Brit Derksen comes from a long line of Dairy Farmers in Alberta that she can trace back to the early 1900s. In addition to working on the family farm, Brit also works with Alberta Milk Ambassador prorgam, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
AOTP: How did you get into dairy farming?
BD: My great grandpa started the farm in 1918 at 17 years old. He began milking cows in 1942, 12, in a tie stall barn which is now our calf barn. My grandparents took over from him in 1959 milking 30 cows. After that, my parents began milking as well in 1984 and bought the farm soon after that. So I am now the 4th generation on the same farm, milking cows and loving it.
My family has been involved in the dairy industry for a long time. So long that my parents were a part of the Calgary Milk Producers, which then became the Chinook Milk Producers (which my dad suggested as a name), and later it all rolled into one community across Alberta, which we all know as Alberta Milk. My parents have sat on numerous boards over the years but have since stepped back from them.
I myself have jumped in wherever I can, including being a part of Holstein Canada with my own cows, and also a part of the Alberta Milk Ambassador Program, which works to promote and educate people about the dairy industry and what we do in order to provide Canadians with high quality, safe and nutritious dairy products. My parents always taught me to get involved and learn what I could at every chance. Because of that I have been given so many opportunities in the dairy industry including working at the Stampede, becoming an ambassador, and even working on some videos with Alberta Milk showing how we farm and highlighting our high standards of how our milk is produced, and many projects with Dairy Farmers of Canada including a national campaign featuring my farm and myself representing the Canadian dairy industry.
AOTP: What does your operation look like now?
BD: Our family farm is still pretty much the same, just with a few changes. When my grandparents took over, they built a saw tooth parlor in 1968/1969, where they milked 4 cows at a time. And wow was that a parlor to be seen in its beginnings. My dad and grandpa milked 30 cows this way for many years. When I was a kid we still milked that way. In 2000 we tore it all out between morning and evening chores and put in a single row herringbone where we milk 8 cows at a time, and we still do it that way today. It is pretty cool to still be working in the same place that so many members of my family did. Now we have more cows, a few new buildings, but it is still mostly the same. I love the history we have here.
AOTP: How many cows do you currently have?
BD: On our family farm we are milking 46 cows at the moment. So including all of our dry cows, heifers, bulls and steers, we have 117 animals here and I consider all of them my pets. We milk Holsteins, jerseys, and I have a few wagyu babies as well.
AOTP: What is your favourite memory as a dairy farmer?
BD: My favorite memory…I could go on for ages with that. Some are when my mom came to my school to give us kids a presentation about dairy nutrition, as she was heavily involved in what was referred to at the time as the Dairy Nutrition Council of Alberta. That was cool. I got to skip school as a kid so I could help with silaging or hauling bales. I was always outside as a kid and I still am today. I had chores, animals to play with, places to explore, and things to learn. Including learning to drive the bobcat at a young age. That was my job and I loved it. No matter what I always had a pet. My nick name as a kid was Critter. I was constantly bringing in animals, nursing kittens, and snuggling calves. I was surrounded by animals and it was and is my happy place.
AOTP: How can people enjoy your products?
BD: For anyone who wants to enjoy any dairy products produced from my far, all you have to do is look for the blue cow logo. Seeing that blue cow guarantees Canadian consumers that they are buying high quality dairy products that are nutritious, safe, and always available. I and my fellow dairy farmers are proud of our high Canadian standards and strive to do our best day in, day out, and I am thrilled to say that I am a part of that.