Farmer story: Mike De Jager

Their California heritage

Mike and Gerrilynn De Jager have owned and operated De Jager Dairy North in Chowchilla, just north of Fresno, since 1983. Mike's family has been farming since the 1930s, first in Southern California. In the late 1970s, Mike’s father Edward purchased land in the Chowchilla area and began farming in the San Joaquin Valley. Like most dairy farms in California, it is very much still a family business for the De Jagers. Mike’s daughter, Gina Vantol, and her husband Dustin run the day-to-day operations of De Jager Dairy North. Mike and Gerrilynn own Corona Ranches, and this farm supplies forages needed for the dairy cows.

“I’m a dairy farmer. I harvest milk first, and I grow crops second.”
— Mike De Jager

How they are innovating

When it comes to growing feed for his cows, Mike De Jager is an early adopter of technology that increases the amount of crops grown by limiting water consumption. Seven years ago, De Jager began experimenting with drip irrigation on his alfalfa and corn. Since moving to drip irrigation on his crops, De Jager has seen a 25-percent reduction in water use, with a 20- to 25-percent increase in crop yield.

De Jager is also partnering with non-profit Sustainable Conservation and Netafim on a pilot project to use dairy lagoon water to irrigate crops at his farm through a sub-surface drip tape application. De Jager's is one of the first farms in California to experiment with this type of recycled irrigation technology. This project remains in the experimental stage.

Connecting with the Californians they help to feed

“Farmers are very focused on taking care of the one resource we can’t make, and that’s water,” De Jager says. “There’s perception that dairies use a lot of water, but in reality there is not a drop of water wasted on a dairy, as we recapture and reuse as much water as possible. It’s hard working water.”