NEHALEM — The Neahrings, a longtime dairying family in Tillamook County, have seen enough grief and disaster in their lives to make anyone throw in the towel.
In 1984, less than six years after Steve’s father, Donald, moved his operation from Minnesota to Oregon, Donald died and the family sold the dairy.
Later, shortly after they were married, Steve and Lynda purchased their dairy property a few miles away.
Then, in 1996, a flood hit that property at the confluence of the North Fork and main stem of the Nehalem River. The Neahrings lost more than 100 cows — two-thirds of their herd.
Neighbors and many others pitched in to help stack and haul away carcasses, donated food and cattle, helped clean up the mess and rebuilt the houses.
Twelve years later, Steve and Lynda Neahring lost their son, Nathan, 18, in a car crash.
Despite all of that, the Neahrings have persisted, today seasonally milking 215 cows. The farm consists of 350 acres of owned and leased land.
“I can’t say enough about what God has done in our lives,” Steve Neahring said.
Despite tragedy and through their hard work, the farm has supported his family. Almost three years after his farm flooded, the Neahrings joined a mission trip to Honduras to help rebuild houses following Hurricane Mitch.
“The kids helped with the rebuild, organized donations, and handed out food and clothes to people. It was a fascinating cultural experience for our family. We saw how blessed we are,” Steve said.
The Honduran work was one of several mission trips that also took the Neahrings to Nicaragua and Indonesia.
“We’ve had a great life, and the dairy has paid the bills and allowed us to do all those things,” Steve said.
He hadn’t intended to be a dairyman when he arrived with his father from Minnesota, 43 years ago, but the land they purchased was set up to be a dairy.
“So that’s what we did,” Steve said. Like the product of most Tillamook-area dairies, Neahrings’ milk goes to the Tillamook County Creamery Association, a cooperative that makes cheese and other products.
Steve met and married Lynda in Oregon, and they had seven children and have more than a dozen grandchildren.
In addition to church activities, the couple has been active in agricultural groups including Oregon State University Extension, 4-H, Tillamook-Clatsop Farm Service Agency County Committee and TCCA’s board. Steve is also on the Oregon Dairy Nutrition Council and United Dairy Industry Association boards.
Over the years, they’ve updated to fish-friendly tide gates with the added benefit that it has helped resolve flooding issues. They’ve added a composter to deal with manure and made other improvements to their land and herd.
Today, at 63, Steve Neahring has incorporated the dairy with his son, Joshua, “the dairyman of the family,” Steve said.
Despite the incorporation, the future of the dairy is uncertain as Neahring considers retirement. His older son, Tim, who takes care of the equipment and field work, has just begun an equipment repair service, as well as commercial fishing in Alaska during the early summer.
“I hope my kids end up doing what they want to do,” Steve said.
No matter what happens to his dairy, Steve said he aims to continue to live his life with integrity and honesty.
“Our faith is really what drives us. I want to be able to stand before my Maker and hear, ‘Well done.’”