Lydia Johnson | #015
They got out of during the year that I moved to college. And I have to say that. That's a little heartbreaking. Because I felt like I was responsible for it. No matter how many times they'll tell me no no you need to go like. Oh do what you need to do. This is real real people podcast. Welcome back to the real food. Real people podcast. I'm Dillon han-kook and I'm glad you're here. Hopefully things are going. Well if you're self isolating in keeping to yourself as I hope we all are right now Keeping everyone is safe and healthy as possible This week We hear from a young woman who is studying at central Washington University just about to get her environmental resource geography degree. She grew up on a Washington state dairy farm and the perspective that she brings from her academics as well as her life experience. Growing up on a farm is really really valuable. I think as far as what's happening in the state politically and with the environment and with farming. So I'm glad you're here for this conversation this week. Her name is Lydia Johnson and as I mention on real food. Real people instagram Over the weekend I actually met her at a bar. I know it sounds weird. I was just driving through Washington. I was in little kittitas Washington and stopped in to it. I thought it was really cool. Old Timey restaurant and bar the timeout saloon and she was working behind the counter. And we just happen to chat a little bit and I found out that she grew up on a farm and so we talked a little bit more. And I thought she's gotTa be on the podcast in share her perspective and her story such cool stuff so thank you for being here. Make sure to follow us on facebook and instagram and twitter as well. If you can subscribe on your favorite podcast outlet apple podcasts spotify Google podcasts. You name it and of course check out real food real people dot org so without any further ado. Here's Lydia Johnson and our conversation this week on the real food real people podcast my continuing journey around various parts of Washington state to get to know the real people behind our food and the real culture of farming and food here in Washington state. We think it's more important now with everything that's happening than ever before to know. Not only where your food comes from and to get food grown locally and from Washington state but also to know who grows your food and to understand the care and respect that goes into so sitting in a bar. Strike up a conversation with the bartender. You and you're right. Yep Oh need that. You grew up as a dairy farm kit. Yeah Yeah so born and raised on a dairy farm Originally starting down in Vancouver Washington My Dad got into dairy farming. Had to pick up and move the entire dairy up into the raging booming town of Ethel Washington. Or I say Oh yeah. I'm from Lake Bethel. No Ethel Washington. Population are dairy farm and a post office is a full Washington. Southwest Washington is right off of highway. Twelve on your way over white pass or about ten miles off of I five yeah so if I'm explaining it to somebody will be like okay. Do you know we're Olympia as we'll say yes. Okay do you enjoy is okay. Forty five minutes southeast of there and they're like Oh okay. Rower that is. I've probably turn right past it. So so what told me about jury like how many cows did you guys have was your whole life. Yes we started out as a conventional dairy farm and As I was growing up we eventually made the transition into an organic dairy milking from we began at like four hundred cows and then when we got to organic dairy we were only milking about one hundred and sixty and so this is only my mother father and I and we were the only ones doing it. We didn't have any higher hands. We didn't have any any help. It was just. It was just the three of us in at the time. Like I didn't know it was weird or abnormal to just be three running this dairy this little twelve year old girl and my both. My parents had fulltime jobs. And so we were just making making it work and so they wake up early three thirty four thirty in the morning. My job was to bring in the cows so I'd always be looking for an excuse to go out and ride my horse so it's out on my horse in the barn early in the morning and go out and bring the cows in my dad would always don't run the girls. Don't make them run just walk. I'm like come on. Let me go but you know after. I got a little bit older understood so cowboy cowboy. Oh yeah absolutely absolutely. I grew up kind of in this weird dynamic where it's like I wasn't really raised to be like a cowboy or cowgirl and do like the Rodeo thing because I grew up on a dairy farm and dairy farmers they don't they're dairy farmers new show in the show at the dairy far. You know you show at the fair and the forage elevate which I did that too but also involved heavily into like junior Rodeo in high school rodeo and things like that as well so it's kind of a strange dynamic but it's definitely a childhood that made me who I am and I'm forever grateful to my parents just because like all these other students going to school with her things like that they just woken up at eight thirty in the morning and I'd already had half a day on them. You know and Just having that experience really impacted me as a person has given me a little bit more of I would say. An upper hand definitely upper-hand but upper-hand how as far as like maturity levels and responsibilities and carrying for another creature. That isn't a huge. You know it's it's a different. A different