Family Farms for the Future

“One generation makes. The next generation uses. The third generation loses.” Chris Veldhuizen heard this warning countless times from his grandfather Christiaan, who came to America from the Netherlands and moved his family to the farm north of Edgerton, MN, in 1936. Chris Veldhuizen, born to Christiaan’s son Elmer and daughter-in-law Marie in 1949, spent much of his childhood at his grandfather’s heels. Little wonder that Christiaan’s wisdom survives in Chris’s approach to life and work.
Progressive and devout, Christiaan believed each man is a steward of what the Lord has given him and a good steward’s responsibility is to care for his land, his animals, and his children. Christiaan was a good steward, passing to his son Elmer a heritage of faith, family, and land to farm. In turn, Elmer and Marie successfully and generously passed the Veldhuizen farm to Chris and his wife, Clare.

Acknowledging their blessings, Chris and Clare are resolved not to lose what the first generation made. “Within our Godgiven abilities, that will not happen on our watch,” they declare. The Veldhuizens have prepared well for that day when they could pass a successful and sustainable farming operation to their children. The Pipestone Management played a big role in that preparation.

Changing their strategy
When Christiaan died in 1960, Elmer and Marie Veldhuizen moved onto the family farm. In 1964, Chris (then 14) rented 80 acres across the road and began farming. After graduating from high school, Chris earned a degree in agriculture from South Dakota State University and returned to the farm. In 1975, he married Clare Altena. Besides milking cows and raising pigs with Elmer and Marie, the young couple also raised a crop of children.

Then, in the 1980s, Elmer retired from dairy farming after being diagnosed with diabetes. Paving the way for his son’s future in farming, Elmer took their herd through the 1986 dairy buyout and set Chris up for a very successful farrow-to-finish business.

But as the 1990s dawned, a shortage of labor and the rising cost of affordable genetics pressured Chris and Clare to look for another way of building their business. At the invitation of Dr. Gordon Spronk, they attended meetings at the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic and invested in the first isowean unit in the Pipestone Management. “We knew, if there was any hope the next generation could farm, we would have to make some changes, like my grandfather did for my dad and my dad did for me,” says Chris.

In 1994, 1997, and again in 2003, the Veldhuizens pooled their resources with other swine producers to purchase a sow unit and buy the best genetics. Today, they own shares in the sow barns that supply 100% of the pigs needed for synchronized rotation between their three nurseries and seven finishing units.

Passing it on
According to Chris and Clare, their integration with other producers who own nurseries and finishers has helped prepare the Veldhuizen farm for future generations. Their daughter Melissa and son-in-law Brad Prouty joined the farm in 2007. Their oldest son, Ryan, came back two years ago and their youngest son, CJ, will graduate from college this spring. (Chris and Clare’s oldest daughter, Krista, and son-in-law Ryan Bos live in Sioux Falls, SD.)

“Everything we do now is so that Judd’s offspring can farm later and be good at it,” says Chris, referring to Brad and Melissa’s 3-year-old son. That’s why he and Clare, still actively participating in the Veldhuizen family farm, are poised to turn ownership over to their children. “It’s not about us,” they say. “Our whole intent in life has been to farm for the next generation.”

“If Christiaan were here, he would love this,” says Clare, referring both to the advances in farming and the preparation for future generations.

Four generations of Veldhuizens include, left to right, Clare, Chris, Judd Prouty, Elmer, Marie, Melissa and Brad Prouty, Krista and Ryan Bos, Ryan, and CJ.