Surrounded by the Coast Range Mountains on the east and north and the Coquille River to the south, a small southern Oregon town greets visitors. Nestled in a picturesque valley, Coquille, Oregon, is just 20 miles from the coast and happens to be a perfect location for dairying.
Enjoying warmer weather and less wind than nearby towns, while receiving plentiful spring moisture, Coquille lends itself to supporting a thriving agricultural community. One of the eight operations in the area is the Miranda Dairy, run by Mike and Lisa Miranda.
Both Mike and Lisa grew up in the dairy industry in northern California. Neither anticipated life would have them return to dairying to raise their family, but life has a way of bringing people full circle. Mike’s uncle had a logging business in Oregon, and Mike worked as a logger, cutting trees throughout Idaho and Oregon. Up before the sun and on the road long after the sunset, Mike was never home.
A chance meeting would begin the Miranda’s full circle journey. Mike met a truck driver who hauled logs and owned a small dairy in central Oregon. It so happened that this gentleman was looking for a dairy manager. Wanting to spend more time with family rather than in the woods and on the road, the Mirandas discussed the advantages of changing professions.
“A dairy farm is a wonderful place to raise a family,” Lisa said. Taking over the small dairy, the Mirandas returned to a familiar lifestyle. After a bit of time spent getting the hang of things, they ventured out on their own. However, starting their own dairy came with a learning curve. No one can complain about dairy farming being boring, notes Lisa.
“Every day is a surprise. No two days are alike, despite daily milkings and chores,” said Lisa. Fondly remembering the dairies of their youth, the Mirandas are pleased with their return to their roots, despite the never-ending challenges and hard work.
Starting out with 26 cows, a mix of Holsteins and Jerseys, the dairy expanded over the next few years to milking 75 cows. Growing up on pasture-based dairies before there was an organic label for milk, the Mirandas decided to pursue organic status for their dairy operation.
Over the subsequent 20 years, the dairy expanded to 250 cows. The Mirandas milk Holsteins, Jersey, Brown Swiss, and crosses. They have a free stall barn, as well as a compost barn. “The cows love the compost barn, choosing that one first. The compost barn is always full, especially in winter, since the wood shavings are soft and warm,” Lisa noted.
Every person in agriculture quickly learns that Mother Nature throws you curve balls. The Miranda farm has river frontage which tends to flood multiple times a year. While flooding is a reoccurring challenge, the fertile river bottom land makes up for the inconvenience. Having 450 acres devoted to feed production, the Mirandas grow quite a bit of their own feed, including corn and alfalfa. They also will cut a pasture incorporating the grass into silage if the forage gets ahead of the grazing cattle.
The cattle are pastured as much as the weather permits. “We do get quite a bit of rain and the cattle can tear up the ground rather quickly. However, we also have pleasant temperatures most of the year and the cattle enjoy being outside,” Lisa said.
At times, the Mirandas will breed cows using a beef bull, while other times, they utilize artificial insemination. “We plant and harvest crops for other producers, so there are exceptionally busy times of the year. For example, in the spring we are busy planting so typically opt for turning a bull in with the cows that are on pasture,” explained Lisa.
With the large number of cattle and acres, the Mirandas need help keeping everything on track. They employ one part-time person who milks, and two full-time employees. One full-time employee milks, and the other full-time person is their son, Matt.
Mike and Matt enjoy the mechanical and equipment side of farming. “Since we have all the tractors and planting and haying equipment, it makes good economic sense for us to capitalize on that by using the machinery as a source of income. Matt is an incredible mechanic, which sure helps to keep everything running when we are working on other farms,” Mike emphasized.
While both Miranda men enjoy their big toys, Lisa leans more toward the cattle side of things. Between the cattle, scheduling everything, and watching the grandkids, she stays plenty busy.
The Mirandas have been selling milk to Organic Valley with the assistance of National Farmers for the last two years. “We are very pleased with Organic Valley and National Farmers. The relationship has sure helped our bottom line,” Mike said.
As an added bonus, the Mirandas have utilized the group medical insurance available with National Farmers. “The ability of our family to be covered by affordable health insurance is a huge benefit to us,” notes Lisa.
Happy to have raised their children and now grandchildren on a dairy farm, Mike and Lisa embrace the surprises that accompany each new day in their picturesque Oregon valley.