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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Dairy farmers get welcome in Fulton County

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ada Van de Kolk visits a newborn calf at her family's new 600-cow dairy farm in Fulton County's Chesterfield Township. Ada Van de Kolk visits a newborn calf at her family's new 600-cow dairy farm in Fulton County's Chesterfield Township.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

WAUSEON - Leaving the Netherlands to build a dairy farm in Fulton County with her family was harder than Ada Van de Kolk expected.

"I really missed my old life. Knowing my way around. Knowing all the stores, the neighbors,'' she told 135 people at a Farmer's Share Lunch sponsored by the Fulton County Farm Bureau yesterday. "I'm really glad when I meet someone I know on the road so I can wave.''

Her speech focused on her family, their love of dairy farming, the farm they left in the Netherlands, and the farm they built in northern Fulton County - Chesterfield Dairy LLC - which started milking 600 cows last month.

It was the first time Mrs. Van de Kolk has spoken publicly since moving from the Netherlands, and Fulton County Farm Bureau organizers credited her with drawing a much larger than usual crowd to their 11th annual Farmer's Share Lunch.

The Van de Kolks' investment in cows, barns, and land is at least $3 million, according to an estimate from Ohio State University dairy scientist Normand St-Pierre. With 600 cows, their annual sales should typically be about $1.8 million, he said. The Van de Kolks declined to discuss financial details of their new farm.

In her speech, Mrs. Van de Kolk talked about how farming and raising a family in the Netherlands is different from Ohio.

In the Netherlands, farm homes are much closer together, she said, showing a picture of her family's former farm near Wanroig. Land costs more than $12,000 an acre - four times typical prices in northwest Ohio, which along with a milk quota system severely limits opportunities for young farmers.

Children ride bicycles rather than buses to school - even if they live in the country and the trip takes 30 minutes.

The winters are warmer than in Fulton County, seldom dipping below freezing, and summers are cooler, with few days above 90 degrees.

"Although the cows don't mind the cold weather, we are definitely ready for spring," she said as the crowd chuckled.

Mrs. Van de Kolk, who is 33; her husband, Karel, 38; his younger brother, Harm, 30, and Harm's wife, Yvonne, 28, increased the number of dairy cows in rural Chesterfield Township by 150 percent when they started milking last month, according to other farmers at the lunch. They could only think of two other dairy farms in the township, one with 250 cows and the other with about 150.

Eventually the Van de Kolks expect to milk more cows; they built their milking parlor to handle 1,200 cows. That would not be a large farm in the West, but it would be huge in Fulton County, which has lost many of its livestock farms.

At the beginning of 2003, Fulton County had 1,400 milk cows, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6102.



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