Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--A Land of Milk and Honey (...on losing Mallorie's Dairy in Silverton, Oregon)

What a treasure this old postcard is to me. Written and mailed 102 years ago, it appears to be a message of encouragement - possibly a get well wish - from "Allen" in the tiny community of Rickreall, Oregon, to "Miss Alpha Smith"  in Silverton, Oregon, the town I have lived in for 27 years.

I found the card in February when I was searching for postcards about Mallorie's Dairy in Silverton. I didn't find any old postcards featuring Mallorie's to purchase for my collection, but could not believe my good fortune when, after scrolling through dozens of vintage dairy/cow-themed postcards, I came upon this beauty with a local connection. I love that kind of synchronicity. And I loved Mallorie's milk.....

The Mallorie's Dairy website is still active, even if the dairy ceased operations in February 2011. Our area was shocked when Mallorie's sold its herd of 3000 cows to Spandet Dairy south of Dimmitt, Texas. To understand what a loss this is for our area I am including the following from the intro at Mallorie's website:
Founded in 1954, Mallorie's Dairy is proud to be producing fresh and high quality milk for Willamette Valley residents.  Located in Silverton, Oregon, Mallorie's is the only remaining dairy in Marion County that still bottles its own milk and delivers it fresh to your local market.

At Mallorie's Dairy we raise and milk our cows, bottle it at our processing facility, and deliver it to your local markets.  With total control of the entire process, we can assure the quality of the milk we produce.
... and this, also from the website, that just might make you question the milk you drink (click on screenprints to enlarge for reading; visit website to view active links in article):

rBST stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin. It is a growth hormone used on cows and is also known as: bST, BST, BGH, rBGH (BGH is for “bovine growth hormone”). I cannot track down a specific date but since around 2009 all milk products produced in Oregon and Washington must be guaranteed rBST free. Some stores may still market BST free milk for a higher price, but it is illegal for dairies in OR and WA to administer the rBST hormone to their cows.

Even with rBST-free milk available to us in this area, the milk products from Mallorie's Dairy were superior to the others that come from the system whereby numerous dairy farmers' products are blended together and sold by big processors. Carol McAlice Currie, a reporter for the Statesman Journal in Salem, described the products in an article on January 21, 2011, that gave voice to the sadness many residents felt (am copying excerpts from the article I cut out, as I cannot find online link):
The departure of the last truck carrying about 32 cows means that soon, most valley residents will have had their last glass of Mallorie's rich-tasting milk or a dollop of its velvety whipping cream. . .

Mallorie's milk and cream were easy to love. To most who tasted them, the milk and cream had a terroir all their own. Terroir is a wine term (also coffee and tea) used to describe the special characteristics that consistent soil, weather and farming techniques bestow upon a crop. Mallorie's milk had a terrific terroir - even its nonfat milk had a creamy texture - that came from the premium feed the Mallorie family gave its cows and the extraordinary care given the soil, equipment and surroundings. . .

