This article was #18 in PDmag's Top 25 most-well read articles in 2010.
Summary: In 2003, Darin Dykstra of Dykstra Dairy moved two-thirds of his family’s dairy cows from Chino, California, to a new dairy in Maurice, Iowa. His now 3,000-cow facility is located just a few miles from the headquarters of his processor – Wells’ Dairy. With the help of great employees, the Midwest Dairy Association, his wife, his church and Blue Bunny ice cream, he is able to keep his dairy ever-ready to give dairy tours.
Because this article was so popular, we asked Darin Dkystra a follow-up question:
Q. What are the top three messages you want to share with every tour group that visits your dairy?
A . 1) Every dairy farmer has to take great care of their cows in order to remain profitable. We need to have comfortable, content, healthy and productive cows and all the technologies we use on our dairy help us get that kind of cow.
2) I'm a caretaker of the cows and land God has given me. I believe we should strive to use our resources wisely and constantly be looking for better ways to produce milk efficiently. Dairy farmers are getting better at what they do everyday.
3) All milk and dairy products you purchase are wholesome and nutritious. None of them have pesticides or antibiotics in them and milk naturally contains hormones just like many foods you purchase. Purchase the dairy products that are the least expensive and satisfy your tastes, you will have a lot more money left to purchase more of them.
— Darin Dykstra, dairy producer in Maurice, Iowa
In 2003, Darin Dykstra of Dykstra Dairy moved two-thirds of his family’s dairy cows from Chino, California, to a new dairy in Maurice, Iowa. His now 3,000-cow facility is located just a few miles from the headquarters of his processor – Wells’ Dairy.
Because of his close proximity to the national ice cream maker’s headquarters, Dykstra frequently entertains company guests and both local and long-distance visitors. He shares why he’s willing and able to keep his dairy ever-ready to give dairy tours.
1. Great employees
Dykstra says it’s policy to explain to all new employees at hiring the unique nature of his dairy’s tour policy. Employees know that at any time their work may be on public display. Herdsman Eric Van Wyk often gives requested tours. Van Wyk and all the employes do a great job, Dykstra says. “I like to educate people. I want to show that a large commercial dairy cares just as much about their cows as a 50-cow dairy,” Dykstra says.
2. Midwest Dairy Association
Dykstra says the regional checkoff- funded organization provides public relations assistance and materials, including a printed brochure with facts about the dairy for handouts during public tours. Dykstra says his goal is to be open and honest with visitors. “Not everyone that steps on this dairy will have the same perspective of dairying as I do. You have to be ready and able to take some occasional heat from people,” Dykstra says.
3. My wife
Dykstra says his wife, Linda, has helped make the dairy’s tours more educational for women and children. During tours, he tries to answer the types of questions that moms might have about milk production so that when they go to the store they have no doubts dairy products are a safe, healthy product for their kids.
4. My church
A God-fearing man who attends Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa, Dykstra says he dairies not just for himself but to glorify God. “Our dairy isn’t that much different from other dairies. I just want consumers to see that taking care of people, animals and the environment is part of the Christian view of the world that I grew up with,” Dykstra says.
5. Blue Bunny Ice Cream
Dykstra’s Dairy is often the final stop of a Wells’ Dairy Blue Bunny Ice Cream corporate tour. Visitors see the plant first, visit its in-house ice cream parlor and then come to Dykstra’s by bus. Usually Dykstra knows ahead of time if a group will be coming. Often the call comes a week in advance, but not always, Dykstra says with a grin. PD
When building his new facility Darin Dykstra says he knew he wanted a crow’s nest overlooking the parlor. Tours of Dykstra Dairy begin here. Dykstra says frequently-asked questions about which cows are fat and which ones are skinny and why the dairy uses iodine are opportune times to explain proper body condition and milk quality. Photo by Walt Cooley.
Click on the Midwest Dairy Association (right) and Blue Bunny (left) images to visit the respective sites.
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