THE vander kooi FAMILY FARM
Dave Vander Kooi loves cows.
That simple fact prompted him to buy four cows from a neighbor and begin milking when he was a sophomore in high school. He’s still at it 48 years later and has been an AMPI member since that first milking.
“I’m probably one of the oldest numbered AMPI patrons,” Dave said. “I’ve never sold milk to anybody else. They’ve always been good to me, and I’ve tried to be good for them.”
These days, Dave partners with his son Joe to operate Ocheda Dairy in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Their 2,000 cows produce enough milk to fill nearly three, 7,000-gallon truckloads daily.
Cow care is a priority at Ocheda Dairy. “I learned early on in my dairy farming career that if you take care of the cows, the cows will take care of you financially,” Dave said.
Animal comfort is key. “We do a lot of things that may cost a little more on the front side, but we believe it’s better for the cow and, at the end of the day, it’s better for our bottom line,” Joe said.
Joe and wife Rita are raising their five children on the farm, which they believe provides an enriching environment. “There’s nothing like watching your kids play in this setting,” Rita said. “We’re very fortunate that they can grow up right here.”
Rita enjoys sharing her farm lifestyle with friends. “I love to give tours of the dairy, especially to my friends who are moms,” she said. “When I talk to them about the way we care for our cows, so much of it relates to how they care for their children.” She likes connecting with consumers to help them understand where their food comes from.
“We are really proud that we make a great product. Our milk has a nutritional value for all families,” Rita said. “And it’s neat to think that my friends are serving food produced here at our farm to their families.”