Almost worse than losing the dairy products themselves, though, is the loss of the farm. No longer will residents be able to drive the hills and dales eastward past the dairy on Hazelgreen Road NE and point out to their children the well-cared-for cows that provided milk and cream without added growth hormones for as long as the dairy existed. We have lost the ability to show the next generation a local connection to one of the most common products they drink. . .
It is horrible now, that drive. I pass the dairy with its empty stalls and my heart sinks. The depression around this loss was made worse when, on February 17, 2011, the Statesman Journal printed an article titled Mallorie's Dairy herd arrives in Texas, that described temperatures in their new town in Texas at 25 degrees below zero shortly after their arrival:
       As you read this, someone in Texas likely is sipping a cold glass of milk that came from a Mallorie's Dairy cow.
       After a 1,700-mile, 27-hour road trip the last of the Silverton cows have arrived at their new home: Spandet Dairy south of Dimmitt, Texas.
       Spandet Dairy has a population of about 10,000 cows — more than double the human population of Dimmitt.
       There are at least a dozen more dairies in the area.
       The town is about 15 miles northwest of Hart, Texas, in Castro County.
       The Mallorie's herd, about 3,000 cows, made the long trip to the Southwest during the past couple of weeks.
       Mallorie's Dairy announced its closure in early January, and the first shipment of cows left around the 17th.
       According to Laurens Schilderink, owner of Spandet Dairy, the animals handled the trip well.
       Schilderink and his wife moved from the Netherlands to open Spandet Dairy about eight or nine years ago.
       He said he was impressed with the quality of the Silverton cows — some of which might be a bit chilled.
       A cold snap swept across the South Plains last week, dropping temperatures to 25 degrees below zero.
Meanwhile, at Mallorie's Dairy, the remaining employees are dealing with the loss of the herd.
       "Those were our babies," said bookkeeper Marge Trotter.
       After more than a half-century of milk production, Mallorie's barn stalls are empty and the property is quiet.
       A skeleton crew is cleaning and securing areas of the former dairy, said Charlie Flanagan, business manager.
       "There are still crops that have to be maintained and unless a new owner comes in," he said, "there will still be some people here for a while."
Of course there is a major business and economic story behind Mallorie's Dairy owners' difficult decision to quit the business. The Capital Press explained the mess on January 6, 2011, in Firm succumbs to low prices, and on January 13, 2011, ran an editorial titled Dairy Succumbs to Arcane System that will fill you in on the details. Additionally, I learned deeper background on U.S. Department of Agriculture decisions affecting this ultimate outcome at Mallorie's in an article published in Silverton's local Our Town in July 2009. Mallorie’s Dairy: Changing regulations challenge producer-handler contains quotes by Mallorie's owners and managers discussing their struggle to remain viable in a business dominated by large national processors who have successfully convinced the USDA to mandate regulations that work in their favor.

I was going to write about how I have been moping about and coping with this major dietary change but have decided I will do so in a shorter follow-up post. Before I end this long OPW post (thank you to anyone who read to the end) I definitely want to give you the link to a post written by my friend at A Tidings of Magpies in late January describing the closing of their neighborhood grocery store in Cincinnati. I commented at the time that I would link to the post when I was finally able to write about the end of Mallorie's Dairy. She wrote, "Our local grocery store is closed due to financial troubles and, though it sounds a bit melodramatic, I am heartbroken." I understood completely. In a world that is changing so fast -- and recently in the horrific ways we have seen in Japan -- the losses of familiar businesses and the products and people behind them feel like personal losses because our connections to something real are suddenly only pieces of memories and the makings of myths.

Someone actually made a Mallorie's Dairy farewell video with some soulful and charming images of the cows, and an irritatingly raucous song that seems to mention Texas, so perhaps it is in some way applicable. You should mute the music. Trust me on this.



mythopolis said...

What an interesting message on the card. Wonder exactly what "it" was, but I was reminded of the saying, "Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry, and you cry alone."

Here, so many farms now are fallow fields and it all looks so yesterday now that agri-business has taken over. Corporate conglomerates now govern what we eat. Soon, we may have to buy the very air we breath......

I do recall when the 'milkman' would appear at granny's. And in the very top of the bottle once opened was the most delicious cream.

Aayushi Mehta said...

The postcard is truly gorgeous.

Looking to the Stars said...

Oh, Lydia it broke my heart to learn that your dairy had to close. I get our milk from our local dairy, they still deliver (6:30am every wednesday morning) and I am hoping they never close. I have an allergy to the milk that is produced for the big supermarkets.

My heart hurts for all the businesses that have had to fold because of the big corporations.

take care

Lydia said...

mythopolis~ Sweet memory of your grandmother's kitchen...
Wow, at least our fields around here are still producing crops. There are acres of family farms for sale, however, and if sold successfully I am sure we will never see crops grown on them again. Do you have a garden? I must till up the small one that we made two summers ago and get that thing planted!

Aayushi~ I too think it is quite beautiful with such rich colors.