dynamics is something you're raising cavs or you're feeding heifers are just these different aspects of growing up on a dairy create just more fulfilling. I would say probably more fulfilling life. Were you ever frustrated with all that? Oh Yeah easy easy. I would always think like what would it be like to have like a normal childhood growing up in a suburb or something like that and like thinking back on. That was like what was I thinking? Why would I ever wonder if something like that? I know it would be like miserable. Not necessarily but you know definitely. When did that change? When did you switch from being like this is just a whole bunch of work to starting to really value it? Well when I was in middle school I was probably like I'd been slaved for that law evidence for that long already feeding calves and it wasn't it didn't feel like slavery at the time but he knows something that. I had to wake up every morning and every Saturday Sunday holiday everything so my friends would be out you know and they'd have sleepovers something but I'd have to get picked up early because they'd have to come home and feed calves or something like that something or does something small but when I got into high school I really started appreciating it because it kind made me a little bit more Mindful of like time management and how to execute all the things that I needed to get done within the day but I worked them around milking schedules so that was really interesting to not. Very many students had to deal with that. What was the milking schedule on the farm? Usually we would milk at like six thirty six o'clock in the morning and then milk at six thirty six o'clock in the evening if not earlier because a depend on how early I could get out and get the cows because sometimes things don't always go in go the right way and We had a small dairy. So a lot of things went wrong like pumps weren't working or something would freeze erred. The parlors flooded one morning to small weird things. That probably don't happen on. I don't know I guess larger farms. I don't know yeah I would say so too. I guess Murphy's law can break. It will absolutely so. Why did why did your parents have to move the dairy east and at what point in your life was that I was. I think I was only two or three so you probably don't really well. I remember so we were releasing some property from From A GENTLEMAN DOWN IN VANCOUVER WASHINGTON. My Dad had had already started the heard and started milking down here in. Vancouver and then They had sold the dairy before our lease was up and so my dad had started like frantically shopping for another dairy out from underneath right. Yeah and so this. I was pretty young when this happened and so I think the Indian tribe is where it ended up and so there's a new casino down there like Alani or something like that. That is where our dairy was. Yeah so that's kind of a bitter sweet deal but There's a couple of dairies Up in the county where I grew up Lewis County That were available at the time. And there's one on Alaska. One and Ethel in. The one ethyl was home. We moved there in two thousand so everybody's still refers to it if they've lived there long enough as the old dairy dairy because that's who lived there before us and they're like oh you live a little dirty during that was twenty years ago but yeah both both of my grandparents were in both sets of my grandparents were in dairy farming and to me into a lot of people their their farms. And they're still there. I actually own the like homeplace of my my mom's parents ways but to the real old timers. There's somebody because they bought them from other people. You Know Sam by them away. All that was the you know and and I can't remember. I'm blind leaders. Dairy was was my Grandpa Hong Coops later so I totally get that and that kind of stuff carries on when the same family can't keep doing share. Did you think about staying with daring? You know I actually did but what I really wanted to do. Was I wanted to bring daring back to Ellensburg valley in this is kind of like a an idea that lasted for maybe six months or something like that. It didn't last that long because the technology that I was wanting to get into something. That probably wouldn't be that attainable for me as an individual and I'd have to find other people that are Gung Ho about it as much as I am. I was like Oh yeah. I'll get bought milk her because I like to travel a lot and go do these things and I ride horses. And do you know things like that but There aren't any dairies in the valley anymore and so that was really strange to me. When I moved here that there wasn't like the local dairy or you know something small you know anything that would make it harder to run a dairy farm here right because there's no like dairy support businesses here and there was somebody that had told me that it was because of Trucks not making it up here from sunny side. Because that's where Derek Plante is or something like The restrictions on waste management Because County is definitely turning. Elif in its political stance. So so I guess we're talking about the Ellensburg area now and like we. We mentioned earlier. I met you at this bar at Kiddo task. Were your bartending. And I just stopped in for a bite to eat and so here we were actually recording out here behind the bar in the empty beer. There's snow on the ground. Yes actually and so if you hear cars trains in the background that's sides so that the reason I mentioned that is how did you end up here from growing up down there in Ethel? I know it's a big transition from small town of Ethel to the small town of catas- of mean well so's looking at colleges and I had gone to plan for research and all that stuff. I was looking for a college that I could Rodeo at and competed in College Rodeo but I also wanted a four year university that I could just knock out the four years and graduate which ended up happening anyway. 