Seventh generation dairy farmer Andle van der Ploeg always knew he’d leave his home in The Netherlands to dairy in America. In fact, when he started dating his now-wife, Sjierkje, the topic came up pretty quickly.
“When we were dating, one of the first things my husband said to me was, ‘If we’re going to be serious you’re going to have to go with me to U.S.’ It was already in his mind. He was thinking very positive and seeing a lot of opportunities,” Sjierkje, also a seventh-generation dairy farmer, says.
She was willing, and the couple planned to make the move when the time was right.
When The Netherlands became part of Europe, it became obvious the time was right. New regulations made dairy farming more challenging than ever and prevented longtime dairymen from taking care of their animals in a way where they could thrive.
“In America, we knew we would have the freedom to feed the cows what they needed to be fed,” Sjierkje says. “And that’s the most important thing. Just like for people — if you eat right you are going to be healthy and more resistant to sickness. With our cows, it’s the exact same. If you feed them healthy they are healthy, happy and producing good.”
And healthy cows are Andle’s No. 1 priority — to the point that he’s been known to make himself sick over it.
“If there is one sick cow, he is not happy,” Sjierkje says. “And if he were to see more cows sick, he would be sick himself and working twice as hard to get them healthy again.”
With that type of dedication, there was no question they had to come to America. So they packed up their four young children and moved to Stephenville, Texas.
But Andle wasn’t content with Stephenville’s hotter, more humid climate.
“Our cows were not real happy there,” he says.
So, he checked around and decided to move the Mid Frisian Dairy to Clovis, N.M., just a few miles west of the Texas state line. The drier climate, coupled with plenty of available water, made the spot perfect for the 2,000-cow dairy.
And the dairy, well, that’s been the perfect spot for the family.
Andle says he always dreamed of having a special place for each of his children on the dairy after they grew up — if they wanted it, of course. One of his sons works with the cattle, another uses his mechanical skills and training to handle equipment repairs and the youngest is still finding his niche on the farm. His daughter, Karla, recently found hers when the family decided to launch a yogurt business. It’s now her job to market the product and find interested retailers — which isn’t hard when you’ve got such passion for it.
A family recipe dating back to their time in The Netherlands, Freanna Yoghurt tastes unlike most products found in the states, Karla says, though it has all of the same health benefits.
“Our yogurt contains probiotics that really help your digestive system,” Karla says. “If you’re not feeling good or have tummy aches, it helps you feel better. Plus, it has more than 20 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium [for strong bones].”
The healthy breakfast or snack fits in perfectly with the van der Ploegs healthy lifestyle and they hope it’ll soon be part of other families’ routines, too.
“All of us kids — me and my 3 brothers — we want to share that with consumers,” she says. “A big part of being healthy and taking care of yourself is what you eat. You are what you eat.”