Sure, Donia Farms is a dairy farm, but look closer…
You’ll see a family legacy built on dreams, progress and three generations of hard work.
The van Keulen brothers’ ‘Pake’ (‘grandfather in Frisian) had always loved farming, but at the end of World War ll, farming opportunities in the Netherlands were scarce. He convinced his wife that Canada was ‘the land of opportunity’ and they immigrated. They had nothing when they arrived, but worked tirelessly in order to save enough money to start the farm of Pake’s dreams. In 1955, shortly after arriving and with less than twenty cows to their name, they started Donia Farms.
In the early 90s Pake passed the farm on to two of his sons who continued to grow the farm while maintaining attention to detail. Today, David, Jonathan and Nico are now the 3rd generation to follow in the footsteps of their Pake, Dad and Uncle.
The vast majority of Donia’s business is milk sales to the provincial milk pool. They also supply one restaurant with beef and sell freezer beef packs through their website. Recently they’ve created a new product, motivated by a desire to revive the connection between the farmer and consumer through the modern grocery model. The Donia Farms Kefir Smoothie is a specialty product made from fermented milk and can be purchased at select Save-On-Foods and Pricesmart Foods, and most T&T supermarkets, Osakas and Wholefoods Markets.
How did the decision to make Kefir come about?
We always had of dream of further processing our milk and tossed around different ideas of how to go about it. One brother, David went to Vermont to learn about making cheese. Another brother, Jonathan also explored the idea of cheese by working with a Dutch cheesemaker while he was in the Netherlands for a semester of school. We also entertained the idea of fruit milk. It was one of our employees who introduced us to Kefir. We researched it and learned that it was supposed to be the next big thing in dairy, so we decided that it would be the first product we’d bring to retail. We knew that we wanted it to be a rich wholesome drink, something that didn’t taste like watered-down yogurt.
What has been your greatest challenge to date?
Our biggest challenge is having to compete with three giant companies for space in the dairy case. If you narrow down the ownership of all the different dairy brands, you’ll see that the majority are owned by three very large corporations that have a lot of control over what it listed in stores. We are one of the very few farm ‘brands’ in the dairy case.
Where do you see Donia Farms in the future?
As BC’s first branded dairy farm, one that is known for educating the public about what actually happens on a dairy farm and one that is known as a trusted source of dairy and other farm-related products. I hope people call us pioneers when it comes to giving a face to the dairy products they enjoy so much.
Pake would be proud.