CARRINGTON, N.D. - In the 10 years since VanBedaf Dairy opened, the surrounding community has come to regard it as an important employer and resource, as well as a provider of safe, affordable dairy products.
VanBedaf Dairy, owned by Conny and Corne van Bedaf, is a first-generation dairy farm. The couple farmed in the Netherlands and Canada before moving to Carrington in 2009.
The dairy on June 2 hosted "LegenDAIRY III," an open house, complete with free food, farm tours and a crowd of hundreds of people. As much as it showed off the gem that is North Dakota's largest dairy, it also highlighted the impact VanBedaf Dairy has had on the people around it.
The event allowed people to see modern dairy farming and the advancements made for the comfort of cattle and humans. Conny van Bedaf says her family wants consumers to feel good about the products they consume. They also host events like LegenDAIRY to say thank you to the people of Carrington and Foster County.
"We want to give back, because they've been, like, very supportive to our operation here," she says.
Father Lawrence Haas, a retired Catholic priest, had two shiny red Farmall tractors on hand to pull trailers of people taking tours of the dairy. Haas, a farmer before he was a priest, got to know the van Bedafs when they were building the dairy. His tractors have been at every open house event the dairy has hosted.
He's watched the VanBedaf family and their employees become part of the community, including sitting in the pews of his church. And he's seen the dairy have an impact on other businesses in the community, particularly those with an agricultural focus.
Foster County commissioner Pat Copenhaver was among the volunteers driving Haas's tractors at LegenDAIRY. Copenhaver says people had a lot of questions and concerns when the van Bedafs first planned their dairy, including about smell, but the fears were quickly alleviated.
"We had a lot of questions when they first come here but there's next to no smell," Copenhaver says. "I would say it's a real positive benefit for any community to have a dairy farm."
The dairy is one of the community's larger employers, and Copenhaver touts the multiplier effect of dollars spent by the business. The dairy employs 18 people, in addition to the six members of the van Bedaf family.
"They do their groceries in Carrington. They fill up on gas in the community, and they're also part of this community," van Bedaf says.
VanBedaf Dairy also has added a lot to the Foster County 4-H program and the Foster County Fair. 4-H leader Sara Hinrichs says there used to be scant interest in dairy programs among local 4-Hers. When VanBedafs moved into the area, 4-H leaders asked if they would be willing to do a leasing program.
"They just jumped on board right away," Hinrichs says. "Now we have a dairy class or a couple classes at our county fair."
As many as 13 Foster County 4-Hers have participated in the lease program in any one year. This year, there are five kids showing seven heifers from VanBedafs. The members pay $25, and the animals are fed and cared for in separate pens. The 4-Hers can come whenever they want to work with the animals. After the fair, the van Bedafs let the kids know how "their" animals are doing.
The dairy has given back in other tangible ways, including at LegenDAIRY. The dairy's Duchessa Gelato was provided free to the public thanks to the North Dakota Livestock Alliance. Free-will donations were accepted, to be delivered later to the Carrington Daily Bread Program.