'cause I'm on my fifth year but I'm graduating this spring five. I five years. That's in the average no Yeah so that's really. What kind of brought me here and During my first year here I was Kinda thinking about transferring to some more like I was going to leave the state I was pretty set on like. Oh Yeah I'm going to go to Colorado state or go to a little bit more based College somewhere and Ended up staying and then I became a part of the community when I started working at the bar because now I can't go anywhere without somebody recognizing all here the bartender from the time out to central which is in Ellensburg which is what like fifteen minutes from here but you actually came when you came out here you started living right away in Kittitas Live in Ellensburg but for a very short time so it was like for the first year and a half or two years and then I eventually moved out. My address is still Ellensburg but I live out past Kittitas. It's like fifteen minutes from here even. I don't even have Internet there. You know it's one of those type places so why. Why didn't you stay in town gross? I wouldn't say in town. I like being outside. I have horses too. I have horses and I've got six cows here myself. Staying in town is Gross. Yeah well I mean. It's just like your typical college student. You know walking distance from the campus and things like that and I don't I don't really mean it that way you know but Let's to confined. I'm out I have. I'm renting a twenty five acres with two other girls and I have my two horses and my six cows and I have access tune arena and I can go rope whenever I want so. It's way better out here. I pay the price but is way better out here for sure. I WANNA find out about this Rodeo stuff to talk about being younger and into the whole cowgirl thing you wanted to continue that yes what what. What do you do with that? So as far as Rodeo goes At the moment I'm writing a three year old so she is a little slow on the draw when it comes to I mean I'm still doing a little bit of roping on our but she's a little young to be competing on But just this last spring. I sold one of my good horses that I was team. Roping in breakaway roping off of and he was a bang-up little horse but I had to let them go and so I did that. But prior to selling him. I did a lot of Team Roping and breakaway roping in went to rodeos mostly college rodeos in some small jackpots. Here and there and did quite a bit of Mounted shooting on him as well which has become a passion for me as well. It's just so much fun. It's like barrel racing but with guns way better way better. Everybody should give it a try so Rodeo for a lot of people like Woo Rodeo. I think the sense is. It's really unnecessary. And it's abusive of animals. And all these things. What's your response to some of that? I mean I guess one thing I should say. This is a real food. Real people podcast. What does Rodeo have to do with food? Is it even necessary? Well I guess it's a more I would say that Rodeos a little bit more of a showcase of the capabilities of your horse in the Mount of training and practice. I mean animals that we use their animals that love their job. You know the the rough stock that's being bugged out. I mean that's their bread specifically to do that. I mean you put them out in the field and just feed them you know. I mean they're bred specifically for this job and it's not I mean cavs to same thing it's still skills in a way of life connected with producing food though right absolutely like the beef world cowboys absolutely especially in this valley Back home you know. He find more dairy farms over on the west side. Where I grew up in here. People are renting Or getting permits to put their cows out on public land. And there's a lot more acreage for people to push cows around and it's more of a practical sense when you're talking about cowboy like things like that when you're going out in your branding or your Vaccinating and things like that. It's it's it's crucial. We'll even roping is about cattle health. People do think it's a show which the Rodeo stuff is a showcase of that skill root of it. Yeah the root of it is a necessity. Absolutely absolutely what's your favorite thing with Rodeo Probably team roping roping boy. Well so I headed for several years in this last or the source that I've got now she's pretty small and I can't head on her and so I'm really missing team roping and I'm really missing going into. It's just kind of tough but Working through it and I think she'll be big enough that could he'll offer her. Maybe not be ahead horse but Yeah definitely definitely team roping. You're gonNA keep doing Rodeo stuff after college intend to ideal. How do you keep doing that? And you have to be pro to keep going to make money Your Bank Account House and support you know Even in town there's a bunch of small jackpots. That you can keep going to and then you enter in like pay your NPR a NPR or pro-west entries and things like that the smaller smaller. But they're different regions and you can There's a little bit of flexibility but in the northwest. It's IT'S A it's a tough