Member of Distinction: Southwest Area — Fluit Dairy

Written by Christine Bush
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A little more than 17 years ago, a young man from Holland came to the United States with a bag of clothes and enough money to buy 30 cows. Today, Johan de Boer, and his wife, Klazina, operate a dairy milking more than 1,340 cows in Dublin, Texas.

Johan grew up dairying with his family in Holland, and once he finished school, he worked for his father 70–80 hours a week. In Holland, land is expensive, making it hard to expand or buy property to start a new dairy. Since Johan had a sibling, he wasn’t sure the dairy could support all of them as they got older and the family grew. When Johan’s neighbor moved to the United States to start a dairy in Texas, Johan decided to visit him to see how the operation worked, exploring the possibility of dairying in America.

“I worked for my neighbor for a year,” Johan says. “I really liked it and thought I could probably do it myself, too. My dad was still pretty young, and so there was pretty much no chance of me taking over the dairy in Holland.”

Johan went back to Holland and spent four months getting together the necessary documents he needed to move to America. Johan and Klazina were dating at the time, and she had recently graduated as a veterinary assistant. Johan asked her to come with him to start a dairy.

“It was not a hard decision to come to Texas,” she says. “I knew that we could always move back if we wanted to.”

The couple began by leasing a dairy in DeLeon, Texas. Although the de Boers were used to the hard work of a dairy, they say starting one on their own was difficult.

“It was a lot of hard labor,” Johan says. “We fed by hand. We had a truck, but no tractors or anything. We carried buckets to feed the cows in the barn.“

Early on, the de Boers formed a good relationship with a banker. Johan started with 30 cows in October 1996 and by January 1997, he had 110 cows.

“I asked if I could borrow the money to buy 30 cows,” Johan says. “The banker gave me enough to buy another 30, so I had 60. Then out of cash flow, I bought 20 more cows. I would go back to the bank and ask for a loan for 20 more cows. That’s how we kept growing.”

The de Boers worked practically around the clock. They fed three times a day and milked three times a day. Johan says that they worked so hard, sometimes fatigue got the best of them.

“We were so tired one time, we fell asleep in the afternoon,” he says. “We woke up around midnight, and I told Klazina we could go back to sleep because we already milked a second time today. She thought about it and realized that we had slept through it. We couldn’t believe it. We just got so tired.”

In 1999, the de Boers wanted to stop leasing and find their own place. A friend told them about land in Dublin, Texas, with a lot of trees, an old dairy barn, two 150-cow freestall barns and 223 acres. They looked at the property and fell in love with it. The de Boers bought the property and named it Fluit Dairy, based on Johan’s nickname.

“In Holland, everyone has a nickname,” Klazina says. “He would walk around a lot whistling, so people called him fluit, which means to whistle.”

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