Meet the Okkemas
De Grins Oer Dairy is very excited to be hosting the second Breakfast on the Farm event of the year. Tjerk and Ramona Okkema are looking forward to opening their farm to the public and showcasing how their operation has expanded since it began in 1999.
The couple met while Ramona, a dairy farmer’s daughter from New Hampshire, was abroad participating in the International 4-H Youth Exchange Program. Her travels took her to the Netherlands, where Tjerk was born and raised. Tjerk’s father was also a dairy farmer and taught him about the industry. After being married in 1991, the couple moved to Achlum, the Netherlands, where Tjerk took over the family farm. He milked almost 100 head of cattle and cared for around 120 sheep.
Sometime during 1997, Tjerk and Ramona realized it would be very difficult and expensive to modernize their farm according to Dutch federal regulations. With that in mind, Tjerk traveled to Michigan on a search for farm land. Michigan was his destination of choice because Tjerk had a friend in the Netherlands who was from the state.
In April of 1999, the Okkemas returned to the states and started De Grins Oer Dairy, which means Over the Border Dairy. The farm started out milking 30 cows and working 260 acres of farm land. Since then, the family has continued to expand the operation. In 2003, they again added sheep to their business.
The MAEAP verified farm currently has over 700 cows and 35 sheep. De Grins Oer Dairy has 350 milking and dry cows, 130 bred heifers and 250 heifer calves. Bull calves born on the farm are either sold as 4-H livestock projects or taken to auction to be raised as dairy steers. The farm employs six people outside of the family members. Employees help milk the cows twice a day and perform other daily farm duties. Each milking cow at De Grins Oer Dairy produces an average of 10 gallons of milk per day. The bulk tank that collects all of the milk on the farm has the capacity to hold 2,600 gallons of milk at a time. The milk is picked up twice a day by a local milk hauler. The milk that is collected is marketed through Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) and finds its way into many different dairy products including Leprino cheese and Country Fresh milk.
The farm currently works around 900 acres of ground. They grow alfalfa, oats and corn, which are utilized as feed for the cows.
Outside of the farm, the Okkema’s are members of Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Milk Producers Association and National Corn Grower’s Association. Tjerk and Ramona have three children- Dirk (21), Cora (19) and Evelyn (16).