Mike and Leann Krainick have a multi-faceted farming and dairy operation in King County Wash., not far from the state's largest metropolitan area.
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Leann and Mike Krainick operate a diversified dairy operation in King County, Wash. Krainick Dairy

Mike’s grandfather, Charles Krainick Sr. started the farm more than 100 years ago, after immigrating from Europe in the early 1900s. After working in the coal mines at Black Diamond, he purchased 80 acres and 12 Holstein cows in nearby Enumclaw, in 1912.

In 1956, Krainick Dairy had 68 Jersey cows and grew 300 tons of grass silage and 150 tons of hay and oats.

Charles Jr. added land and increased the dairy herd to 200 cows by 1980. Mike was the youngest of his 4 children. When Mike graduated from Washington State University in 1991 and came back to manage the farm, new barns were added and milking parlor was remodeled, reaching a 750-cow capacity.

Mike met his wife, Leann, in 1997. She’d received her animal science degree from Oregon State University in 1993.

“There was no internet back then, and I never thought I’d meet any farmers in Seattle, and Mike never thought he’d meet anyone who could tolerate cow manure. We got married in 1999, after having met via the bull semen salesman!” she said.

They purchased a second dairy in 2011 and lease four other farms from retired dairymen. Today they milk 1,250 cows, and farm 1,400 acres.

They fed spent brewers grain for many years from several nearby breweries.

“In 2007, the man we’d been getting spent grain from offered us his business,” said Leann.

“We bought an old Kenworth truck and two trailers from him and his accounts, and started hauling grain,” she said. “About that time the craft brewery scene in Seattle got started and we now service about 20 breweries and distilleries in this area.”

Mike and Leann have always been innovative.

“In 2010 we purchased a BeddingMaster composter. It composts our separated cow manure (it heats and dries it) and use it as bedding rather than buying wood shavings or straw,” she said. This material is light and fine and looks like peat moss, but is dry and sterile.

“In 2010 a friend who grows giant pumpkins got some of our composted material for fertilizer and broke the record at the Washington State Fair with his giant pumpkin, and now several pumpkin growers use it. We started selling it as ‘Scarecrow’s Pride’ and it’s certified for organic use.”

Last year was their 5th annual great pumpkin weigh-off with Scarecrow’s Pride.

“We had 30 pumpkins enter, with $7,000 in prize money. The following weekend (in October) was the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival by the Seattle Space Needle. They filled two pumpkins, each with 4 kegs of beer, and tapped those for 7,000 people. Proceeds went to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research, and they got a check for $150,000,” Leann said. This all happened because the dairy cows needed feed.

“Our herd is about 40% purebred Holsteins, 40% Jersey and the rest are crosses. We raise our own heifers. They are developed at Mountain View Cattle Company in Othello, and we bring them back to Enumclaw to calve,” she said.

Space is limited for farming in King County.

“A farmland preservation program started in the early 1980s. We sold the development rights on our farm in the mid-1980s and are only allowed to have 5% of our land in buildings, driveways, etc.”

They have two parlors — a double 12 parallel and a double 16.

“We can’t have a rotary parlor because they take more space. This is also why we bought our BeddingMaster. Manure digesters are great but take space,” she said.

The farm has 25 full-time employees.

“One has been with us for 21 years. At least half our crew has been with us 7 years or more,” she said.

Leann does a lot of public speaking to educate consumers, and tells people there are about 350 dairy farms in Washington state and all have one goal — to get milk from a cow — but there are 350 different ways to accomplish that.

“Every dairy is unique, and we try to do the best with the resources available,” she said.

She and Mike purchased dairy antiques like cream separators and old milking machines, and try to tell the dairy story with displays at the King County Fair and Washington State Fair.

Their most expensive cow is Buttercup — a fiberglass life-size cow that kids can milk at public events and farmers markets.

Leann gives talks to university students, professionals, and chefs.

“It’s pretty basic — the story of our farms, why we have calves in hutches, etc. We explain the calves in hutches issue (social distancing!) so people can understand it better.”

Despite Covid impacting restaurants, Fonterra’s food service business has reached a milestone to become a $3 billion annual revenue business.

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