Jan and Rinske de Jong bid farewell to their native home, the Netherlands to seek new opportunities in the United States. Leaving friends and family in Holland, they were guided by a passion and a dream of starting a dairy of their own. Working Cows Dairy was established in 1985 in Florida and later relocated to Slocomb, AL, where they have operated since 1991. They have been members of ASAN for a number of years, and even hosted one of ASAN’s Regional Food & Farm Forums in 2015. For more information about their farm and products be sure to visit their website, www.workingcowsdairy.com.
Rinske was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. Here is what she had to share:
How did you all first get into dairy farming?
Jan’s father was a dairy farmer and he grew up in the trade. Their family farm in Holland became too small to support two families which is why we chose to move to the US to start our own farm.
Has the family tradition of dairy farming continued with your sons?
Unfortunately, no. Currently the farm is run by myself and one other employee, the rest of the family has stepped away from farming. My oldest son, Jonny, runs Alabama’s Organic Dairy Products so his work is at least still closely related processing milk at the farm; he handles everything from raw milk to store shelf. AODP is the company name and books they keep for the processing and marketing side. It’s all on the same farm just different businesses.
Can you tell me about the mission of Working Cows Dairy?
Our mission is to satisfy the demanding taste buds of the Southeast with delectable, local, organic, grass fed dairy products. Our vision is to become the premier processor of the finest organic dairy products in the Southeast while maintaining our key principles as we move forward.
What advice would you share with other farmers considering the transition to organic?
I’m not sure. It’s been a hard road from conventional to organic in the dairy industry. Before you’re approved, you’re required to feed your cows organic feed for an entire year, unfortunately while still only being able to fetch conventional prices. I’m not sure if it’s the same for produce farmers.
We have a strong presence in the Southeast. I think we have grown mostly from word of mouth. When you’re a small business like ours and don’t have an advertising budget, this is especially important.