circuit to begin in the Columbia River circuit so so other than keeping Rodeo ing ailing as a hobby or you know maybe some pro stuff. What else are you planning to do? Once you get your degree here and a few months. So my ultimate goal is there's an overpopulation of feral horses down in southwestern United States in general and it's actually encroaching on the Pacific northwest as well and I don't intend to work for the government as suggested by professors the lamb or oh we should work for the forest service or DNR and Granted those jobs are great. And I'm sure of it but they're kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. They're caught up in so many different lawsuits from other advocacy groups. That are just half of their budget is tied up in fighting lawsuits. So a lot of that is not Making any progress so things that are making progress. Our research on Different sterilization ideas are pregnant or birth control like PCP's a is a current thing. I'm going on down there but they are to keep feral horses from reverting right. What's a feral horse? Explain what that really looks like in the real world so I it's technically they're called wild horses and that's a legal term. It's not a it's it's not because they're actually wild. Because every horse that is on that range is of domestic dissent and so the species actual species of them is of domestic dissent and so there are no wild horses. The only wild horse that there is is in Mongolia. And it's called the Pros Wolski source and it's like three feet tall and just a tiny little horse. That's the only wild horse in That's an existence right now and so when I refer to feral horses. It's kind of like a negative term against the law that's The Wild Horse in Borough Act of nineteen seventy and so That needs to be changed. I've never heard of any of this stuff. Really Cool. Well I wish I could tell. Yeah so yes so things along those lines. Things need to be changed. And I'm not advocating for them to be removed or exterminated from the Rangers at all because there is definitely You know a history behind them and they're part of the West and how Spaniards in the old wild was such a short time in history that it just kind of appealing to preserve it that way you know so so you want to help preserve that or you want to help those an like. What really is your dream outcome here with with this issue. Oh It's a pretty controversial topic. So I feel though the the population doubles every four years. And so something needs to be done whether that is sterilization of mayors or people need to quit breeding horses and only adopt feral horses. I'M NOT GONNA make that call because I I buy expensive horses that you know that. Are you know they're well bred and things like that they're bred for what I do and So it's hard to say that there's one solution to it I would say. Conserving not preserving because Preserving what we have out there is not going to be sustainable for the Rangers. Land the people that use it the cattle that are going to be put out on it. just yeah. How did you get into this issue? Like how did it catch your passion? I spent some time in Utah Awesome. Feral horses talked to some locals in the area about how they felt about it. And then They very strongly. WanNa wanted them removed and Kind of where? I grew up. A lot of people. Were buying horses from slaughter to take up to Canada or Mexico or things like that so it was just kind of S- not something that was totally new to me because that always kind of been around it because the stock contractor or he knew somebody. Somebody knew somebody. Oh that Horsey you know something like that in. It's illegal to do that by the way and so it's just kind of something that struck me as a problem that needs to be addressed in needs to be addressed in a fashion that encourages learning so the biggest controversy between the thing is a lot of the people that are fighting for the rights of the horses are They've never seen a horse. They've never pet horse author just so beautiful the black beauty or things like that. They don't think of a horse that is essentially starving itself out because there's nothing for its eat on the range. There's no water. We're on a drought. There's nothing there for it it starves. That's not humane. Know exactly so what? It's the balance between the two and like closing the gap in the knowledge. I mean there's it could go on forever I could. What did you study in college? What's your degree? Environmental Resource Geography with a certification in natural resource management and a certification geospatial information systems. That's a mouthful. So what kind of stuff for you doing academically then to get that kind of what are you studying? What you'll learn it It's kind of like a hybrid of like difference. Different biology's different chemistries. Different geology geography climatology. That's a classic taking right now. Let's kick my butt but It's kind of a broad mixture of everything that you would find an environment From resources to whether that impact the resources and the actions of industries in it's just all encompass water resource. It's just a it's a big broad. Bs You mean Bachelor of Science yes. That's exactly right okay. Got It what earlier we were talking. And you're like yeah. You're kind of planning on leaving the state maybe not forever. Yeah why do you WANNA leave Washington other than this horse thing? Are you like done with Washington or what? Well as much as I love Washington. I've spent a fair amount of time up in the