Our stores have offered fresh, local and completely organic milk from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy in Lynden, just north of Bellingham, since 2007.
The Langley family, fifth- generation dairy farmers, started to make the switch to certified organic milk in 2003. Organic was rising in popularity and since Clarissa and Shawn Langley already were doing many things organically in practice, they started to make the switch on paper.
No substance can be applied to land for three years in order for it to be certified as organic. The Langleys were able to get all but one field certified right away. Because they couldn’t immediately make the switch to organic cows and still support their family, they raised the babies as organic and kept the conventional cows to milk and stay afloat during the transition. When they had enough milkable, certified organic cows, they were able to sell off the conventional cows.
At the time, no one in Washington was both vat pasteurizing milk and certified organic so they decided to add bottling to their repertoire. Already owning two farms, the couple saved one for the milking and the other for the bottling to keep things clean. Shawn brings the milk from the dairy to the plant every day.
The cows are pastured so they can feed on grass, weather permitting. During the winter months and on rainy days, the cows receive grain or silage – cut grass that is stored for just those rainy days.
The majority of the Langley’s milking cows are Holstein, but a few Jersey cows and half-Jersey, half-Holstein pop up from time to time. Clarissa says they are planning to make the switch and have a predominately Jersey herd since the breed is smaller and does less damage to the fields. With almost 200 cows, the pastures can take a beating.
Recently, Fresh Breeze Dairy has been awarded Salmon-Safe certification, an emerging Northwest eco-label to recognize farming practices that protect water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife.
One of the down sides of running a fairly large operation is not being as connected to the animals themselves – Clarissa says she is mostly in the office or helping bottle. Although she misses being around the animals at times, she says she does not miss milking.
Her daughter, Cassidy, wants to try milking when she is older, but Clarissa thinks Cassidy will change her mind once she tries it. Shawn and Clarissa’s son Kenny sometimes helps his dad drive the tractor and loves hearing stories about his relatives. Shawn’s great-grandfather came from the Netherlands in the late 1800s and founded the Lynden dairy in 1901. Shawn spent every summer on his grandparent’s farm after the sixth grade and recalls that “I loved working the land and farming with my grandpa.”
Kenny has a soft spot for the cows – his face lighting up as twin heifer calves take turns sucking on his fingers. The Langleys hope to pass the business on to one of their children in the future – maybe Kenny will be the sixth-generation dairy farmer!