California Milk Advisory Board celebrates 200+ years of dairy farming with 2017 Rose Parade float

“Legacy of Generations” sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board honored the two-century heritage of dairy farming in the Golden State. Many of the decoration materials on the California Milk Advisory Board float represent the food dairy farm families feed their dairy cows. Cows consume food byproducts (citrus pulp, almond hulls, corn stalks), which not only keeps them out of landfills, but is turned by cows into nutritious milk. Ground almond hulls, walnut shells, whole barley, flax seed and oats are used. Many of the materials on the float represent the food dairy farm families feed their dairy cows, byproducts such as citrus pulp, almond hulls, walnut shells, whole barley, flax seed and cottonseed, oats, and corn stalks.

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Quick! Which state is Number One in dairy production? Wisconsin? Texas? How about Minnesota? Nope. The top dairy state is also home to the Tournament of Roses. California produces almost 50 percent more milk with 40 percent more cows than the next state. California produced enough milk in 2015 to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium 58 times.

“Legacy of Generations,” sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), celebrated more than 200 years of dairy farming and families in the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, 2017. The float, a confection of ice cream, milk, yogurt, and cheese in flowers, was designed by Art Aguirre and built by Fiesta Parade Floats. Riders were from multi-generational dairy families representing more than 1,300 dairy farm families in the state, families which own and operate 99 percent of the dairy farms in the Golden State. With one in five cows in the United States residing in California, a Holstein graced her very own satellite float.

We spoke with some of the riders who were present at the California Grown presentation at Fiesta Parade Floats on Jan. 1. More about the presentation, which honors Rose Parade entries that use at least 85 percent California grown flowers, in a later article. For now, we will focus on these folks who provide milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and all kinds of dairy products to California and the nation. There are short videos of some of them on the CMAB website. (Scroll down a bit.)

Photos of the California Milk Advistory Board float are in the gallery below, with descriptions of the materials used.

Many of the materials on the float represent the food dairy farm families feed their dairy cows, byproducts such as citrus pulp, almond hulls, walnut shells, whole barley, flax and cotton seed, oats, and corn stalks. Using byproducts for feed keeps them out of landfills and is turned into nutritious milk. Some 10,500 roses and gerberas created the deck gardens.

Essie and Jason Bootsma and Lisa and Lucas Deniz at the California Grown presentation the day before the 2017 Rose Parade.
Essie and Jason Bootsma and Lisa and Lucas Deniz at the California Grown presentation.

The story of the Deniz family farm started with a young man from the Azores who ended up in Petaluma, just north of San Francisco, in 1920. He made a living milking cows, but decided to start his own farm. During the Great Depression, he had to rent out the farm instead of working it himself, but the rent didn’t cover the property taxes. He started up again in Ripon in the Central Valley. After a fire destroyed the farm, the family moved back to Petaluma in 1946, where grandson Lucas and his wife Lisa Deniz live today.

“Petaluma has great cow weather,” Lucas said. The Deniz farm sells organic milk, with the 450 head of cattle pasture-fed on organic grass and supplements.

We met Essie Bootsma when the first CMAB float was under construction for the 2016 Rose Parade, and included our conversation in a piece posted on a website that is now defunct. Here’s a link to a PDF of the article on Google Drive. This year, we also spoke with her son, Jason, who rode with her and her granddaughter Emmalyn Vermeer. The three generations from Lakeview in Southern California sat on the satellite float, with the lovely Holstein shaking her head behind them.

“Working with the animals is just amazing,” Jason said. He and his mom and dad John run the 2,000-head farm with workers who have been there for 20 or 30 years. “We go to their wedding and see their kids born,” he said. “They are like family.” Essie’s role is unusual; she takes such a hands-on approach to the work that she is known as “Dairy Lady” in the community.

Twin brothers Mario and Joe Simoes at the California Grown presentation the day before the 2017 Rose Parade.
Twin brothers Mario and Joe Simoes at the California Grown presentation.

Mario and Joe Simoes are 81-year-old twins who came to the United States at age 15, immigrants from the Azores with their father and some of their siblings. “All our people left the Azores,” Mario said.

“When we came over, we spoke no English,” Joe said. “We never went to school [in the Azores.] School was in the barn, milking cows.” That hard work enabled the family to save enough to eventually bring over the entire family. In 1970, the twins were able to purchase their own farm from their first employer. They farmed together for 20 years, but split up in 1994. “He’s got kids, I got kids,” Mario said.

And farms. Between them, they own six dairies, five in Tulare and one in Tipton. Tipton is a tiny, almost perfectly square town that straddles the 99 just south of Tulare between Bakersfield and Fresno in the Central Valley. Like most of the towns and cities in the Central Valley, it is surrounded by farmland. Together, the brothers and their families farm about 3,000 acres and employ more than 100 people.

Joe has settled his son in one in one of his two farms and his son-in-law in the other. He said they milk about 2,500 cows. Mario leases out two of his farms, and his family farms milk about 5,000 cows. “I used to milk 8,000 head, but dairy is like a roller coaster,” Mario said. “There are too many regulations. It’s costly to drill wells.”

Other riders were father and son Joseph and Joey Airoso of Pixley (just south of Tipton) and father and daughter Billy and Kaelyn Offinga of Nuevo (right next door to Lakeview). The Offinga family has been in the dairy business for more than 60 years. Billy grew up on the farm and is continuing the tradition into the third generation with his wife and four children.

The Airoso family goes back to Joey’s immigrant great-grandfather in 1912, who milked by hand and built the family farm that is still standing after more than a hundred years. Joey’s son Joseph is the fifth generation dairy farmer, and today, the operation uses the latest technology. Airoso Dairy was recently awarded the “Star of the Breed” by Holstein Association USA, the first time a cow west of the Mississippi has won the industry’s top honor

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