Ben Dykema runs the Wilcon Farm in North Ferrisburgh, Vermont, and its name is a combination of his parents' names, Wilma and Cornelius. After emigrating from Holland and getting married in New Jersey, Wilma and Cornelius purchased the family farm in 1967. Ben and his wife Kris formed a 50-50 partnership with Ben's parents in 1986. Seven years later, they purchased the entire interest in the farm and became the sole owners. Although no longer an owner, Cornelius still shows up regularly and lends a hand and some hard-earned expertise whenever needed.
When the Dykemas first purchased the farm, they had 204 acres, 50 milkers, and 40 young stock. They have been steadily increasing the herd over the years and now have 450 milkers and 400 young stock. They actively farm 800 acres, but the Dykemas raise more than crops. Ben and Kris raised five children on the farm as well.
Their oldest son Jordan had special needs and tragically passed away several years ago. At the time, Jordan was living independently in his own cabin near the farm. After his death, the family honored his memory by converting it into “Jordan’s 4 Seasons Log Cabin.” Tourists and visitors now use the cabin year round to enjoy the scenic beauty of Vermont and spend time on the farm. Their youngest son Levi works full-time on the farm performing mechanical work. Daughter Annie is a nurse, Sarah is a stay-at-home mom, and Rachel is a professional horse trainer in Washington State. The Dykemas also have seven grandchildren, four of whom live on the farm.
Kris helped on the farm over the years, but she mostly worked full-time as a sales consultant, often managing as many as 200 people. One of the benefits of the job was that Kris was able to travel overseas for training and recreation. Along the way, Ben and Kris have visited 38 countries together during her many business trips.
Like most dairy farmers, the Dykemas not only work from dawn to dusk, they sometimes have to contend with the unexpected. In 1998, they had a large fire on the farm and lost many of their original buildings and much of their equipment. It was a big blow. Says Ben, “You have to take things like that in stride. Nobody ever said dairy farming would be easy, and I can tell you it’s not. It’s a wonderful job in a hundred different ways. You get to work outdoors, work side-by-side with your family, and see the fruits of you labor. But you’ve always got to be prepared for the worst.”