Family Farming in the 1970s
In the 1970s, the typical landscape of small, family dairy farming in Northern California was shifting. Over the previous two decades, the region had experienced a significant loss of farming acreage and the number of small family farms was in sharp decline.
Larger dairies, some with up to 5,000 cows, began to appear. Small family farms traditionally grazed their cows on pasture, but larger operations, which relied on purchased feeds and a chemically and technologically driven agricultural system, pressured family farms to follow suit.
Farming practices that took advantage of large economies of scale changed the price structure for milk in ways that were detrimental, and sometimes adversarial, to family farming and did not reflect the real economic costs of dairy farming.
It was during that time, in the mid 1970s, that Albert Straus returned to his family’s dairy farm, after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Dairy Sciences at California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) in San Luis Obispo.
He took over the management of the dairy with his father and quickly realized that innovative solutions were needed to secure the future of family farming in California and to maintain good stewardship of the land.