I am Oregon agriculture.
My name is Rod Volbeda, and I’m a 2nd generation dairyman with a farm just outside of Salem in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. Growing up I worked with my dad and brother milking Holsteins. Today, we milk 420 Holstein and Jersey cows, and make cheese right after we milk. We do it all, from feed to cheese, so we’re a classic farmstead operation. Our cheeses vary with the seasonal changes in the cow’s diet.
Here in Oregon, we have a great place to raise cows. We’re able to grow grass anywhere in the valley. It’s the main ingredient in the cows’ diet. Grass fed cows make a complex and flavorful milk, which translates into cheese with a sense of place. I believe in environmentally sustainable farming and fertilize our pastures and crops with nutrient-rich compost. By using manure as fertilizer, we increase the soil’s ability to hold moisture and reduce the use of commercial fertilizers. We reuse the water several times. It cleans the milking equipment and then flushes the manure in the barn when the cows come inside during the rainy months. Finally, it’s used on the fields.
My family is Dutch, and naturally I chose Holland to learn the cheesemaking craft after college. When I returned, I made cheese for Tillamook and then started Willamette Valley Cheese Company about 10 years ago. We started with only 3 employees and have grown to 10. It’s great! Giving back to the community has been part of our family’s heritage since the farm started in 1962. Today, I’m active on the Oregon Cheese Guild and Oregon Dairy Products Commission boards. My favorite work is with the Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer program. I take the students for a tour of the farm and then make a few classroom visits. I like showing the community and the students what we do; I think people like seeing where their food comes from. Next time you’re in wine country stop by our new tasting room. Visit the cows, and try some cheese.