Saskatoon

'Sweet, creamy, delicious': Sask. dairy attracts hundreds with old-school milk dispenser

Bas and Martha Froese-Kooijenga's new coin-operated milk dispenser wasn't necessarily purchased for its value as a farm tool, but since it was installed earlier this year the guest list has been growing.

Throwback coin-operated dispenser gives new life to the Farmyard Market

The Farmyard Market near Martensville has a coin-operated milk dispenser. It's the only one in Saskatchewan and the second in Canada. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Bas and Martha Froese-Kooijenga both dreamed of owning a dairy, even before they met. Now those dreams are a reality.

The couple owns a farm just a few kilometres from the City of Martensville. They bought it from Martha's parents 22 years ago.

"My parents lived here for 47 years and raised 12 children on this yard," Martha said.

The Froese-Kooijenga have 30 dairy cows and a store called Farmyard Market. This year they added a new feature: a coin-operated machine that dispenses fresh milk.

Bas and Martha Froese-Kooijengas have owned a dairy near Martensville, Sask., for 23 years. They decided last year that it was time to diversify. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

The farm has changed dramatically since Martha's parents first bought it 47 years ago. It's more difficult now to make a living growing vegetables or raising cows. They opened Farmyard Market as part of a plan for increased revenue.

The new milk dispenser wasn't necessarily purchased for its value as a farm tool, but since it was installed earlier this year, the Froese-Kooijenga's have been growing their guest list so quickly that they now have a stack of sheets nailed to the wall beside the dispenser.

The small machine from Switzerland has been a life saver for the farm. Without it, in order to produce milk and sell it onsite, the couple would have to purchase a bottler and bottle washer.

Pasteurized, but non-homogenized

The Farmyard Market has about 30 adult cows and several calves, all Holsteins. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

The learning curve that came with selling fresh milk was steep for the Froese-Kooijengas, even though they've operated a dairy farm for over two decades. They've made some mistakes, started again, and improved their product.

"There's two thermometers and we have to make sure that they're always about three degrees apart. The milk has to be three degrees lower than the air temperature," said Martha.

Their milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized.

They just love the taste of it. It's very rich, creamy, delicious.- Martha Froese-Kooijenga describes her farm's non-homogenized milk

"Homogenizing is where the fat molecules are kind of smashed and broken up. And it causes the milk to just blend in," she said

"There's people who think that homogenizing is what's causing them to not be able to digest store-bought milk. So who knows?"

Martha describes the milk as "kind of sweet," and says that the farm has many repeat customers who won't drink anything else.

"They just love the taste of it. It's very rich, creamy, delicious," she said, pouring a glass to prove it. 

Dreams realized

Bas Froese-Kooijenga worked on cow farms in Holland and moved to Canada to pursue his dream of owning his own farm one day. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Bas said he is less interested in the machine and more interested in the cows. He's been working with the beasts since he was a teenager in the Netherlands.

"It just kind of got into my system," he said, beaming and standing beside the Holstein fence. 

"I think it's nice to be able to stay at home and do your thing and work together as a family."

A nine-to-five workday never appealed to Martha or Bas. They raised their daughter on the farm and continue to enjoy the lifestyle.

During a two-hour visit, neither stopped smiling.

Martha Froese-Kooijenga has lived on the family farm for most of her life. Her parents owned it for years and raised 12 children there, including Martha. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Bas moved to Canada years ago as a young man. He was searching for a dairy to take over when he met Martha on a blind date.

Both were coerced into the date by friends. Three months later, they had plans to marry.

"I'm very happy," Bas said. "It worked out very well."

'You have everything except milk'

The small storefront at the entrance of the property is classified as a farmers market. Opening it was one of the first major changes the couple made.

The Froese-Kooijengas sell beef and pork raised on the farm and processed by a local butcher, local food from other vendors, knitting from friends and chickens from a local Hutterite colony.

The cows at Farmyard Market are friendly and produce milk so delicious that people from Saskatoon and Martensville keep coming back. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Martha said the land still reminds her of her roots and of her parents, who died recently.

When Martha was a child, her father made a rink in the field beside the "bunkhouse."

"This is where everybody put their skates on and sat on this bench, and there was a wood stove in there," she said, pointing out some of the familiar spots.

"The whole neighbourhood would come by and they basically said 'Wow, you have everything except milk.' "

The thought was in Martha and Bas's heads as they were finding ways to diversify their business.

The milk machine is just one of several changes they've pursued.

The kitchen of their small home is now designated as an industrial kitchen, so they can produce food on-site.

After being interviewed, the couple walked toward the dairy to finish up the day's work. They tapped cows on the head and walked across the yard, hand-in-hand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.

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