like I deal with at home,” she said.
The dairy farmers are pondering the irony of being driven off land protected by “agriculture only” zoning.
“The county talks a lot about saving the farm land,” Vicki said.
“But people want their milk for $1.99 and it costs more like $4 to $6 to produce,” she said.
The other farm down the road is also selling out, she added.
Nick figures it’s only a matter of time before the land will be subdivided for houses.
“We sold off 20 acres a while back, now it’s got houses,” Nick said.
Vicki said Nick has been an excellent farmer and an outstanding steward of the land.
“He has a deep respect and love for the animals.”
He watched them munch on hay while waiting to load them into the two very large trucks.
“Look how contented they are,” he said.
The Van Dams started their business about 32 years ago, buying the piece of land from a retiring farmer.
“We plugged along, proud that we were feeding the nation and keeping our dream alive,” Vicki said.
They managed to keep up with expenses through the years, until fuel prices hit the roof last year, and grain prices quickly following. When milk prices hit a record low last winter, it was the final straw, Vicki said.
“Many farmers have been losing $30,000 to $50,000 a month this year,” Vicki said.
“Like Howard said, we have to see it as a business decision,” Nick Van Dam said.
Cooperatives Working Together is a program designed exclusively by America’s dairy farmers for the benefit of dairy farmers. It is a multi-dimensional, voluntary, producer-funded nation-wide program developed by National Milk Producers Federation to strengthen and stabilize milk prices by balancing supply with demand.