When the Brown family was recognized as Farmer of the Year in 2007, Ryan McCarthey was in the audience, a new friend of the family who was left sitting by himself when his tablemates went up to receive their award.
This year, 12 years later, Ryan and Sarah (Brown) McCarthey will be accepting the Farmer of the Year award as co-owners of Dungeness Valley Creamery.
Since 1999, a handful of community members have selected a Farmer of the Year — an annual award honoring individuals and/or organizations who have positively and significantly impacted the local farm community.
Last year’s award went to Scott Chichester, owner of Chi’s Farm. Others include (but aren’t limited to) farmers such as Doug Hendrickson and Lee Norton (Salt Creek Farm), Nash Huber (Nash’s Organic Produce), Tom and Holly Clark (Clark Farms) and Steve Johnson (Lazy J Tree Farm), as well as individuals such as Bob Caldwell and such organizations as WSU Clallam County Extension and the Clallam Conservation District.
“North Olympic Land Trust is ecstatic to recognize Sarah, Ryan, and the whole team at Dungeness Valley Creamery,” land trust executive director Tom Sanford said, “for their commitment to environmental sustainability, land stewardship, animal comfort, and their entrepreneurial drive to create a viable farm business.”
The 20th-annual Harvest Dinner is set for 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Sunland Golf & Country Club, 109 Hilltop Dr., Sequim — an event to honor and raise funds for local farmland conservation. The event is sold out.
An evolving farm
The Brown family built the original Sequim dairy farm in 1992. In 2006, the dairy was re-branded as Dungeness Valley Creamery and began selling raw milk products.
With the leadership of Friends of the Fields — a group of farmland advocates that have since merged with the Land Trust — a conservation easement was put in place with the family in 2008, conserving the farmland forever.
Sarah and Ryan took over the farm ownership in 2012 and have been continuing to expand their independent niche market presence with an eye toward stewardship.
“We measure success differently. And we’re in an area that rewards that,” Ryan McCarthey said. “I think there is a lot of synergy toward preservation.”
Now Washington state’s largest and longest-running raw milk dairy, Dungeness Valley Creamery sits on 38 acres of preserved farmland east of the Dungeness River.
“Having the easement has helped us focus on sustainability for the future,” Ryan McCarthey said. “It’s a different type of business than it would be otherwise.”
Impact in mind
The McCartheys have invested heavily in their commitment to reducing the environmental impact of the dairy.
Energy consumption is offset by an array of 72 solar panels. Nearly all of the dairy lighting has been converted to energy-efficient LEDs, and the majority of the electric motors on site have been retrofitted to reduce power consumption.
A specialized system uses waste heat produced by refrigeration units to heat water for the barn. The Creamery has also installed an automated manure flush system.
Reclaimed water from production and processing is used in the flush, with the resulting waste separated on site. Manure solids are sold to other local farmers, while liquid manure waste is recycled back into the soil to maintain the health of the pasture.
“It’s a lot of fun for us to find projects and run things differently,” Ryan McCarthey said. “We have a long term goal of net zero energy consumption.”
In addition to distributing raw milk products to more than 70 Western Washington locations, Dungeness Valley Creamery is an active member of the local agricultural community.
A perennial favorite stop during the annual celebration of Clallam County farms, the Creamery also participates in 4H programs and provides free tours to groups of local preschoolers.
The farm store and facilities are open to curious community members looking for a chance to eat an ice cream cone and scratch a friendly bovine chin.
Asked about the steady stream of visitors stopping by the farm on any given day, Ryan McCarthey said, “we want to provide a fun experience for local families that isn’t expensive.”
With so much energy invested in stewardship and the local community, the McCartheys haven’t overlooked the 75 occupants of the barn. Cow safety and comfort is a top priority.
During the warm months, cows have free roaming access to pasture land, with a supplemental hay buffet and molasses treats provided in the barn.
Barn stalls have memory foam “pasture mats” that mimic the feel of lying on natural ground.
“The cows just love the mats,” Sarah McCarthey said, indicating a full row of free-to-roam cows who have opted to lie on the comfortable pads.
Cows also have access to a rotary grooming brush and are milked just twice a day, at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Low levels of animal stress have allowed the McCartheys to see an increase in the lifespan of their pampered cows. The average dairy cow lives about 5 years, while the creamery’s matriarch is 14 years old.
First ingredient: love
For Sarah and Ryan, owning and operating the Dungeness Valley Creamery is a labor of love.
“The first ingredient is love,” Ryan McCarthey said.
“We all want to do something that we love, and that’s what we do. We enjoy the challenge of reducing our farm’s environmental impact while strengthening the perception of the dairy industry within our community.”
Raw milk products from the creamery are available at the farm store located at 1915 Towne Road in Sequim and can also be found at a variety of grocers, including Agnew Grocery & Feed, Country Aire Natural Foods Market, Laird’s Corner Market and Sunny Farms Country Store.
Learn more about Dungeness Valley Creamery at www.dungenessvalleycreamery.com.
About North Olympic Land Trust
The North Olympic Land Trust is “dedicated to the conservation of open spaces, local food, local resources, healthy watersheds and recreational opportunities.” Its mission is to conserve lands that sustain the social, ecological and economic vitality of Clallam County.
Since 1990, the Land Trust has conserved more than 3,300 acres across the North Olympic Peninsula for farms, fish and forests. For more information, visit northolympiclandtrust.org.