Why a 4th generation dairy farm decided to sell their herd

empty parlor

RTJ, a fourth generation dairy farm in Whatcom County, has sold their herd. They announced on Facebook less than two weeks ago that they had decided to part ways with dairy farming. Ashton Beanblossom, fourth generation farmer, spoke with Dillon Honcoop about the decision. 

“Darigold made an announcement at the end of December that they were going to do a reinvestment back into the company starting at the beginning of the year,” Beanblossom said.

On March 10 it will be 72 years since my great grandpa bought this farm and put 28 milking cows in this barn. Today the…

Posted by RTJ Farm on Monday, February 3, 2020

Darigold is a farmer owned co-op and the primary milk purchaser in the Northwest region. Most farms across Washington, and some even in surrounding states, ship their milk to Darigold. 

Beanblossom explained that farmers had a certain quota, or “base” for amounts of milk that can be shipped to Darigold. Before the announcement, some farms didn’t have base or would go over their base and wouldn’t get as much for their milk. Beanblossom said, with Darigold’s announcement, for the first time there was a market for farmers to purchase base. 

RTJ was approached by a farm in Eastern Washington wanting to purchase their base. The farm had already been shipping to Darigold, but they didn’t have the base to continue shipping to Darigold. 

“All of a sudden, we have the cows that are worth a certain amount of money and now we have this base that is worth a certain amount of money as well,” she said. “And, that’s never been in play.”

Beanblossom’s parents considered what their options were. She said they decided to take the offer and within five days they were signing papers. The Darigold board had to approve the base purchase. At that point RTJ didn’t have a buyer lined up for their cows.

“Once our base was gone, we weren’t going to be able to ship milk to Darigold anymore without paying the charge it takes without having base,” Beanblossom explained. “It’s all complicated and all uncharted territory.”

Beanblossom’s parents had been looking into retirement and what that would look like for them, being the owners of a dairy farm. Her dad’s goal was to stop milking cows by the time he was 60, or in about three and a half years. 

“It’s an opportunity that came up that we were not expecting,” Beanblossom said. 

With the chance to sell their base, it lined up with where her parents wanted to be in a few years. She said they were able to find a great buyer for their cows down in Skagit County, who does ship his milk to Darigold. 

RTJ will continue to raise heifers at the farm; they have about 500 they will move home from their current heifer raiser. 

“The hardest part was telling our employees,” Beanblossom said. “We have a great crew of people working for us and we really enjoy working with them.”

Beanblossom’s dad helped to get their workers new jobs at other farms. 

“We didn’t want them to feel stranded or abandoned,” she said.

Beanblossom said everyone has been very supportive of the decision — even her grandparents who ran the farm before her parents.