John Steiger, Co-Owner of By George Farms, said that COVID took a toll on the business. COVID made it difficult for Steiger, and Co-Founder Tyson Fehrman, to maintain labor because they weren’t bringing in money at the same rate as they were pushing it out.
Steiger said that farmer’s markets took a big hit during the pandemic; groceries went up and By George especially struggled because it’s products are more expensive.
Supply chain, water rights, and gas issues also proved to be challenging factors in operating the farm during the pandemic.
“I’m originally from Wisconsin and I didn’t know the expression, ‘Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting’ until I moved to Oregon and I started to understand water rights, becuase we get shut off earlier and earlier every year,” said John Steiger, Co-Owner of ByGeorge Farms.
Supply chain delays meant they couldn’t get containers, jars, or labels and water rights issues forced the farm to slow down earlier each year. Additionally, the rising cost of diesel fuel put even more strain on business. Steiger said they were going to just slow down at first, but ultimately decided to shut down the creamery entirely.
“All of your farm machinery runs on diesel, so that means that your farmers that are producing your hay are going to have to pay more to produce the same amount of hay,” said Steiger. “If we don’t have enough water then the price of hay will go sky high this season.”
By George Farms will be scaling down their herd during this year’s feeding season and could be the first of many small dairy farms to close down in the Rogue Valley.
“I definitely feel as though this is going to be, I hate to say it, a trend especially with small farmers,” Steiger said. “We can’t afford labor costs, the costs of goods are going up, specifically for your small local beef and dairy farmers.”
Steiger and Fehrman are not sure what the future holds for them just yet. They are optimistic about re-opening, but don’t have timeline for when that might be.