Northwest NEWS

January 24, 2000

Front Page

Carnation Farms closes to public

Milking herd to be downsized

by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor

   CARNATION--Nestlé Regional Training Center (NRTC), otherwise known as Carnation Farms, has closed to public tours and is downsizing the workforce and milking herd, the parent company in California announced last week.

   Nestlé USA spokesperson Rochelle Brown said that out of 50 employees, 16 will be laid off and that plans are to reduce the milking herd over time to 50 cows. Currently, the farm keeps 200 Holstein milking cows and 200 heifers. Milk is shipped to Vitamilk Dairy. Heifers at the farm now will be kept until they are ready to calve, then they will be sold, she said.

   The company will focus the dairy operation on raising heifers for other farmers and keep the remaining milking herd mainly for public relations, she explained. Brown said that although the public tours are cancelled, guided tours will be still be available to groups of schoolchildren by appointment only. The company has "adopted" Riverview's Eagle Rock Multi-Age Program and that relationship will not change.

   The public tours were eliminated because of construction that will be ongoing for about two years, she said, adding that the company is unsure whether or not they will resume. "The changes are the result of a business decision based on the company's overall restructuring," she said. "The focus of the center will be to train our employees."

   The workforce reduction will be completed by June 30, 2000, she said. "We know how difficult a transition like this can be," she said. "But we are committed to the community."

   The announcement was greeted with disbelief among local residents, many of whom consider the Farms to be part of the Valley heritage.

   "It's a very sad thing for the Valley," said Duvall dairy farmer Eunice Kosters. "It won't be the same."

   Some said they had heard that the gardens and kennels will be eliminated, as well. But Brown said the kennels will stay, and that the gardens will be maintained by outside landscapers rather than company employees.

   "The landscape design and floral arrangements will be altered to make them easier to maintain," she said. "But the changes will be subtle and they will be more efficient."

   The Nestlé Regional Training Center has been part of the local community since 1910, when it was used as a dairy breeding farm for the Carnation Company. The farm was acquired by Nestlé USA in 1985 and converted to a regional training center in 1995. The center serves as a meeting and training facility for employees from Nestlé offices, plants, and distribution centers across the country.

   "It's always difficult to come to a decision that will potentially impact the livelihood of our employees," said Joe Weller, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA. "Our goal is always to deliver the highest quality products to consumers at the most competitive price. This reduction of workforce is necessary in order for us to remain a top player in the highly competitive food industry."

   Headquartered in Glendale, California, Nestlé USA has 19,500 employees, $8 billion in sales, and is part of Swiss-based Nestlé S.A., the world's largest food company.

   "We would like to acknowledge the continued dedication of the Nestlé Regional Training Center employees," added Weller. "Their commitment to maintaining and running our NTRC facility has been a key to its success and building our relationships in the community. Nestlé is committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for displaced employees."