Dairy farming is in the Schuurmans family’s blood.
Yes, Henk Schuurmans can trace his roots in the industry all the way back to 17th century Holland. That makes the owner of Floradale’s Milky Wave farm a ninth generation dairy farmer, and his sons John, Eric and Tom the tenth.
On Saturday (June 27) the Schuurmans will welcome the general public to their farm on Jesse Place Road just off of Floradale Road.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and to celebrate that they are holding a dozen of these open houses, or open barns as we call them, throughout Ontario,” Schuurmans said. “There are 7,950 dairy farmers in Ontario and there are a dozen that will be opening their doors to the general public just to educate them and give them a chance to visit one of these farms.”
It’s important for people to understand where their food comes from and how it’s produced, he said.
“A lot of people know about farms, maybe their grandfather owned a farm and they have the idea of what his farm was like in their minds, but things have changed so much over the years, and it’s good to show people what those changes are all about. We volunteered to do this because there wasn’t one in this region and since we have the tri-cities close by as well as Elmira and all of the surrounding villages, we thought that this would be a good spot to host one. The next closest one is in Milverton, and there’s one in Ingersoll, and that is quite a ways, so we decided to take part.”
Schuurmans, whose surname fittingly means “man of the barn,” is looking forward to giving visitors a tour of his 750-acre operation, home to 215 dairy cows.
In the past, school groups and visitors were common, Schuurmans said, but strict health regulations put a damper on the practice.
Coupled with the fact that more and more people are living in urban areas rather than family farms, there is a real disconnect between the public and food producers, he added.
This event strives to break the trend, giving visitors a good idea of where their dairy products come from, including a chance to watch the milking process in action.
“We milk three times a day and we will be milking from 12:30 p.m. until 3 p.m.,” Schuurmans said. “They will be able to peek through the windows to see how it’s done. There will be one person milking, and he can milk about 85 cows in an hour, so it is pretty modernized. We milk 20 cows at a time and it’s called a double-ten palour. So there are four shifts, which is 80 cows and it goes really fast. It’s all mechanized and the person hooks up and attaches the cows and keeps an eye on things and it’s all computerized too. A cow walks into the parlour and her number gets read – by the computer through a transponder on the cow’s foot – and you can see how much milk she produces and how active she was during the day.”
The Schuurmans also breed cows on the property – there are numerous calves no more than a few weeks old currently on site – and grow corn, soya and grass for feed.
Schuurmans moved to Canada from the Netherlands in the mid-80s for an agricultural exchange, soon after taking a job at the Floradale facility – then Coopon Flora – where he eventually became the dairy manager. He took over the operation in 2013, and now produces some 2.8 million litres of milk each year.
Admission is free for the open house, which will run June 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Milky Wave Farm, 1088 Jesse Place in Floradale. For more information, call 519-574-2968.