Yff Dairy Farm expresses compassion towards family and animals
With the number of dairy farms on the decline in the province, Albertans should be thankful for dedicated farmers like Pieter Ijff, 51, keeping the industry alive.
Ijff, pronounced (eye-ff) immigrated to Alberta in 1997 from Holland, where he owned a small dairy farm. Once relocated to the Red Deer County area, the farm began to grow, as did his family, which today consists of his three sons and wife Jacqueline.
Owning his own business and working hard on it daily keeps Ijff very close to his family. “Dairy farming is a lifestyle, we work everyday, but you’re always close to your family. I get to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my wife and my kids when they’re home.”
The Canadian Dairy Information Centre (CDIC) states that there are approximately 544 dairy farms left in Alberta. “All farms are crucial”, to keeping the industry alive in Alberta says Ijff.
The number of Canadian dairy farms has dropped 91 per cent since 1971, says the CDIC.
Ijff chose to alter the spelling of the name of his dairy farm to “Yff” to make it easier for English speakers to pronounce.
Since establishing his dairy farm in Red Deer County, Ijff has tripled his land and doubled his number of cows, further strengthening the future of the farm. With 200 cows to be milked in the morning and afternoon, Ijff works hard with his sons, when they aren’t in school, and a group of hired help to keep his farm running in top condition.
Photo courtesy of Pieter Ijff
Ijff, believes strongly in strengthening the local agricultural economy, as he buys materials for his farm locally as often as possible to support other agricultural endeavours.
He also strongly believes that treating his animals well and keeping them comfortable is essential in ensuring successful milk production, and in return, success for his farm.
“If you’re good to your animals, your animals are good to you” Ijff explains.
Rob Ijff, Pieter’s oldest son, was enthusiastic in explaining his father’s work ethic. “There’s no such thing as weekends, you work every single day. You have to plan your entire life around making sure the farm is okay, and my dad has mastered that. He’s easily the hardest working guy I know.”
There are many Dutch immigrants in the Red Deer County area, according to Ijff. He explained that many of the Dutch immigrants who settled in Alberta are there because of the excess of space that allows their farm’s to flourish, and the newness of the infrastructure in the area.
Photo courtesy of Pieter IjffIjff faces challenges daily, as dairy farming is a 365 day a year job. With multiple, important tasks, and a milking schedule to work around, Ijff finds himself constantly busy, and describes the demanding hours to be the most challenging part of running his dairy farm.
However, owning his own business and working hard on it daily keeps Ijff very close to his family.
While the family time is the main bonus, Ijff also finds his farming lifestyle very rewarding when his cows are happy and his barley, alfalfa, canola, and oats are growing well.
Jim Towle is a delegate for Alberta Milk, a select group of farmers who listen to producers within their region, and bring forward concerns or issues to be dealt with at the board level. Delegates like Towle strive to bring grassroots issues from the every-day producer to the board to solve problems and improve the industry.
Towle knows Ijff through the farming community, as both Ijff and Towle are Alberta Milk delegates. Towle described Ijff as a “progressive, conscientious farmer who cares greatly for his animals and for the industry as a whole.”
He believes Ijff is great for the community and is a direct contradiction to a common misconception farmers are labeled with.
“I’ve been farming for 40 years, and we hear criticism that we don’t care for our animals, but the reality is that if you don’t care for them, the animals won’t produce for you to make a living.”
In response to questions dealing with the expansion of the farm in the near future, Iff laughed and said, “I have enough work right now.”
“It depends on what the kids want to do,” Ijff explained with regards to the next steps Yff Dairy will take. Ijff does have high hopes for the farm’s future though, as his son Erik is on his way to completing an agricultural degree.