Nov. 26 2019 11:30 AM

The hardest thing to watch is the toll this season of dairy has taken on neighbors and friends.

Another perfect fall day in the Northwest. Sun shining through perfectly colored leaves. A crisp, fresh air without a cloud in the sky.

And yet this past weekend I couldn’t help but feel a settling gloom. We had another farm dispersal auction to attend. It was another great farm family having to make the gut-wrenching decision to exit the industry.

The pieces of equipment were assembled for sale, and as we walked through them, they told only a small tale of the generations of hard work poured into that farm. Everyone in attendance was hoping for a good deal that might help keep our own farms operating. At the same time, we also know the family hoped for and deserved more than a fair price.

By now, it seems I’d be used to the farm auction notices, but I just can’t get used to it. Each one still feels like such an unfair blow to the dairy industry. Each one is the ending to a generational story. Each one came before its time.

There is a lot of speculation about the direction of the dairy industry. Is there still a place for the family farm if consolidation is the future? For each farm that closes, you almost can’t help that little thought in the back of your mind wondering if they are making the smarter decision.

Darleen Sichley

The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of three young boys who round out the family-run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.