Van Vulpen remains determined in the face of a changing industry

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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While the dairy industry has lost some of its lustre in recent years, Nick Van Vulpen still enjoys farming and despite the ongoing challenges in the industry he has no plans to move on to something else.

Van Vulpen remains determined in the face of a changing industry

While the dairy industry has lost some of its lustre in recent years, Nick Van Vulpen still enjoys farming and despite the ongoing challenges in the industry he has no plans to move on to something else.

Since he and his wife purchased their 250-head beef and dairy farm in Nappan in 1995, the Van Vulpens have seen plenty of challenges to their way of life but they remain determined to make it in an industry that has seen so many leave in recent years.

"I know there's a lot of negativity in the industry right now, but we're not letting that affect us," Van Vulpen said. "We've got a good operation here, a nice house, a beautiful environment to raise a family and we're raising enough income that my wife doesn't have to work out of the home."

Van Vulpen is well aware of the challenges that face the dairy industry, but feels he has been successful partially as a result of the supply management system that's in place as well as the fact farmers have a guaranteed market for their product.

Still margins have gotten so tight in the industry that a crisis such as drought, a poor crop season or BSE makes it harder for farmers to recover with some getting out of the industry altogether with no one interested in purchasing their farm operations. Many dairy farmers have also taken advantage of the high quota to price to get out of the industry before it drops.

"The succession in agriculture is very poor for a variety of reasons. The return on investment is a major factor and as time goes on the challenges seem to be increasing in certain areas," VanVulpen said. "We're almost like a dead end generation in that we're sort of on the last generation. I'm not that old but I remember when the number of milk producers in the province was over 1,000. It was about 500 when I started and it's about half that again."

While it's easy to blame government for not doing enough, Van Vulpen said, consumers have a key role to play by questioning where their food is coming from and being willing to pay a little more to support local products.

Something that would help turn things around is when consumers begin demanding a safe and stable food supply. At the same time, he feels, it's up to farmers to change the way they are doing things. Along with working hard, they have to work smart by educating themselves on the latest techniques and utilizing new technologies.

"At the end of the day we are getting a reasonable price for our milk. It could be justified to go higher, but it's no different than any other business in that other costs are going up like feed, energy, fuel and insurance," he said.



dcole@amherstdaily.com

Geographic location: Nappan

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