Dairy Brings Resilience for Ukraine Farmer

One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dairy cows are critical to keeping Kees Huizenga’s crop and livestock operation running as the war continues to bring hardship and suffering to the country and its agriculture.

When the war began, “I went to the people, to the old employees to talk to them and tell them not to panic and that we will all stay, and that we have to keep on running the farm and keep on feeding and milking the cows because they don’t care if it’s rockets or not. They have to be milked three times a day. And that’s what we did. And everybody stayed,” said Huizenga, who is now living in his home country of the Netherlands while managing the 2,000-cow dairy and crop farm he began more than 20 years ago near Cherkasy, Ukraine, about 120 miles southeast of its capital city of Kiev.

“The creamery, the processing factory, they never skipped one day in picking up the milk. They never skipped a day in paying. We gave them some milk for free and they processed it for free and they gave these products to refugees and to the army. And a lot of people, a lot of farmers did similar things.”

Looking at the next year, the biggest challenge for Ukrainian farmers is “the uncertainty,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, if that rocket might hit your farm. We are still far away from the front line, but I know farmers who’ve been hit and who’ve been tortured and killed as well. So, I don’t know what the biggest uncertainties are. If there will be enough fertilizer available to grow a good crop. Seeds, are they more or less available. Prices because of these export complexities.”

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