mountains and the cascades Admiral Rainier and it's a beautiful state. You get a little bit of everything from volcanoes to rainforest desert says the ocean. It's a beautiful state. I do love it but I have been impacted by As I mentioned once before kind of the politics the prices and the people why is that changing in Washington? Do you think I would say the growth of urban population? What does that do to farming? Minimizes it I mean the growth of Seattle. I mean they're moving outward. We're getting people here in Kittitas County Population I mean. You'll find a lot of people coming from Seattle their doctor from Seattle and they have a house in Ellensburg and they commute every day. Because it's easier to commute from ellensburg than it is from Olympia. You know so And then from then moving here let changes completely. The dynamic of every yeah. The political dynamic is completely altered not only from the expansion of urban areas but also from the college as well so I would yeah. What are some of the pressures on farming? What happens with these books with different people in the mix like you're describing development of farmland the minimizing of all this farmland that. I mean this valley is number one number two top pay export in the country and we were getting all these people from Seattle. Oh Yeah we've got this nice thirty or thirty acre law in we're we're going to develop it or you know even if they get their hands on some more expensive bigger. Hayfield you know they're not going to sit on it. They're not going to continue farming there. That's a goal. Ellensburg is beautiful. Let's move there. It's only an hour and a half two hours from Seattle. But I thought you're in college. Basically in kind of an environmental program right. Shouldn't you be carrying about the environment? This is why my department doesn't like me like. Oh Darn you got Lydia in your class. This time. I'm so sorry. She sits up front raises. Her hand has something to say about everything. Yeah it definitely is a struggle well in my department. They do a pretty good job of keeping the balance between politics in a relatively unbiased. But yeah there's definitely something that needs to be done as far as conservation of the farmland in this valley especially. Yeah what what needs to be done to protect the environment here in Washington from your vantage point studying this academically that is a tricky question because some people are saying farming isn't good for the environment and that's one of the issues that they want to look at. Should we be doing farming or doing farming? The way that we're doing it here in the state while I would start off with saying farmers are stewards of the land. It doesn't I mean regardless of whether farmers out to make money you're not it's If they don't take care of their land if they're not rotating crops if they're not Treaty in the land if they're not replenishing nutrients that they've taken out by planning the specific crop or something along those lines They it'll affect their crop in in the long run and their property in the long run and I mean I experienced that growing up over on the west side we grew. Hey on an old tree. Farm and tree farms are very acidic. And so we had to. We always did. Chicken Manure was the most common thing in our area so to kind of balance that out and kind of bring up the PH levels Definitely have to be proactive in that. I guess proactive in how you're treating the land because in the long run it's going to affect how your crops are GonNa turn out. How are you going to killed? But what it's what are the price is going to be like you know. Gain your farming background. How much attention. How much time have you spent on the whole soil health issue? I mean that's what you're touching on there a stupid amount. We grew our own We had halo. We were feeding Haley. So I'll grown. Hey legend barley as well that we ground up and mixed with cracked corn. And what's the future for your family's farm so at this time? Both of my parents are retired and they're They got out of during the year that I moved to college. And I have to say that. That's a little heartbreaking. Because I felt like I was responsible for it No matter how many times they'll tell me no you need to go like. Oh do what you need to do. Type thing and But the farm is still being ran. It's been leased out by a younger dairy farmer and he's running Our farm as an organic dairy as well as two other dairy farms one other is also organic and the conventional So he's keeping that going which is impressive. Because that's three dairies. I don't know if I could let alone one but I'm sure I mean he's got quite a bit of hired hands. But how did the whole organic thing go? What did you think of that? How did your parents make that work So when we got into it we're kind of ahead of the curve so it was kind of before everybody was like. Oh go organic. It was before all of that and so when we were in it it was it was good for our family and we were doing well and It it was a really long process so I have to tell you we had to get our land certified that we were making the hey on which is not in the same location as where dairy was and so just getting that certified and then we'd have to fence off our fences like six feet in because our neighbors sprayed there whatever you know. And so getting the cows certify getting the land certified it was just quite the process. I think it was like six years. Maybe before we could become certified organic better. At least I guess in dairy