In 1901, a dairy cooperative opens in Arlington. It is called the Arlington Cooperative Association and is owned by dairymen in the area. It makes butter. In 1921, the organization will open a condensery at the plant. Eventually, it will come under the umbrella of Darigold, producing canned milk until the mid-1950s when it closes.
Cows But No Creamery
Dairying in the Northwest goes back to the Hudson's Bay Company trading fort, Fort Vancouver, but there cows were raised for beef and their milk was poor. Yet early settlers desired fresh whole milk, cheese, butter, and buttermilk, and as Washington Territory grew so did dairying.
During the 1890s around Arlington in Snohomish County, as the forests were cleared, farms raising milk cows sprang up, causing the local newspaper, The Haller City Times, to make a special appeal:
“Wanted by the People of Arlington AND FARMERS OF THIS VISCINITY. Over 300 cows within reach. Farmers would keep double the number if they had market for milk. Having spent a few days interviewing the farmers who are located within a radius of five miles of Arlington, I found them very anxious for a creamery to be located at this place; and I think if some of our enterprising citizen would take hold of this matter, they would have no trouble in such an enterprise. I have taken a list of the farmers who own cows.” (Haller City Times, June 1896).
The writer goes on to list 32 farmers with dairy cows, some with only two or three head, others with as many as 11 and 20. With no creamery to make butter, dairy farmers would have to send their cream to Seattle. The Arlington Times reported that a “Mr. Jackson” shipped the first can of cream from Arlington to Seattle on December 3, 1898 (Arlington Times, September 9, 1899). Soon his shipments had grown to 25 10-gallon cans each week.
The Business of Milk and Butter
Dairy farming has always been risky business. During the Panic of 1893, many businesses failed in Snohomish County and across the nation, and dairy farmers lost their markets. In 1901 the dairymen in the Arlington area formed the Arlington Cooperative Association with a capital investment of $2,000. August Lammers was the first president and J. C. Schloman was vice-president.
Its purpose was to provide a market for the dairy farmer. It sold buttermilk and manufactured “Arlington Peerless Butter,” paying its members more than 10 cents over the market price for butterfat. Prior to World War I, horse-drawn wagons would make the rounds on alternate days to pick up cream from dairy farms as far away as Oso and Silvana. Considering road conditions, some of the cream surely arrived half-churned.
Over time, the Arlington Cooperative Association grew to a membership of 300. By the 1920s, it was producing 1,200 pounds of butter a day. In 1921 they added a condensery, picking up the milk in trucks. A cold-storage area was expanded. In 1924, A. F. West, formerly the treasurer of the Arlington cooperative, became the general manager of the plant.
Dairy farmers still continued to experience critical drops in sales. After World War I many processors went out of business and with no markets, milk was dumped on the ground. Dairymen had already formed the Snohomish Dairymen’s Association in 1917 to help expand and market dairy products. The Arlington Cooperative Association and two other Snohomish plants came under its wing, but a market outlet was desperately needed. In 1925, after bringing together several county dairy associations, Darigold was formed. For many years, the Arlington Cooperative Association produced canned milk for that brand.
In the 1950s, the plant’s service came to a close. Bulk-tank trucks took fluid milk to the Seattle market, and the demand for evaporated milk declined. The cooperative eventually sold the plant.