Henk Schuurmans is passionate about milk and the Canadian dairy industry.
That prompted the 55-year-old dairy farmer from Ontario to undertake a cross-Canada tour to promote his industry.
Schuurmans and his wife Bettina set out in July on a cross-Canada journey to experience the country and promote Canadian dairy faming.
They were travelling in a John Deere tractor, hauling a large statue of a dairy cow to attract attention.
The Schuurmans stopped at popular tourist attractions, other locations in cities as well as farms to talk about dairy and supply management.
On July 9 on a highway just north of Saskatoon, the Schuurmans’ vehicle was hit by a transport truck.
Bettina was killed and Henk suffered injuries that included a broken pelvis and ribs.
“It’s crazy what happened,” Schuurmans said. “It’s very tragic.”
The family decided it was important to complete the journey to honour Bettina Schuurmans, and the children volunteered to ride with their father.
“It’s kind of a healing thing in honour of my wife and their mom,” Schuurmans said. “We just want to give it a little better ending.”
Henk Schuurmans and his daughter Lize from Elmira, Ont. were in Fort Macleod recently on their Canadian Milk Tour.
The Schuurmans stopped at Hilltop Dairy on Wednesday night, where Conrad Van Hierden hosted a gathering of local dairy farmers.
After taking time to heal from his injuries, Henk Schuurmans resumed the journey on Sept. 8 with support from his five children, to honour Bettina’s memory and finish what they set out to do.
This time, Schuurmans loaded the large cow into a pickup with signs promoting his message to Canadians.
The signs promoted 100 per cent Canadian milk, and keeping family dairy farms in the country.
“Those are the two messages that we give people,” Schuurmans said. “And that we have superior quality, of course.”
Schuurmans said the signs — and the large cow — have caught the attention of Canadians.
“We get a lot of waves and honks, a lot of people taking pictures,” Schuurmans said.
People were quick to share the photos they took with their cell phones on social media, further promoting the Schuurmans’ cause.
“It’s really neat to see that happen.”
Schuurmans immigrated to Canada from Holland and for 25 years managed a dairy farm. Five years ago he bought the operation.
Schuurmans has sons aged 25, 26 and 27 who are interested in dairy farming as their careers.
“They are ready to take over the farm, and we just want to make sure that there is a future for them,” Schuurmans said.
Schuurmans said the cross-country trip was an effective way to get the message out.
“Except the government didn’t listen,” Schuurmans said. “With NAFTA being decided . . . we’re not very happy with what they gave away.
Just three days before Schuurmans arrived in Fort Macleod, Canada and the U.S. signed a renewed NAFTA agreement known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is expected to open the door to more American dairy imports into Canada.
Schuurmans said consumers were responsive to his message, but told him they want a better labelling system so they can be sure the milk they buy is Canadian.
“We have to do a better job identifying our quality Canadian product.”
Source: Macleod Gazette