Wild blueberries, mink, Christmas trees and more add to van Dyk success
By Emma Geldart
WEST CALEDONIA, N.S. - The van Dyk family farm is nothing short of incredible.
With many smaller farming businesses branching from a farm once run by their parents, the van Dyk‚Äôs have a lot on their plate. From wild blueberries, a construction company, world-famous wild blueberry juice, mink, Christmas tree land, and more in the works, at first sight it may seem they have bitten off more than they can chew. But that‚Äôs not the case at all. There is only one way to keep everything running - working together as a family.
Bible Hill agricultural college alumni Peter van Dyk (Class of ‚Äė84), son of Cornelius (Case) and Henrica (Riek) van Dyk, plays a major role in keeping the farm in the family and giving back to their community. Located in West Caledonia, the van Dyk name is widely recognized.
In 1954, Case van Dyk and his wife Riek moved to West Caledonia from Holland. With them they brought their farming experience and started Ons Genoegen Farms. At that time, Ons Genoegen Farms concentrated on dairy, although it was typical for them to have a little bit of everything. Eventually they concentrated on farming hogs and in 1977, their operation was a 200 sow farrow-to-finish operation. Case and Riek have nine children - six boys and three girls, many of whom have different ties to the original family farm.
Today, Ons Genoegen Farms still stands in West Caledonia and is owned by Peter and his brother, Gerry (Class of ‚Äė77). There are no longer any hogs or dairy cows on sight, though. Ons Genoegen Farms is now part excavation company and part mink farm. They also have Christmas tree land and pastures that they lease out. From Ons Genoegen Farms branches a few smaller businesses including the business that produces what the Van Dyk‚Äôs are most famous for: their wild blueberry juice.
Case and Riek own a company called van Dyk Health Juice Products. The company produces, prepares and sells wild blueberry juice made from Grade A, Nova Scotia-grown wild blueberries. Their juice has no additives, no sweeteners or sugar. Simply, 100 per cent wild blueberries.
‚ÄúTo make the juice the berries go through a press,‚ÄĚ Peter explains. ‚ÄúWhat comes out of that press is what goes into the bottle. Nothing else is added, that‚Äôs what makes it so good for you.‚ÄĚ
Case developed the blueberry juice many years ago. Working with agricultural scientists from the Kentville Research Station, they developed the juice that is now known for its delicious taste and major health benefits. Prior to the juice, the van Dyk‚Äôs were harvesting and selling fresh wild blueberries. Because of the equipment used to make the juice, they no longer sell fresh berries as there is not enough space in their warehouse.
The juice is made and bottled in a small warehouse down the road from the van Dyk‚Äôs ‚Äúhome base,‚ÄĚ Ons Genoegen Farms. There they employ a crew of five women who produce, bottle, label and package the juice for shipping. van Dyk‚Äôs wild Blueberry Juice is shipped to countries all around the world. Peter explains that China and South Korea are two of their major customers. They also ship all across Canada and some to the United States. Their product is so popular, the van Dyk‚Äôs are looking at new product development to expand their line.
The van Dyk‚Äôs currently have around 500 acres of wild blueberry land. They are also working on preparing another 100 acres to bring into blueberry production. They have land in Queens County, Annapolis County, Digby County, Shelburne County and Yarmouth County.
Emma Geldart is a recent graduate of the public relations program at MSVU and a former marketing and communications assistant at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture.