Like candy canes? Thank the state of Oregon.

"It's beginning look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow."

What would the holiday season be without candy canes? Although its origin dates back more than 350 years, the candy cane we know and love today, white with red stripes, has been in the culture of Christmas since the early 1900s. And although there are many varieties, flavors and colors of candy canes, peppermint reigns supreme as the most popular.

Interestingly, Oregon is one of the nation's largest producers of peppermint, having about 19,000 acres of it in 2008. Oregon also ranks in the top 20 for nationwide milk production with about 114,000 dairy cows. This makes sense, if you think about it. A candy cane is so much better when enjoyed with a mug of hot chocolate -- made with milk, of course.

Three dairy producers helping to provide that milk are featured on the Dairy Farmers of Oregon website.

Richard Orbrist is a third generation dairy farmer in Tillamook. His farm is one of eight that participates in an innovative collective effort for turning manure into fertilizer, compost and electrical energy through a methane digester.

Dan Bansen and his daughter, Jamie, milk 1,300 Jerseys in Dayton, Oregon, and their operation was featured in a virtual farm tour during the 2008 World Dairy Expo. Bansen is a member of the Organic Valley Cooperative and the Farmer's Cooperative Creamery.

Rod Volbeda is one of the few farmstead cheese operations in Oregon, and his seven-year-old business, Willamette Valley Cheese Company, has already received dozens of cheese awards.

Another great Oregon dairy farm is Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman. The farm recently began hiring international refugees as dairy workers, helping those refugees to begin a new and fulfilling life in the United States. Read their inspirational story through these three articles, written by 2009 Progressive Dairyman summer intern Alisa Anderson:

Oregon dairy taps into refugee workforce
Refugees start a new life on Oregon dairy
Dairy community welcomes refugees to new home

Alisa also wrote about the Dairy Research Center at Oregon State University, where veterinarians and researchers discovered a way to monitor the health and comfort of dairy cows 24-7. According to those researchers, the system made managing the herd much more efficient, and it especially improved the breeding program.

Whether it is organic dairying, marketing farmstead cheese or being apart of the latest research, Oregon dairy producers and professionals are always looking for ways to improve their industry. So the next time you enjoy a candy cane this holiday season, you can be proud of Oregon for not only its peppermint, but also its progressive dairy businesses.

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