The San Juan Dining Room boasts a state-of-the-art milking parlor.
Fort Lewis College is taking its commitment to local food to a new level through the addition of a campus dairying operation to the new Student Union scheduled for completion by the opening of the fall semester. The operation will be supported by a herd of 15 registered Holstein cows, a crew of early rising student workers, and a generous donation from alumnus Bill Stubblefield.
The new dairy facility will provide fresh milk and student-produced dairy products for the San Juan Dining Room. Beginning in August, students may help themselves at the self-milking stations located in the food service area adjacent to the dining room. Hours of operation, also known as “milking time,” will be 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Churns will also be available to make cream and butter near the dining hall's toasters and coffee dispensers.
Now that the herd has arrived on campus and is coming into the Student Union twice a day for milking, Fort Lewis students, faculty, and staff are getting familiar with the idea of a campus dairy. Chris Wilkinson, manager of Campus Dining Services, said he expects the response in the fall to be similar to when the Jazzman’s coffee bar first opened. “At first there was some hesitation, but then everyone seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly.” He added that he’s heard some disappointment that the initial dairy product plans do not include ice cream. “I’ve had some business students tell me that we’re really missing a beat by not doing ice cream.”
The Stubblefield Dairy represents a historic alignment of Fort Lewis’ past as an agricultural high school and its present as a liberal arts college committed to environmental sustainability. And it all came about because one day farmer Bill Stubblefield (class of ’46) was checking the college’s website from his kitchen table in Branch, Arkansas.
It was a Sunday in fall 2005. As was his usual practice, Stubblefield went to www.fortlewis.edu to check on that week’s football scores while he had his coffee. “I had played football at Fort Lewis, so I like to follow the team,” he said. “There was a story on the homepage about the Environmental Center. That’s how I found out about Fort Lewis’ local food projects. I liked what I saw.”
Stubblefield, who attended Fort Lewis when it was at the Hesperus campus, founded his dairy in the early 1950s. About 2000, in his “retirement,” Stubblefield became interested in “milk share programs” where people come together to own a cow in a small dairy operation tended to by an experienced dairyman. The farmer gets paid when the owners buy the milk. “Basically, milk sharing is about trust. You know that farmer. You know that cow,” Stubblefield said.
Stubblefield said within weeks of reading that article he became “absolutely obsessed” with bringing local dairy to Fort Lewis. He pressed his vision through hundreds of phone conversations, email exchanges, and campus meetings with Fort Lewis representatives who were in the planning phases for the new Student Union. Needless to say there were a lot of stumbling blocks, not the least of which was the campus cow policy. But Stubblefield persisted. In addition to providing the vision for a project that will strengthen Fort Lewis’ reputation as a leading green college, Stubblefield paid for the construction costs, selected the dairy herd, provided valuable technical advice, and created an endowment to pay for operating costs, which include a dairyman’s salary, a milking crew, replacing equipment, and maintenance of the dairy facility.
“I always wanted to give back to Fort Lewis,” he said. “And now I have.”
Got milk bottle?
Meet the herd