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Couple keeps to their Sequim roots
It would be hard to find a more picturesque spot for a family farm than the one inhabited by the Dungeness Valley Creamery.
Located on the Dungeness River one mile from the historical community of Dungeness on the Olympic Peninsula, the farm is home to a herd of 60 milking Jersey cows, a new creamery and a family home, all on 38 acres of lush pastureland.
Overseeing this idyllic setting are two Peninsula College alumni, Sarah and Ryan McCarthey. Together, they are using the skills they learned as students at Peninsula College to help them run the farm they now co-own.
A dream fulfilled
“Sarah’s lifelong dream was to stay involved with the family farm,” says Ryan, and in March 2012 that dream came true when the two took over the Dungeness Valley Creamery from Sarah’s parents and became second-generation dairy farmers. Together the two produce, bottle and distribute about 300 gallons of whole raw milk each day.
“We distribute four days per week, selling at approximately 30 retail locations and 30 drop points,” Ryan says. Drop points are “neighborhood pick-up locations for customers who are either not near stores that carry our milk or choose to group together to avoid a traditional store mark up.”
Working as a team, the two have divided their labors.
“I oversee much of the cattle part of the farm while Ryan oversees the business/marketing aspect,” Sarah says. “Ryan also does farm maintenance and is currently driving and delivering milk Mondays and Fridays while we are short an employee. I also perform customer relations over e-mails by answering questions and directing customers to the nearest store or drop point.”
In addition to all of this, Sarah and Ryan also are proud parents of a very active toddler, their nearly 2-year-old son Tyler, and are expecting baby No. 2 in March.
Both Sarah and Ryan are positive about their Peninsula College experiences and credit those experiences with helping them to get where they are now. Sarah earned her Associate of Arts degree as a Running Start student and then transferred to Washington State University for a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science. Ryan earned his BAS degree at Peninsula College after receiving an AA at Olympic College.
Sarah says she chose to enroll in Peninsula College’s Running Start program because it gave her the chance to earn college and high school degrees at the same time and get a head start on her degree at WSU.
“With two years of college down by the time I was 18, it jump started my whole academic career,” says Sarah.
“It also saved me and my parents a lot of money with basically two years of free college. With scholarships, working part time, help from my parents and the amount of money I saved from attending PC my first two years, I was able to graduate with a four-year degree with zero debt. I don’t think many can say that.”
Choosing Running Start was a big part of Sarah’s life and career planning, she says.
“Ultimately, I was able to save more money, sooner, and was able to buy a house soon after Ryan and I were married. Along with other smart financial decisions and hard work, I was set up well for my future early on. Choosing Running Start was a huge part of that. I never had a job that paid over $10 an hour, either. But I did have several jobs and I saved and invested my money. If I can do it, anyone can.”
The professional atmosphere of Peninsula College also was very important to Sarah.
“I am very goal-oriented and it was nice to be surrounded by others who really wanted to be there and learn,” she says.
But it also was important to Sarah to remain involved with her high school peers who were not in Running Start and she tried to stay connected through tennis, the honor society, choir and FFA. Having a flexible schedule also helped — taking three classes a day gave her time freedom and she was able to take elective classes at the high school and stay involved with her friends.
Sarah also was pleased that the quarter system allowed her to finish more classes in a year than she would have on the semester system. She soon discovered that Peninsula College was the ideal place to pursue subjects that were difficult for her, such as math.
“I really loved the math program,” Sarah says. “The teachers were great and the math lab was a lifesaver for me. I received 4.0s (grade-point averages) in all of my math classes. Math is hard for me and I was able to be as successful as I was because of the tools I had access to and the teachers. Overall, the quality of education I received was superb and the standards were high.”
Once she had graduated, Sarah went on to Washington State University, but chose to come back to Peninsula College during the summer between her junior and senior years to take chemistry and statistics. She says she knew she would have more personal attention and access to the teachers at P.C., which was a big plus for her after experiencing the larger, more impersonal classes at the university.
If anyone were to ask Sarah whether she would recommend Peninsula College to a prospective student, her answer would be a resounding “yes” for two main reasons: The “huge financial savings by staying local” and “the quality of education and personal attention.”
Sarah adds, “No matter the money savings, the education has to be excellent and what I experienced was excellent.”
BAS degree a ‘great fit’
Ryan earned his BAS in applied management from Peninsula College in 2011.
“After Sarah and I were married,” he says, “I was deployed to Iraq with the Army Reserves. Sarah’s lifelong dream was to stay involved with the family farm. I was researching schools online where I could finish a four-year degree using my GI Bill when I found out about the BAS program at Peninsula College. With Sarah having a degree in animal science from WSU, and my interest in the business side of the farm, the applied management program seemed like a great fit.
“At first I was attracted to the idea of the school being local, but I enjoyed the smaller class sizes as well,” Ryan adds. “Students tend to work in small groups regularly so we got to know each other very well and my classmates became like a second family.
“While Sarah and I had a specific career and business in mind for our future, I feel Peninsula College helped me blend my passion with a broader understanding of business and helped equip me with tools to handle non-farming aspects of running the farm, such as accounting, financial analysis, marketing and legal issues,” Ryan adds.
“I had a great experience earning my degree at P.C. I felt the BAS program was the quality you would expect at a larger university, but offered right here at home,” Ryan says.
Phyllis Van Holland is director of Public Information at Peninsula College. Reach her at email@example.com.