Locally Sourced: Hollandia Dairy

March 14th, 2018

A lot has changed since Kathy Santos first started working at Hollandia Dairy 26 years ago.

“We had cows here at the headquarters in San Marcos,” Santos laughs. “I used to stare at them out the window. I miss them. I even miss the smell.”

Santos, who handles customer service and special accounts for Hollandia, says changing times and growing populations have made what once was North County farmland into valuable real estate, but the new residents still drink milk, and Hollandia is still providing it to customers in San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties.

As the only creamery in the county, Hollandia is very busy, processing around 1 million half-pints of milk each week day.

The cows that provide the milk are a little further away.

“Our dairies are now in San Jacinto and Northern California,” Santos says. “It takes about two days for the milk to go from the cow to the kids.”

Hollandia Dairy delivers fresh milk to over 1,300 schools every day.

Ah yes, the kids. Many of Hollandia’s clients are local school districts, including Vista Unified’s Wavecrest Cafes, a faithful customer since the early 1980s. That makes Santos proud since she handles the school district accounts.

“I feel proud knowing that our milk is going out to friends and neighbors right where we live,” she says. “And I get a joyous thrill knowing that kids are growing strong because of it.”

Hollandia has been around since 1950 when it was started by Arie de Jong, who immigrated to Poway in 1949 with his wife and 10 kids. The family came with only $32 in cash and decided to start a dairy, figuring if there ever was a war, food would still be available.

The de Jongs purchased an existing dairy in Escondido and named it Hollandia in honor of a creamery in their home country that was known for its quality.

Santos said Hollandia is currently run by the fourth generation of de Jongs, and they still insist on high standards in every carton, including no use of chemicals or antibiotics.

“We control the quality from farm to fork,” she says.

Hollandia Dairy’s milk cartons are a common site with students’ meals for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Because so many of Hollandia’s customers are children, Santos says the dairy finds ways to reach out to them.

“The cartons used to have windmills, but since we serve so many schools, we now have a cartoonish cow,” she says.

Because the dairy wants its young consumers to understand where their food comes from, Hollandia also does a lot of community outreach.

“We’ll appear at health fairs and community events. Whenever a school has a function, we’ll bring a wooden cow and let the kids milk water out of it. They love it.”

A young student tries Hollandia’s wooden cow, simulating the milking process. Always a hit at community and school events.

For some people, a job is a job, but Santos feels working at Hollandia is a calling, especially because the family-owned business treats employees like family. The passion for quality is contagious, she says.

“We serve about 1300 schools, and the military,” she says. “When I see people drinking Hollandia, I want to tell them I work there, but I usually just say, ‘That’s the best milk!”