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All in the Creamery
Twenty years to the leap day, Dungeness Valley Creamery completes the family circle.
Husband and wife Ryan, 28, and Sarah McCarthey, 30, take over the family owned raw milk dairy today from her parents, Jeff and Debbie Brown, both 60, who started the dairy’s milk production in 1992.
The young couple and 10 part-time employees continue operations at the 38-acre farm producing certified whole, skim and cream raw milk from purebred Jersey cows for businesses all over Western Washington.
“I’ve been blessed,” Jeff said. “I consider this my hobby, but I’ve been able to make a living out of it.”
Debbie said it’s been a privilege to own the creamery, especially with the beautiful landscape and mountains in sight.
The Browns grew up in Sequim, with Debbie a third-generation Sequim resident. Ryan and Sarah’s first child, Tyler, 4½ months old, is fifth-generation.
Ryan said it’s exciting to raise a family on the farm.
“The number of dairy farms was 30 or 40 when I grew up in the area,” Jeff said, “Now we are one of two farms left.”
In 2009, the farm was preserved for agricultural use perpetually with help from the North Olympic Land Trust. So for generations the property is destined to be a farm.
“No Walmarts here,” Jeff said.
The business exchange is more than new titles. Both families are changing homes, too.
Ryan and Sarah are buying the business and renting property from their parents and moving into the farmhouse. Jeff and Debbie plan to move into Ryan and Sarah’s 112-year old home near the Sequim city limits.
History of the farm
The Browns’ dairy farming career began with 20 cows in 1971 before the family moved away from Sequim in 1973 to a 76-acre Everson farm in Whatcom County. The Browns sold milk to Darigold from 1971-1987; their product went into fluid or powdered milk.
They moved back to Sequim in 1988 to develop the creamery. Jeff stopped production from 1988-1992. To earn a living, he was a commercial crabber, cut firewood, plowed fields and milked cows for other farms. The Browns started milk production again on Feb. 29, 1992, and continued doing so for years.
In 2003, the family began planning to convert their farm to all raw milk.
Jeff said milking Jersey cows was a business they could afford to get into.
In 2006, the farm became a USDA-certified raw milk producer.
Choice of milk
Although raw milk is legal in 23 states like Washington, the Browns find people come from all over just for their product. Oregonians, for example, drive to drop points throughout the I-5 corridor and/or to businesses selling the milk because the state doesn’t allow the milk to be sold or cross state lines for anything other than pasteurization.
Debbie said going into the raw milk business helped them because they needed a niche market to survive as a farm.
The couples also feel raw milk has a lot of helpful qualities.
Debbie said pasteurization degenerates vitamin A and D and destroys lactose probiotics, a beneficial bacteria that helps with your immune system.
“Anything God designed is better than what man comes up with,” Jeff said.
Sarah said they chose Jersey cows because they have the highest quality milk with more nutrients, better butter fat and more protein per gallon with less water than Holsteins.
To ensure a clean product, the creamery doesn’t use hormones, cows live in clean and humane conditions, and each cow is individually named and registered.
Sarah said they see the longevity in their cows comes from their being able to roam the fields from March or April to October or November depending on weather. The cows are confined in the winter, but stalls are designed for comfort, she said.
Regulations require that cows are blood-tested for brucellosis, or Bang’s disease, and tuberculosis.
One of the ongoing challenges, Ryan said, will be the changing landscape of different regulations and processes.
“There’s so many regulating agencies that it’ll be a lot just keeping up on that,” Ryan said. “We’re fortunate to have (Jeff and Debbie) here as help.”
Jeff hasn’t fully retired and plans to help on the farm a few days a week.
With the changeover, the McCartheys plan to increase the business’ local market size.
“It’d be nice to build here and eventually let dairies (in other areas) build up in their areas, too,” Sarah said. In the past year, they’ve participated in more public events and sampling events.
For more on Dungeness Valley Creamery, call 683-0716.