Chilliwack dairy farmer Mark Ricka’s favourite thing about his work happens in local grocery stores, when he sees a family with a jug of milk, yogurt, and other dairy products in their cart.
It’s satisfying knowing he’s part of how that parent or caregiver will nourish their children for the week.
“You definitely feel connected to your community when you go to the grocery stores and see all this milk, and know it’s produced right here in the valley,” Ricka says.
Like many dairy farms in B.C., Brooknook Farms is a family-run, local business. Mark is the third generation to work the farm his grandfather started in 1915.
Today, they milk 250 cows on more than 140 acres they own and another 65 they rent.
“I think the most important thing about dairy farming is the consumer. As much as it’s a family farm and a livelihood for us, at the end of the day we’re producing food.”
In order to do that, consumers have to be confident that the land and animals are being taken care of, that things are being done responsibly.
“If you take care of your animals they take care of you,” he says. “If they’re comfortable and well taken care of, they’re healthy, they’re going to be productive.”
According to a recent economic impact study, that family farm is part of a dairy industry supporting almost 12,500 jobs across the province and contributing $1.225 billion to the province’s GDP. That’s up from 11,000 jobs and just over $1 billion from a decade prior.
The study by MNP Economics and Research found the Fraser Valley remains B.C.’s most significant dairy production region, with 70 per cent of the industry’s 469 farms. However, the industry is active across the province, producing 840 million litres of raw milk in 2019. That’s up from 690 million litres in 2009, the increase driven by consumer demand for more dairy products.
Of that production, 42 per cent was processed and sold as fluid milk, the rest processed into other products such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream.
“Demand for a diverse array of dairy products continues to grow in B.C. They are locally-produced staples in our diets, flowing from farms and processors in most corners of the province, every day,” said Holger Schwichtenberg, an Agassiz-area dairy farmer and chairperson of the BC Dairy Association.
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