“We wake up every morning knowing that there’s a lot of hard work and determination that we’re going to have to put in to continue being successful. But it’s just what we do.”
The dairy roots run deep and wide for Johan and Trisha Heijkoop. His childhood with cows in Holland and her family ties to longtime dairy farmers in South Florida have grown into a strong bond of dedication and commitment to their livelihood.
Together they help manage two dairy farms – Milk-A-Way in Webster and K&H in Mayo – while also raising four children.
“My dad grew up on a dairy in Holland, and we had a few cows. We moved to the U.S., and my dad bought a farm up in the Panhandle of Florida,” says Johan, who worked his way up from part-time farm work to joining Gary Keyes as a partner at the two dairies where they milk a total of 1,300 cows.
Johan and Trisha met at the University of Florida, where they both studied agriculture.
“Being a dairy farmer is simply fulfilling our dream,” says Trisha, who is a member of the well-known Rucks family in Okeechobee. “We wake up every morning knowing that there’s a lot of hard work and determination that we’re going to have to put in to continue being successful. But it’s just what we do.”
The couple is active in agricultural events in their Sumter County community, and Johan was named the 2013 Outstanding Young Dairy Leader by Southeast Milk Inc., the state’s largest dairy cooperative. In 2015 the National Dairy Shrine presented Johan with the Progressive Dairy Manager award in the large herd division.
They have four children: Jozef, Julia, Johanna and Jaylee. Their father says the kids are one of the reasons he is in the dairy business. As he puts it, “They learn lessons on the farm that I can’t teach them that they will use for the rest of their lives.”