Where have you gone, Pete Verboom Dairy?

This is where they did it.
A wind-swept edifice just off Highway 76 in Pala Valley.

A wind-swept edifice just off Highway 76 in Pala Valley.

Wind kicks across the site of the old, abandoned Pete Verboom Dairy just off Highway 76, west of Pala.

Once an iconic and important dairy farm among hundreds of San Diego County dairy operations, Pete Verboom Dairy No. 1 and No. 2 are no more, and left blowing in the Pala Valley wind.

Verboom was president of the San Diego County Milk Producers Council. He built a 100-acre dairy in the Pala Valley in 1966. Eventually, he had two dairies on the property and 14 buildings.

From that point to 2000, over 100 dairies either left San Diego County or folded. Environmental regulation and changing demand caused the remaining two dozen localoperations to relocate to the Central Valley around places like Hanford and Visalia. Verboom went even farther relocating in 2000 to a 500 acre farm at Orland, north of Sacramento.

As with many North County dairy people in the 1990s, Verboom ran afoul of the powers that were over wastewater runoff concerns and cowbirds that hung around the dairy farm and poached other bird’s eggs and lifestyles. Not nice.

Another significant factor was land value making it more profitable to sell, close and move or retire. Verboom, 60 years old in at the turn of the century, said he was moving because his children wanted to stay in the dairy business and San Diego County wasn’t happening anymore for dairy people. The last new dairy built in the county, believe it or not, was on 1971, according to Verboom.

Gambling on the future

Another factor was the glitzy new casinos in the neighborhood.

“You should see the casino they;re building over there,” Verboom said, referring to what we now know as Harrah’s Resort southern California. “It’s the Taj Mahal. They’re going to employ something like1,200 people.

“Then, you’ve got three more coming, one in Rincon, one in Pauma Valley and another one on the La Jolla Reservation,” Verboom said.

Caltrans even got an easement straight through the milking barns to straighten and widen the road. Then, there was the matter of proposed Gregory Canyon landfill, the hugely controversial project to put in a giant landfill.

In fact, Gregory Canyon Limited punched Verboom’s ticket out of Dodge, purchasing Verboom’s farms that sat just north and west of the landfill site. After years of extremely negative public blowback, however, Gregory Canyon was rejected by San Diego Supervisors.

Zut and ehe’, Verboom and his 1,200 head of Holstein/Brown Swiss cattle went away abandoning 14 buildings on 100 Pala Valley acres.

Don’t cry for Pete, though he made a profit in the land exchange. He sold the Pala property for $5,000 per acre, purchasing his new Orland land for $2,500 per acre.

And lived happily every after. Moo.