Celebrate dairy month with Dinner on the Dairy

John Vander Wal, his son Ian Vander Wal, son-in-law Trevor Ekkel and daughter Alisha Ekkel (holding her and Trevor’s son Emerson) are the owners of Newalta Dairy, along with John’s wife Berlinda (not pictured). The public will have an opportunity to meet the family and see the dairy during the Dinner on the Dairy event. K. Kuphal

Newalta Dairy is inviting people to come have Dinner on the Dairy on Thursday, June 23, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The event will be held at Newalta’s main site at 1125 71st Street, Pipestone. It will include a free meal, ice cream served by the Pipestone County Dairy Princesses Katelyn Welgraven and Josie Sutherland, tours and more.

The Pipestone County American Dairy Association holds a Dinner on the Dairy every two years to invite the public to visit a local dairy and see what it looks like. The last Dinner on the Dairy was scheduled for 2020, but was canceled due to the pandemic. The Vander Wals previously hosted the event around 15 years ago.

“It’s good to get the public out here to see what we’re doing,” said Alisha Ekkel, who is part owner of the business with her husband Trevor Ekkel, her brother Ian, and her parents John and Berlinda Vander Wal. “I know not everyone is happy with the smells that agriculture can bring and busy traffic on the roads, but at least if they come out and see it maybe they will realize that it’s for a purpose and we’re doing it to feed the local people and the world.”

The dairy milks 3,500 cows at two sites. Alisha said Newalta produced 85 million gallons of milk in 2021. She said all of their milk is used to make cheese.

Newalta’s barns include sand bedding with a manure and sand separation system, so the sand can be reused. In addition to milking, Newalta grows corn for silage, alfalfa, rye and sorghum on 1,200 acres that is used to feed the cows. The dairy employs 40 people.

John and Berlinda moved their family from Canada to Pipestone County and started the dairy in 2005. Alisha said the family moved to the U.S. because there was more opportunity.

“In Canada they have a quota system, so you’re kind of locked in with the amount of cows that you can have,” she said. “Here it was a little bit more of a free open market.”

She said the family milked about 200 cows in Canada and started with 600 cows when they moved to Pipestone County.

Alisha said she studied dairy production at South Dakota State University and decided to stick with the dairy business that she grew up in and enjoys.

“Before I had kids I used to work in the barn all the time and I really enjoyed doing that,” she said.

All the Vander Wal’s children have gone on to work in agriculture-related fields. Their daughter Bernice Van Hulzen works in the office at Newalta and farms with her husband Ross near Edgerton, their daughter Jenn Landman milks cows with her husband Steve and his family near White, S.D., and their daughter Amy Jo Ruble works at an agricultural bank and raises beef cattle with her husband Riley on his family’s farm near Albert Lea.

The Vander Wal’s children now have a combined seven children of their own, so it’s possible that the family business might continue on to another generation.

The Vander Wals are involved in the Pipestone County American Dairy Association, Dairy Herd Improvement Association and the Minnesota Holstein Association. Alisha said the Minnesota Holstein Association is hosting the National Holstein Convention and is having a tour at Newalta Dairy the week after the Dinner on the Dairy as part of that.