Belinda Arpagaus farms a little bit (old) country.

Arpagaus is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, but only the second generation to farm Seeland Dairy in Enderby, BC. Her parents moved from their home in Switzerland in 1987 to purchase the 135-acre farm site, bringing their four children to Canada. Arpagaus was just 11 years old at the time. 

Today, she and her Swiss husband Robin milk 75 cows at the farm, producing the milk processed into cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, and other dairy products on BC store shelves. 

While some of their practices are typical of Canadian dairy farms, they have also adapted several practices from Swiss dairy farms and researched new innovations continually thinking outside the box.  

The cows themselves are the French Montbéliarde breed rather than the Holsteins or Jerseys more typically seen on Canadian dairy farms. The breed is shorter and stockier, an efficient producer of higher butterfat milk while needing less rich feed. They also use a ‘compost pack’ system in their barn – spreading wood shavings twice a day to support the natural composting process. The pack creates a soft, comfortable surface for the cows while producing the high quality compost they spread on their land to feed the crops. Like most BC dairy farmers they raise their own forage crops on their land, mostly grass and corn.      

When they constructed the new barn in 2018, the family opted to roof it with a white fabric material from a company called We Cover. The fabric lets in more natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting and creating a brighter environment. It also features movable sides that open in warm weather and close when it’s cooler. 

“When you’re in the barn it’s almost like you’re outside, in the shade of a large tree,” she says.

Arpagaus says her parents moved their operations over the ocean to build a family farm with the advantages Canada offers – in particular the ability to farm one larger piece of land. In Switzerland, the family lived in a house in town and farmed on several small plots of land scattered around the countryside – a challenging setup common for dairy farmers in that country. Arpagaus’ uncle was already farming in Canada, so it was natural to move close to him. 

“In BC, there are a lot of smaller family farms like ours that work really hard to look after the animals, and produce a really good quality, healthy product,” she says. “We’re really proud of what we do.”

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