To say that Floyd Bodyfelt and the Oregon dairy industry have had a long and tight relationship would be an understatement.
A revered professor, Extension Service specialist and Agricultural Experiment Station researcher in dairy science at OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology, Bodyfelt is retiring this summer after 33 years of service to the citizens, students and dairy industry of Oregon.
Born and raised on a family dairy farm in Tillamook County, Bodyfelt was the oldest of 5 brothers. He won his first Jersey calf in 4-H while in grade school. He raised and sold several calves and earned "milk money" through his childhood.
When it came time to leave home, he was torn between pursuing a degree in forestry or dairy technology.
"I almost flipped a quarter to help me decide," said Bodyfelt with a laugh. "What made a difference was a $1,000 scholarship from Tillamook Creamery for my freshman year."
Bodyfelt supported himself while he was studying at OSU by working in three cheese factories and the OSU creamery, by distributing mail and serving as a resident assistant in the dorms, and by refereeing intramural sports. His education was interrupted by military service. He spent three and a half years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Texas, working in the World Burn Treatment Center and in blood banks and teaching microbiology. His love for the dairy industry and Oregon drew him back to OSU to finish his bachelor's degree in dairy technology.
"I thought maybe I wanted to run an ice cream store when I got out or something like that," he said.
But Bodyfelt's talent for teaching others, trial-by-fire learning and trouble shooting helped him pursue a career in higher education. Finishing his undergraduate degree, he was offered a job as an instructor in food science at OSU. Simultaneously, he was earning a master's degree helping cheesemakers eliminate the "fruity flavor" defect in cheddar cheese. He also managed the OSU creamery for five years.
"There was poorer sanitation in those days," explained Bodyfelt. "Milk came from the dairies in metal cans. There was a lot greater chance then than today for poor batches of dairy product."
During this time, Bodyfelt coined the first rule of dairy quality assurance-"the final product is only as good as the raw materials going into it."
After completing his M.S. in dairy processing, Bodyfelt was appointed Oregon Extension dairy processing specialist for the state. He also taught courses in dairy processing, coached the OSU collegiate dairy products judging team, and conducted dairy products research.
Bodyfelt described this busy era in his life as his "Ph.D. equivalent."
"I was extending technical information to 45 dairy plants in Oregon, managing 15 people at the campus creamery and teaching," he recalled.
By the time the OSU creamery closed in 1969, primarily due to budget constraints, Bodyfelt had five children and was ready to spend fewer than 80 hours per week at work. Teaching, research and extension work was enough to keep him busy, without running the creamery.
Over the decades Bodyfelt has worked to solve many problems and develop innovations for the dairy industry including:
-Improving the shelf life and flavor stability of dairy products.
-Perfecting ice cream quality, especially the Oregon strawberry flavor.
-Developing methods to evaluate the quality of dairy products, including his classic textbook Sensory Evaluation of Dairy Products.
-Characterizing the problem of light-induced off-flavor in milk that is packaged in plastic bottles.
-Refining lactic cultures for cheese manufacture, which helped save the Tillamook-centered cheese industry more than $1 million per year in lost productivity.
-Teaching more than 600 students through the years.
"My biggest thrill is having so many students who are now leaders in the food industry," he said. "It is most rewarding to see former students who have far exceeded their own expectations."
In retirement, Bodyfelt said he wants to relax with all the good history books he never has had time to read, watch some travel videos and "go see places first hand." And he will not stray far from his roots. He is returning, part-time, to the Bodyfelt family farm in south Tillamook County to occasionally look after the neighbor's 70 Jersey heifers that are pastured on his home place.