Multi-Generational Farmers are Defining the Future
Words: Rob Goodman
When Darleen Sichley finished high school in Silverton, she decided it was time to leave her family’s farm. Abiqua Acres was founded in 1938 by Darleen’s grandparents and Sichley had spent her entire life helping run the farm. However, one year later she returned to the farm to raise a family. Beginning in 2008, Darleen, with husband, Ben, and parents, Alan and Barbara Mann, officially became partners. They now have more than 100 Guernsey cows that produce milk for the Darigold co-op.
“Deciding to come back and be a dairy farmer is a lifestyle choice,” says Sichley. “Dairy farming is a 24/7/365 life and I couldn’t imagine raising a family anywhere else. I’m very proud of the legacy that my family has created and I enjoy carrying on the tradition that my family started many years ago.”
Sichley, who is a member of Oregon Women for Agriculture (OWA) and Oregon Dairy Women (ODW), watched her role models everyday while growing up on the farm.
“My mother helped my grandparents run the farm with no outside help for 20 years before I returned home,” says Sichley. “I looked up to my grandmother and my mother because they taught me the importance of being independent and the value of hard work.”
Fast forward to today and Sichley is raising three young boys and juggling their schedules. To help with the work-life balance, Sichley and her husband started using robotic milking machines to ease the burden of having to tend to over 100 Guernsey cows.
“We were intent on creating an environment where we could actually have a strong work-life balance,” says Sichley. “Having two DeLaval VMS robotic milking machines allows us to have more flexibility in our daily lives.”
The cows are housed in a freestyle barn and they have access to the milking machines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each of the cows has an RFID tag on their ear which is read by a sensor when the cows enter the milking stall.
“Whenever a cow enters the milking stall we instantly get an update on how much milk they’ve produced and see which ones are late for milking,” says Sichley. “We can see the information on our phone, laptop or on the robot which makes the milking process much more efficient. But the best part is that we can be at our son’s baseball game and know exactly what the status is of each cow on the farm. Having that kind of flexibility is incredibly helpful.”
While the technology is helping Sichley lead a more productive life, the fact that she is following in her grandmother’s and mother’s footsteps means a lot to her.
“I think it’s great to see women being recognized for their contributions to Oregon agriculture. My grandmother and mother had different roles on the farm than I do, but the history of our farm is important to me. Women have always been the backbone of agriculture in Oregon and I’m proud to continue the legacy.”
Follow Darleen’s blog at GuernseyDairyMama.com