Darigold, Inc.

Darigold puddle, PDX

One of the sights on my walks between Brooklyn and downtown Portland is an old dairy cooperative, now the local plant of Darigold, Inc., headquartered up in Seattle. Darigold Portland has been doing some site demolition the last few months, cleaning up. Part of the old site had been being used by a dog-food producer, and one can imagine what that smelled like, walking by in the heat of summer (since dogs will eat what people won't). But the dog-food production seems to be gone.* A local fertilizer producer, Concentrates, Inc., had also been renting space on the site, but they moved out last fall down to Milwaukie.

I wish now I had taken pictures of two large yellow silos, the rust peeling in large chunks off the sides. They loomed above me, apocalyptic, every time I walked past. I hadn't known they were scheduled for destruction, a missed photo op. The location photos in this post were taken a month ago, and the deconstruction debris has since been cleared, old storage buildings on the east side making way for something new, something unannounced, something coming. Shiny metal Milky Way trucks are parked on the north side of the fenced and gated area, waiting for processing within the modern Darigold buildings on the west side, while Darigold-branded freight trucks haul out the packaged goods through a gate on the southeast side, usually at night.

Darigold demolition

Darigold markets itself as "one of the nation's largest agricultural cooperatives," producing "seven billion pounds of milk every year," including all the usual "value-added food ingredient solutions," more commonly known as dairy products, from butter, yogurt, and cheese to whey and milk powder for constructs like baby formula and protein supplements.** An occasional customer, I happen myself to be spreading Darigold butter this week on no-knead bread baked yesterday. (There had been a crazy-cheap butter sale at WinCo a few months back, and I bought three pounds for the freezer).

Darigold-buttered no-knead bread

Though Darigold's history is indeed as a farm cooperative, with Darigold employees union members, a darker side can be found under certain barn roofs, the United Farm Workers charging that cow milkers aligned with the Ruby Ridge Dairy in eastern Washington are being discriminated against for seeking union representation to combat alleged employer abuses (e.g., let them drink water from the cow troughs), with suits being filed, petitions being delivered, and big-boss Darigold refusing to weigh in. Even Occupy has marched. The moral of the story may be that even cooperatives can grow corrupt once they balloon to corporate size, the nature of bureaucracies and top-heavy administrators to wax aloof when workers are viewed from high-up offices, a detached, bird-like perspective in which humans begin to resemble ants, interchangeable.

This is the stuff of which Kafka wrote, men waking one day to find themselves morphed into insects, wronged in and by their own bodies, men walking the halls of red tape, following rules and systems with no logical purpose. The indifference of bureaucracies and corporations that care (if corporate personhood could be granted emotion) only for stockholder profits and CEO bonuses has created a dilemma for the modern worker, the job losses and financial frustrations of trying to hold a middle-class (read: working-class) life together under current conditions revealing cracks in the system that more Americans are falling into en masse for the first time since the Great Depression.

And those who still have relatively well paying full-time jobs are often loaded with the duties of others who've quit in attrition or been laid off, the remaining workers often laboring after their colleagues have disappeared at what used to be two or three jobs now under one position/title, those workers typically going unreplaced to save the company money. Why pay two or three employees when one will do, as long as the grumbling stays limited to his or her family?

I suspect many of those who still have "good jobs" tend to believe on some level that those who don't possess fatal character flaws, deserving their fate of un- or underemployment—wrong personality, wrong degree, wrong networking, wrong work ethic, wrong company, wrong timing. One day, however, no one will be immune to the economic changes of globalization, the lying promises of greater prosperity for all when the truth is that in capitalism, most profits funnel up as long as someone in the world is willing to work for less or take on the work of absent others to feed themselves. Most workers are complicit in this oppression. And most of us are ignorant of how deep and pervasive the new system has spread, for it thrives in the dark like mycelia.  

old Darigold plant, PDX

Let the light in.

old dairy cooperative building

*Note: I remember seeing a dog-food sign through the fencing but haven't yet found Internet proof.

**Note: For the "value-added food-ingredient solutions" source, click on the High Quality tab on the linked Web page.

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