Five dairy farm families represented California’s dairy history and future on the California Milk Advisory Board’s “Legacy of Generations” float in the 128th Rose Parade, Jan. 2.
“The success of California dairy is a legacy of generations of farm families working hard every day in partnership with the animals and the land in their care to produce one of the most nutritious foods available,” said John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB).
Float riders are legacy dairy farmers whose families have been in the business for 50 years or more. The float featured a life-size animated Holstein cow and floral, cottonseed and almond hull depictions of dairy products.
Riders, representing farms in northern and southern California, include the following:
Joe and Mario Simoes (Tipton, California)
81-year-old twin brothers Joe and Mario Simoes immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 15, along with a few of their siblings and their father. Working alongside each other, they saved enough money to eventually bring over their remaining family of 13. The Simoes brothers found work on a family dairy farm, and in 1970, they had the opportunity to purchase a dairy farm from their first employer. Today, the two brothers and their extended families have more than 10,000 cows, farm roughly 3,000 acres and employ more than 100 people. After 50 years of hard work, Joe and Mario still have the same passion for the dairy and take pride in demonstrating the same work ethic they learned from their father. Continuing the tradition, the family’s third generation has just started work on the dairy.
Joey and Joseph Airoso (Pixley, California)
Joey Airoso’s great-grandfather came to America in 1912, milking cows by hand for 25 years and helping to build the family farm that has stood on the same land in the San Joaquin Valley for more than 100 years. Joey is proud to work in the family business in partnership with his mother and father. His son, Joseph, marks the fifth generation and is working to keep the family business running for years to come. Airoso Dairy was recently awarded the “Star of the Breed” by Holstein Association USA, the first time a cow west of the Mississippi has won the industry’s top honor. Looking ahead, the Airoso Dairy will continue to explore new ways to be protective of the environment and operate the family farm efficiently through modern technology.
Essie and Jason Bootsma, and Emmalyn Vermeer (Lakeview, California)
Essie Bootsma did not grow up in a dairy family, but learned the ropes from her high school sweetheart (now husband), and the two eventually started a dairy of their own. Today, Essie assumes a truly hands-on role, taking care of electrical work, plumbing issues and tractor maintenance, which has earned her the nickname, “Dairy Lady” from the community. Together, with her son Jason and granddaughter Emmalyn, this family of float riders represents three generations of real California dairy farmers.
Lucas and Lisa Deniz (Petaluma, California)
Lucas Deniz has been working on the farm his grandfather built for as long as he can remember. Lucas’ grandfather immigrated to America from the Azore islands and opened the family farm in Petaluma in 1946. Today, Lucas, Lisa and their three children are proud to run a successful organic California dairy farm. They take pride in the excellent care they provide to the cows with constant monitoring, plenty of food and water, and utilizing the pasture land common to their area.
Billy and Kaelyn Offinga (Nuevo, California)
The Offinga family has been in the dairy business for more than 60 years, and Billy is proud to be able to continue the family tradition with his wife of 18 years, Jayleen, and their four children, William (6), Kamber (11), Krysta (12) and Kaelyn (14). Billy grew up on the dairy farm with his sisters and is proud to be able to continue the tradition into its third generation with his own children.
California dairy farms can be traced back to the early 1800s, with farms spanning the state from San Diego to the Oregon border as milk, butter and cheese became a valuable commodity during the Gold Rush years. Today, California is the number one milk producing state in the U.S. and produces more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. California is also the second largest producer of cheese and yogurt. The rise of California’s dairy industry from humble beginnings to national and international prominence is the result of generations of dedicated family dairy farmers.
“People are increasingly conscious of where the food they feed their families comes from. It begins here in California where real families for generations have successfully produced real wholesome, nutritious milk kissed by the California sun and served around the world in the cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream we all love,” Talbot said.
—From California Milk Advisory Board news release
PHOTOS: Dairy farm families riding on the California Milk Advisory Board’s “Legacy of Generations” float in the 128th Rose Parade included Joe and Mario Simoes, Tipton, California; Joey and Joseph Airoso, Pixley, California; Essie and Jason Bootsma, and Emmalyn Vermeer, Lakeview, California; Lucas and Lisa Deniz, Petaluma, California; and Billy and Kaelyn Offinga, Nuevo, California. Photos courtesy of California Milk Advisory Board.