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Got Milk?

Most early settlers had a family milk cow and until the late 1890s cattle were still allowed to wander to graze.  It took an act of the Port Orchard Town Council to get Dan Davis, a local butcher, to pen up his cows and calves and get them off city streets.  An early Bainbridge resident remembers her family milk cow arriving by boat.  Lacking a dock to unload the cow, the poor creature was pushed off the steamer into the sound and guided to shore by men in row boats.

By World War I several creameries bottled and sold milk to Kitsap residents.  Responding to a post war surplus of milk Kitsap Dairy Products borrowed $30,000 to set up a butter and cheese plant.  Renamed the Kitsap-Mason Dairymen’s Association their milk processing plant was the first in the nation to offer homogenized milk for sale and when the Association disbanded in 1969 their plant owned some of the most modern dairy processing equipment in the nation.

Price’s Dairy, established in 1938 on Bethel Road in South Kitsap, also owned and operated a creamery on Bay Street in Port Orchard.  Their farm was a show place with its huge barn, verdant green pastures and purebred Guernsey cows.  They sold breeding stock and exhibited cattle at fairs all over the country.  Not unlike other early Kitsap pioneers, Price’s pioneered the drive thru dairy.  From a 1956 advertising pamphlet:

“Price’s Drive thru Dairy Store, 2 blocks south of Lakewood Community Center. The latest in modern convenience, it was designed for exceptionally fast service for those in a hurry & those who did not choose to leave their cars. Two lanes funnel cars into the establishment, where the customer places his order with the sparkling white uniformed dairy delivery man who fills the order. Forty seconds later, the customer is on his way home with his favorite Price Golden Guernsey products: ice cream, milk, eggs, butter, half and half, bread, cottage cheese, orange drink, whip cream, sherbet, cream, buttermilk and chocolate milk. The drive thru distribution was the brainchild of Kenneth and Lee Price of the Golden Guernsey Dairy Farm. It was one of the pioneer dairy farms in the Kitsap area. The immaculate Price farm, located between Tacoma and Port Orchard, was the home to over 90 registered Guernseys.”

In the 1940 Census of Agriculture dairying was listed as the leading income producing enterprise in Kitsap and in 1954 there were 166 dairy farms operating in the county.  Only a decade later that number would have declined by 33% to only 110 dairy farms.  Many were put out of business by consolidation in the dairy industry, some by lack of infrastructure.   Gerald Petersen stopped shipping milk in the late 60s because he couldn’t make it on three milk pick-ups a week.  His bulk tank was smaller and while he wanted to expand production, he was limited because the tanker was only able to come to the farm every other day.  He wanted to double the size of his dairy herd but that would have necessitated more frequent milk pick-up and the distributor wasn’t able to help.

In 1970 Darigold, the only milk processor left in Kitsap, closed its Bremerton plant.   In July 1976 the Port Orchard Independent reported the closure of the last dairy in South Kitsap.  Al Riebli of Blackjack Valley held a dispersal selling his 80 cows and all the farm equipment.  Citing falling prices, poor health and being “tired nigh unto death of the 20-hour days” he reluctantly sold his cows leaving only four Grade A dairies in the county.  One of them, Mountain View Meadows dairy in North Kitsap owned by Dave and Gloria Edwards, milked 18 Guernsey cows and bottled and sold raw milk from the farm.  Harkening back to an earlier time, Dave worked part time at the Shipyard and rushed home for evening milking.  By the 1980s there were no farms selling milk in Kitsap.  Surrounding counties fared a bit better, but the most recent dairy crisis put most of the Jefferson Co. dairies out of business and Clallam Co. isn’t doing much better.  The remaining dairies pay one farmer to haul their milk and worry about the price of feed!  The one bright spot is Dungeness Valley Creamery in Sequim.  A Grade A raw milk dairy, the Browns milk 60 Jerseys and supply milk to the Mt. Townsend Creamery and sell fluid milk at several local stores.

Fast forward to the present day and there are now two Grade A Dairies selling cow’s milk in Kitsap.   I posted about Blackjack Valley Farm a while back, and I see that there is a new dairy selling milk in Port Orchard.  They have brown swiss cows. In addition, there are two Grade A Goat Dairies as well!  You can read all about the Hansville Creamery in a story done by the Sun when they opened last year.  The other goat dairy, Port Madison Goat Farm and Dairy on Bainbridge, produces and sells cheese.

2 thoughts on “Got Milk?

  1. You mention that there is a new dairy selling milk in Port Orchard, but do not mention the name. Would you share that with your readers?


  2. I saw their advert on Craigslist a week or so ago but it has since expired. They didn’t list a farm name on the ad. Only a phone number – and it was from Port Orchard. Keep an eye on the Farm and Garden section of Craigslist!

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