terms. Because that's what you've experienced firsthand dairy terms. I mean. It's a nice idea. I guess but As far as the quality of milk being produced I would argue that it is probably on the same playing field Organic milk conventional milk. I mean I always drink at raw so i. I don't know what Y'all at the store. No I'm teasing but I I mean we did always drink at Roz. Yeah scrape the cream off the top and put it in your coffee in the morning after it separates out it was like I said there's no better childhood. What's been the hardest thing with growing up a farm kid and getting to this point where we are now hardest. I would say probably just a difference in like my peers so I don't really identify very easily with other twenty three year old girls in my liking classes at school like they're like. Oh Yeah I'm going to this party. I'm like going home to ride my horse type that you know. I don't I don't I wasn't really. Yeah I feel like I'm a little bit older than my actually age and I think that's because I was raised in this fashion that led me to be more mature and I don't want sound conceited when I say those things but it's like I feel like Yeah I don't buy very easily with people my age because of the differences in our childhood upbringings. And it's just A. It's very strange to me too. Because I don't I don't know where they're coming from. You know the did totally different things. When they're growing up they got to travel when they're young. They got to leave the farm team. I know I know how that is. I grew up on a red raspberry farm so yes. Summertime was not a time for vacation. Well thank you so much for opening up and sharing your story. Best of luck to you on what you're doing next you ever think about getting back into actual farming being a farmer yourself. Yes I I miss it I yeah. I definitely have considered it especially with this. Most recent starting up a dairy thing and my dad's dream has always been to you know Bottle and sell organic raw milk. And I don't know I guess it. Kinda rubbed off on me too because I just think that would be so cool to have your own dairy and then have the same store on the same place and people will come to your farm and you could give him farm tours and kind of educate them about where your milk comes from and node chocolate. Milk doesn't come from brown cows and you know something something like that. Yeah it's definitely fantasy but maybe someday I plan on having my own garden and greenhouse in my own cows. I'LL BE DAMNED. If I'm not drinking raw milk out of the tank when I'm settled or something. Well good luck to you and again really appreciate you being willing to share your story or with this random guy showed up at here at the time out time out saloon tasks Washington. Yep Thank you so much. Absolutely thank you. This is the real food real people. Podcast these are the stories of the people who grow your food you know. I'm always amazed by the things that people do talk about that. They know that they're involved with and one of those was the whole feral horse thing. I didn't know anything about that. And and I had no idea that Lydia was involved with anything like that so when she brought that up I was like wow I and now I need to do a little bit more research about what is that all about. Let's Kinda crazy. It was really cool to hear her story and hear about her family. I hope for her sake you can hear right there the Engler. She you could tell she still wants to be part of that farming world. I hope she can find the right place and time to do that. Thank you again for being with us here on the podcast and hopefully again. You're you're staying safe and healthy out there if you're self isolating self quarantining whatever the case might be with this crazy world that we're in right now. you've got some time could catch up on some back episodes. You can find all those at real food real people dot org on your favorite podcast platform so make sure to check it out and also follow us on Instagram Follow US on facebook. And we're on twitter as well Try to share stuff there as much as I can have been able to do a little bit more of that lately with everything that's going on and and hopefully I can keep that up of my with my busy schedule. Sometimes I forget to share. Oh Hey this is what I'm doing. This is where I'm at so turning to be better about that and we definitely appreciate you subscribing and supporting the podcast every week and like I said at the beginning we appreciate you paying attention to where your food comes from. And of course with his podcast. It's so important who your food comes from with everything going on in the world right now. I think we're more and more focused on our food. And Are we going to be able to get it and where you know who's who's producing. How far away is it from me And and that's why these stories are such a window into the food production that's happening in our backyard and here in our own state. This is so important right now and I think this time with everything that's changing with our society and with our economy right now With this virus and other things that are going on. I think it's bringing that focus back to where it needs to be on how we sustain ourselves. How sustainable our lives are right here at home in Washington? So thank you for being with us on the real food. Real people podcast. They're real food real people. Podcast is sponsored in part by save family farming giving a voice to Washington's farm families find them online at save family farming dot org.