(The Dairy Farmer)
Jay Lancaster grew up in Sequim, Washington on a Guernsey dairy farm. His father Les Lancaster moved to Sequim in the 1940’s to work for the Reed family and manage Graysmarsh dairy, home to a 100 cow registered Guernsey herd. Their father’s motto was “Less Said, Best Said.” Jay and his siblings showed Guernseys at local fairs and helped with all the day to day farm chores, including the movement of irrigation pipeline and bringing in the hay crops. Jay remembers tales of the early days, when cows were shipped in boxcar throughout the Pacific Northwest for shows. At age 13, Jay took over the daily milking responsibilities, and he has been milking cows ever since!
While at W.S.U. on the College Senior Dairy Judging Team, Jay’s team won the Portland International Livestock Dairy Judging contest. The next year, Jay was 9th individual overall and high individual in Holsteins at the National Collegiate Judging Contest in Columbus, Ohio. The team (including Jay and his first wife, Diane) was high in Jerseys and third overall. Jay graduated from Washington State University with a B.S. Animal Science, emphasis Dairy Production.
After college, Jay headed back to Graysmarsh to run the dairy and taught Agricultural Education at the high school for a couple years before deciding he wanted to be on the farm full time. Jay upgraded the facility and the cow herd. In this time period, he started judging fitting and showing and conformation classes at many local and county fairs and youth shows. He attributes a lot of his early success to the support and help of his mother, Joan.
In 1977, the Lancasters bought property in Ferndale, Washington and custom designed a new dairy facility to house his herd, from day old calves to dry cows all under one roof. He named the farm “Family Hill Farm” and family operates the dairy to this day.
Gradually, the farm transitioned to Jersey cattle, finding them much heartier than the Guernsey breed in many respects. By the early 90′s, the herd was completely Jersey. Diane passed away in 2004.
Jay has judged all three National Guernsey Shows- Madison, Louisville, and Harrisburg. (Harrisburg he also judged the National Junior Brown Swiss Show.) Jay was also asked to judge State Holstein shows in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Colorado, and Montana. At the Pacific National Exposition (PNE) in Vancouver, Canada, he has judged Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Guernsey breeds. Jay judged the Canadian National Achievement Dairy Show to pick the top 4-H show person and top conformation show heifer within the Canadian provinces. In 1996, he judged the Guernsey show at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Still, during this same time, he enjoyed most the youth and youth shows. Jay also achieved a 25 year pin as a dairy 4-H leader. As Jay says, “There is probably not a county in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho that had a good dairy 4-H and FFA program that I did not have the terrific opportunity to work with their youth.”
Jay continues to enjoy judging. In 2015, he judged some local fairs including: Silvana, Grant County, and Western Idaho (Boise) Fair.
Michelle Lancaster grew up on a small farm in N.E. Washington State, learning about animals and the land – from raising pigs to working in the woods. She showed pigs (and dogs, chickens, turkeys, etc.) in 4-H for 9 years, earning the Herdsmaship Trophy in her 8th year. She also showed Akitas, and that is the only breed of dog she has ever owned (and yes, they can make good farm dogs!).
In her first year at college, Michelle met Jay after hiring on for a job at the dairy. They milked cows every evening and joked about earning a Bachelor’s in Dairy Science rather than the History degree she was working on.
Michelle learned first about cheesemaking from a neighbor cheesemaker. Mozzarella lessons started by observing Mother Therese of Shaw Island, who operates a raw milk dairy and bought their Jersey cows from Family Hill Farm for many years. Michelle graduated from the WSU cheesemaking shortcourse in 2008.
Michelle graduated from Western Washington University in 2007 with a (BA) History and Social Studies (Humanities) while also starting a small dairy herd with the guidance of her future husband Jay. They named the herd: Spirited Rose Jerseys after the foundation cow, a “spirited” cow named Proud Rose. Jay and Michelle married in 2007. From 2009-2012, Jay and Michelle lived in Maryland – Jay working with family & Michelle working for Chapel’s Country Creamery in Maryland making blue cheese, feta, and a line of yogurts. Michelle graduated from University of Maryland U.C. in (BS) Environmental Management.
Today, Jay & Michelle live in N.E. Washington State on a family farmstead with 3 milk cows, calves, Border Leicester sheep, chickens, cats, and Akitas Maisie & Kitsune (Kit).
In their spare time they love to visit with people, attend their local church, and have fun with their farm products. Always looking to learn something new and practice what they know!