Looking to the Stars~ It felt comforting to know that you had a real feeling for what the change has meant to us. Ours was not home-delivered...that had stopped awhile ago, so you really are living a dream. Perhaps you can share the story of Mallorie's Dairy with your dairy and let them know how devastated the communities it served are. One of the checkers at the grocery told me that they have felt like counselors at the store because so many customers just wanted to talk about Mallorie's and the unsatisfactory replacement now available for purchase.....

Hattie said...

This is really sad. Having lived in Europe, and even in proximity to a Swiss dairy farm, I know how valuable well run small dairy farms are.
If you look around you can probably find certified organic milk, which is completely different tasting from the usual stuff we get to drink.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Oh, my, my that beautiful old post card! Love it.

mythopolis said...

Hi. Yes I usually have a small garden. Tomatoes, loose-leaf lettuces, etc. This spring I will have a coop with six laying hens for 'farm-fresh eggs'.
Also will plant giant sunflowers, since chickens find those big seed heads a delicious snack in the winter! The chickens will have organic feed I can get from a coop here.

Fireblossom said...

How heartbreaking, Lydia. Some places and businesses become terribly dear and important, and when they are lost, it is very hard to absorb.

The poor cows! And the poor people to whom they meant so much! At least it is sure to have warmed up in Texas by now.

The video is sweet, though you are right, the music is so wrong for it.

As for "brace up and be gay"...I don't think I could be any other way, to be honest!

Lydia said...

Hattie~ I can only imagine how idyllic a Swiss diary would be.
Organic was the first kind I tried after we finished the last gallon of Mallorie's milk. Since then I have tried a few different brands, and they are all fine. I will post about what has won my taste buds later...

Phivos~ It is one of the beautiful ones, I truly agree. I have thought about framing it but then I would lose the special address on the back!

mythopolis~ Your whole chicken arrangement sounds just great. On Thursday my acupuncturist brought me a dozen eggs from their hens, all brown and beautiful. And I also bought some packets of seeds, but now have lots of work to get the area ready for planting...

Fireblossom~ I know, cannot just a few things we always have known stay in our lives? Guess not. And my heart just breaks thinking about the cows in that freeze. I hope they are enjoying spring and that they are being well cared for. At Mallorie's they had only the best feed, plenty of room, no hormone injections, and love. No one has written if the new owners told the old ones that they would provide the same care (I wonder if anyone asked)...
Oh, your last line? Priceless.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

the painting reminds me of the sort of thing that John Constable was always painting (most famous painting - The Haywain) - i saw a documentary on him a while ago and they said that 90% of his paintings were all done in a 4 mile radius, and most of them pointed towards one specific point

We discovered an old Milk Bar near a ford (small river crossing, not the car) that has been closed since the 60s, but you can still see the remains of the old metal sign through the overgrowth

naomi dagen bloom said...

Lydia, Once again you've directed my own blogging to dairy-related thoughts. Think there's a name for this sort of blog influence--blog by proxy? Count on you for a better idea.

susan said...

Government deregulation done for the benefit of the monied interests certainly has nothing to do with increasing health and well-being for people or animals. I totally empathize with your sorrow.

The postcard is beautiful and a sad reminder of civility lost.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ You always have the most interesting information to share! How fascinating to read about Constable, and now I will refresh my memory on his paintings (and mainly see most for the first time). I enlarged the postcard to look for an artist's sign but don't see one.
I encourage you to take some shots of that old milk bar before it is all gone. What is a milk bar? :)

naomi~ I love your post about old milk bottles and I envy you the collection. They are so special, as was all you wrote.

susan~ Man, can you ever pack a wallop into three sentences! Thank you for that powerful comment.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

hi Lydia - there's not much to see of it - just an old shed and a rusted sign.

To be honest - i'm not entirely sure as we dont have anything like it now, but i guess it was basically a sweet/ice cream shop that specialised in selling milkshakes to kids playing in/near the nearby ford (still not the car) on hot summer days

Lydia said...

Pixies~ Hmmm, that is interesting to learn what a Milk Bar was. Kinda like the old "soda fountains" in the U.S., I guess. I would love an old-fashioned chocolate milk shake right now!

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