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Changes on the Horizon

Local dairy farmer makes grains hydroponically


by: JEFF MCDONALD - Farmer Jack Perrin, owner of Perrin Farms, has been producing high quality milk for Horizon Organic since 2002. He has 145 milking cows and 180 heifers on his farm east of Woodburn on South Meridian Road.After 35 years feeding his cows and heifers with corn and hay from a mill, 61-year-old Woodburn dairy farmer Jack Perrin is taking a new approach on his 200-acre farm east of Woodburn.

He and his family, who produce roughly 600 gallons of milk every day for Broomfield, Colo.-based Horizon Organic, are setting up a greenhouse that will sprout grain grown in water.

The use of hydroponic growing techniques will produce grains that are easier for cows to digest and have more nutrients, Perrin said.

Regular grains deliver about 60 percent of the nutrients. By comparison, growing the grains in the greenhouse will yield 80 to 90 percent of the nutritional value, he said. by: JEFF MCDONALD - Jack Perrin's son-in-law, Rick Sherman, helps build the greenhouse that will be used to grow grains at Perrin Farms hydroponically. The greenhouse grains will yield 80 to 90 percent of the nutritional value of the grain compared with mills, which only contain 60 percent of the value.

“It will give me a healthier cow, more milk with less feed,” he said.

The greenhouse cost $50,000 to build and could be a model for other dairy farmers, Perrin said.

“There are a lot of people watching us to see if it works,” he said. “The challenge is getting seed to generate feed to produce the milk for cost savings.”

As one of 30 dairy producers under contract with Horizon in the Western U.S. region, Perrin, whose farm is on South Meridian Road, is noted for the quality of his product, said Sara Loveday, spokeswoman for Broomfield, Colo.-based WhiteWave Foods Co., which markets Horizon’s products.

He was one of the first Oregon farms to join the Horizon supply chain in 2002 and was awarded the company’s National Quality Award in 2008 and 2009 for the highest quality milk in the supply, Loveday said.

For Perrin, dairy farming is a lifestyle, not a job, he said.

That lifestyle includes daily 3 a.m. wake-up calls, no weekends or holidays and 70-hour work weeks.

“If I work 40 hours a week, I’m on vacation,” he said.

The hard work, which includes being surrounded by 145 milking cows and 180 heifers, is only possible thanks to the close proximity of his family in the business, he said.

“We have Thanksgiving every day,” Perrin said. “I’m with my grandkids every day.”

His family, which includes his daughter, son and five grandkids, lives in three separate households on the farm.

His son Matthew Perrin and son-in-law Rick Sherman are putting the finishing touches on the greenhouse, which should be operational by spring.

His daughter Stephanie, daughter-in-law Abbie and five grandkids all help with the operation, he said.

The family gives Perrin confidence about the future of his operation.

“All of them work here,” he said. “I assume it’s going to be in the family a long time.”




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  • 21 Aug 2014

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  • 22 Aug 2014

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