The Hilarides Dairy, a Western United Dairymen member located just northwest of Lindsay in Tulare County, California, has been selected as the 2010 recipient of the Agricultural Stewardship Award presented by the California Chapter, American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) at its annual Spring Outlook Conference in Fresno. The dairy features a covered lagoon, which captures biogas from manure to generate renewable green energy that is used to supply the dairy’s fuel and electricity needs.
The Hilarides family milks 9,000 cows, primarily Jerseys, which produce milk that is especially suitable for making cheese. An additional 9,000 support stock (dairy heifers, calves and dry cows) are part of the operation. The Hilarides family also raises about 4,000 beef steers. Rob Hilarides and his son-in-law, Anthony Simoes, manage day-to-day operations of the dairy.
In addition to the dairy, the family operates an on-site farmstead gourmet cheese manufacturing facility. Marisa Simoes, daughter of Rob and Jeannie, manages the cheese operation and markets her prize-winning Serena and Serenita cheeses under the Three Sisters brand in specialty markets around the world.
Environmental sustainability has been a hallmark of the Hilarides family dairy from day one. The now-defunct Lindsay Olive Growers cooperative once operated a series of brine treatment ponds where the milking facility and cheese operation stand today. When the olive operation was sold, the City of Lindsay inherited the site, which was essentially a 160-acre bowl that captured rainwater runoff, exacerbating infiltration of salt to local groundwater. Remediation costs were $10 million, something the city could not afford. The Hilarides family was able to provide a viable alternative by filling in the former brine ponds with compacted soil, and capping them with concrete and clay to create the footprint of the milking facility. Rain no longer can infiltrate the brine residue, and the threat to groundwater has been greatly reduced.
The Hilarides family has a long history in the dairy business going back to Rob’s grandparents in the Long Beach area in 1930. Rob and Jeannie moved to Tulare County in 1980 and opened the new dairy in 2003.
—From WUD weekly update