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Farming with Hearts of Servants
   Hanging on the wall above Tony in the late ‘60’s is the DHI plaque which held numerous awards for Cedarwal cows.
Married since 1951, Tony and Nicky have enjoyed a long, productive and very busy farming/life adventure together in Canada.
  By Richard Bosma
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tony and Nicky Vanderwal to interview them for the BC Holsteins News’ “Pioneers” series. With Tony approaching his 90th birthday, it seemed a great time to ask them both to reflect on their lives. Reluctant at first, Tony and Nicky were eventually persuaded that their story could inspire others.
As newly-wed postwar immigrants from the Netherlands, Tony and Nicky Vanderwal arrived in Canada by ship in 1951 with only $38 between them and little ability to speak English. However, what they did have was faith in God, a willingness to work, and a dream to own a farm one day. A job on a dairy farm in Morganston, ON, had already been secured for them through an immigration agency. Here, Tony received $75/month plus living quarters. Nicky supplemented their income earning $.50/hour by picking apples, stooking grain, cooking and doing housework for the farmer’s wife, however time spent sewing paid only $.25/ hour, since that was considered a sit-down job.
After two years, Tony and Nicky and their newly-arrived baby daughter moved to Langley, where several of their relatives had immigrated. Here Tony worked for a dairy farmer and also dug peat fuel on the side. In 1955, Tony decided the time had come to milk cows for himself. He knew of a farm for rent and struck a deal. Too busy working during the day, he arranged to visit the banker at his home at night and secured a loan of $1250 for the eight grade cows he wanted to buy. Tony began milking the eight cows by hand, morning and evening, and used a horse to plow the fields. He continued to dig peat fuel during the day, worked part-time at a local
slaughterhouse and shoveled coal for a heating fuel company when he could. The supplemental income was sorely needed as Tony remembers that their initial milk
cheque totaled $45.75!
At first, the cows had to drink from the creek as the barn had no running water. In the winter, water was brought up to the cows in milk cans. Cleaning the barn was a shovel and wheelbarrow operation. However, a $900 pickup truck was purchased to transport carrot and potato culls from the Delta area. Tony recalls hauling pea-vine one Christmas Eve. The truck was loaded by pitchfork, promptly got stuck and had to be unloaded, then reloaded. This was followed by mechanical failures. It was past midnight when Tony slammed the barn door shut. After a few hours of sleep, he was glad to be milking his cows again.
The Vanderwals eventually purchased a larger farm in West Langley where the family of five boys and three girls was completed. Tony proudly recalls that Nicky often worked side by side with him on the farm, especially during harvesting. All the children helped with chores and often the only holidays were the church picnic and the Dairyland picnic. The farm flourished as Tony remediated the depleted soil through the cost- effective application of chicken manure. He attended auction sales where his philosophy was to try and buy one of the three top cows available to improve his own herd, while also expanding it to support the family.
One day in 1959, Tony got a call from someone looking to sell some cattle because of personal health reasons. The animals were registered Holstein heifers, “I barely knew what that meant,” Tony admits candidly. These new acquisitions carried the “Cedarhine” prefix, inspiring Tony and Nicky to select “Cedarwal” for their own prefix. Tony’s cows received multiple production awards over the years. By 1974, the herd had expanded to 100 cows and included many more registered animals. Although Tony was a BCAI supporter, he was also among the first breeders in BC to use elite US sires such as Paclamar Bootmaker. CEDARWAL CHERRY BOOTMAKER (VG-17*), an outstanding cow in her day, was one of the earliest in BC to produce 30,000 pounds of milk in 305 days.
The Vanderwals were looking for room to expand and decided to sell when the farm and the surrounding area became re-zoned as industrial land. A 200 acre farm
was found in Yarrow and the operation was
moved in 1975 after a new barn for 200 milking cows and a milking parlour were built to replace some older buildings.
Today, several of Tony and Nicky’s children have their own farms. Daughter Margaret (& Len) Bouwman operate Mardelen Holsteins in Yarrow, while daughter Judy (& Wayne) Wisselink operate Wisselview Holsteins in Pitt Meadows. Son John (& Thelma) operate Rockledge Holsteins in Enderby. Together, sons Dr. Rich (& Marian) and Dave (& Margaret) now own Cedarwal Farms in Yarrow. Additionally, they operate nearby Cedar Valley Farms which produces organic milk and Cedar Edge Farms which produces grass-fed milk. Many of the grandchildren and their spouses are now involved in running these large, successful farms. Other children include son Ron (& Helena) and family who operate R&H Mechanical close to the main farm, providing full service for large trucks and equipment, while daughter Rena (Harry) is a retired health care professional. Tragically, son Terry passed away in 1988 at the age of 14 after a farm accident. This loss had a significant impact on the whole family.
The Cedarwal herd earned Master Breeder Herd awards in 1994 and 2000, with the first award largely the result of Tony and Nicky’s efforts. The herd has continued the emphasis on production and functional type that Tony began. Over the years, the Vanderwals have sold numerous breeding stock and replacement cattle to domestic and international markets. As well, the herd has had far- reaching impact through AI sires such as Cedarwal Spirte. In 1980, at the age of 50, Tony made the decision that he would no longer milk cows. He had been milking cows since leaving school during WWII at the age of 13. This was a chore he passed on to his sons while remaining committed to helping with all other aspects of the farm.
Compassion for Others
Tony had already been contributing much of his spare time to the larger world outside of the farm. Back in the mid 1960’s he served as treasurer for the Fraser Valley arm of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.

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