A Message from Darigold’s CEO


Many companies work on improving sustainability because they see it as critical to their social license to operate. While we agree that is important, it doesn’t describe the primary motivation behind our Cooperative Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts at Darigold. First and foremost, we pursue sustainable practices because they are simply the right thing to do. CSR is core to our values and heritage. We pursue CSR because we care.

For the past 98½ years, our producers have been providing high quality nutrition for customers, stewarding the land to pass on to their children and grandchildren, and contributing to the communities where they live and work. Our producer-owners, customers and employees care deeply about our impact. Our goal is to operate in a way that leaves the world and the people we touch in a better state.

We live in a world of change. The dairy industry is highly innovative. We are leaps and bounds beyond the days of our grandparents’ dairy farms. Both the farms and the processing we do are dramatically more sustainable than we were even 10 years ago, let alone 70 years ago. Massive technological changes in farming, milking and processing; societal changes; advances in animal care, herd management and veterinary science; expanded knowledge about health and nutrition; shifts in the regional, national and global markets for dairy products; and changing corporate customer and consumer demands – all characterize the business environment in which we operate today. Productivity improvement is part of it. We constantly seek ways to improve milk quality and productivity, reduce our energy and water consumption, and lessen our carbon footprint. As any company, we have shortcomings, but our commitment to moving forward with a focus on innovation and sustainability is strong and permanent.

The opportunity to do the right thing to bring high quality nutrition to our neighbors and to the world drives everything we do.

Our organizational commitment to continuous improvement on multiple dimensions drives what we do. At Darigold, we are committed to food quality and food safety. We do the right thing as we bring high quality nutrition to our neighbors and to the world. Darigold is equally committed to the safety, health and welfare of our employees in our plants and offices. The Northwest Dairy Association helps producers with their labor practices by providing educational resources and tools for SOPs (standard operating procedures) and training. Our producers are committed to providing safe working conditions for both their family members and farm employees. Fortunately, continuous improvement and sustainability also make us more competitive and enable us to more effectively meet customer demands and regulatory requirements.

In the end, the people of Darigold and the NDA care about values and social responsibility. For generations, this core fabric of responsibility has run deep in what we do. Our member-owners care about their animals, about their environment, about building their family legacy and participating in their communities. Our members often hold the same land within their family from generation to generation. Member-owners operate every day with sustainability in mind, investing in the land and in their dairy business for their children. Hand-in-hand with those in our processing and marketing operations who are also committed to a legacy of quality and sustainability – that is Darigold’s CSR story. We do the right thing based on our ongoing commitment to the values that have guided us for nearly a century – and are guiding us now into the future.

Stan Ryan

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A Message from Darigold’s Board Chair


Today, Darigold customers and consumers are more interested in how their food is produced than ever before. As a result, they look for assurance that Darigold is responsibly managing animal care, workers and environmental stewardship. Fortunately, what our member-producers do on their farms and what our customers want are closely aligned.

If you ask what is most near and dear to our dairy farmers, the first answer you’ll hear is “the cows.” That is where it all begins. Everything on our farms revolves around the cow. When customers first began asking about our practices, it was a bit of a surprise to our farmers when we received questions like, do our cows have adequate water, feed and bedding? Providing for basic needs like clean water, quality feed and comfortable bedding is a fundamental tenet of animal care. It’s not only the right thing to do to take care of our cows in the best manner possible, it has a direct effect on the quality of the cows’ milk. Beyond the obvious moral obligation to care for our animals, these are the heart of good farming practices – and thus, for us, good business practices.

Darigold producers are all independent business owners and members of the Northwest Dairy Association (NDA). Our members follow excellent animal care practices. As a condition of membership in our cooperative, our producers participate in the National Dairy’s F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program guidelines, which evaluate good animal care practices and promote continuous improvement on our farms.

Like animal welfare, stewardship of the land is both core to our values and makes business sense. As a farmer, I view manure as a valuable crop nutrient that can replace the need for commercial fertilizer. We have every incentive to use this asset (manure) by practicing effective nutrient management through comprehensive manure handling and rigorous soil testing. We follow excellent nutrient management practices, not just because it is a requirement in our Nutrient Management Plans, but because it is good for our farms to do it.

If you ask what is most near and dear to our dairy farmers, the first answer you’ll hear is “the cows.” That is where it all begins.

Water quality and water conservation are also vital concerns for us. My farm in Whatcom County, Washington, provides one example of the kinds of environmental initiatives about water that are happening on many NDA farms. Water is very critical in general and for growing crops in specific, so we follow water management best practices. Clean water is also essential for local residents, fish habitat and wildlife, so we are working closely with the six Watershed Improvement Districts in our county, where I serve on one of the local boards. We are one of a group of landowners that voted to tax ourselves on a per-acre basis to build a fund to help manage these districts. Funds are used to monitor watersheds; identify areas of poor drainage or potential contamination; talk to farmers; and provide education and technical assistance to support stream flows, irrigation, aquifers and water tables. The goal is to ensure healthy and sustainable water systems, and support a vibrant and productive agricultural economy.

As dairy farmers, we are always looking for practical innovations that help us improve our operations, including improving our environmental performance. Many Darigold producers are testing and installing equipment like separators, centrifuges, presses, filtration systems and methane digesters. These systems, together with improved storage, allow nutrients to be made available to the crops when needed, which increases productivity and protects the environment. Other sustainable practices are also being employed, such as barn roof solar panels, LED lighting, variable speed drives enabling pumps to pull only the energy needed for each specific job requirement, capturing heat energy, and using automatic manure scrapers. Such practices both reduce our environmental footprint and make economic sense.

In addition to excellent animal care and innovations to expand our environmental stewardship, it is also worth noting that cows are efficient recyclers, as they eat things people can’t. Cows convert plants, such as grass and alfalfa, into protein-rich dairy products, providing nutritious food for humans. This is an important factor in our quest to feed the growing world population. In addition, our cows are fed a number of food processing by-products, such as bakery by-products, cotton seed, beet pulp, soy meal, distillers grain, straw and whey product from cheese making, which people do not normally consume. This contributes to a more sustainable food system.

At NDA we expect that these animal care and stewardship management practices are carried out for the benefit of the cows, the farmer, employees, the environment, customers and consumers. And that is how we think about sustainability or Cooperative Social Responsibility (CSR) at Darigold – it’s doing the right thing in ways that work well for all concerned.

Finally, I am personally struck by the fact that even in the U.S., one in six Americans lacks a secure source of food. Sustainability for us means that Darigold will continue to play a key role in addressing hunger.

We are working hard every day to live up to our sustainability commitments and we welcome the chance to share our CSR efforts with you.

Leroy Plagerman

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