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Getting Milk?
Local dairy re-starting

photoAndrew Winch, dairy farm manager.

The former Vander Yacht dairy farm on East County road near Twisp is scheduled to get four pregnant Guernsey diary cows from Oregon in early September as the first step toward putting the farm back in the dairy business.

The Methow Creamery was operated by previous owner Ron Vander Yacht until his death in 2008. The property’s new owner is Mike Axley, an anesthesiologist who lives in Portland, Oregon. He told Grist he bought the 40-acre farm 18 months ago because he fell in love with the property.

“It was a productive farm for nearly a century,” said Axley, who explained that he felt it should be put back into agricultural production. The decision to make it a dairy was driven by the fact that there is a state-of-the-art dairy building on the property that was built in 2006, he added.

Axley has hired a farm manager, Andrew Winch, 24, to get the property back in shape. Neither man has any previous experience with agriculture, they said.  But, said Axley, “We’ve had a lot of help from people.” He said he’ll keep his day job in Portland to help pay the dairy’s bills.

Winch recently graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he studied anthropology. When he’s not clearing weeds and fixing up the place, he’s embarked on a crash course in bovine management, he acknowledged.

“I’ve always been interested in agriculture,” said Winch, who grew up west of the mountains in Mill Creek. A hiker, biker, mountain climber and certified rescue diver, Winch said the opportunity to manage the farm “came out of the blue… I love it here,” he added.

They chose Guernsey cows because “the milk is delicious, high in butterfat, and they do well on pasture,” said Winch. The plan is to proceed slowly building a herd of perhaps 25 head of cows to produce pasteurized milk for local consumption, he said. The new dairy doesn’t yet have a name nor a distribution plan for the milk, according to Winch.

“I think this property has the potential to produce a high quality product,” Winch said, adding that the first milk from the diary should be available by next summer.


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