Sjerp Ysselstein, also known as Shep, is a lifelong entrepreneur and developer with over 40 years experience innovating and expanding within the dairy industry. Having grown a small, two-person operation into a multi-state, family-run business and the largest dairy processing plant in Iowa, Sjerp continues to seek new ventures and opportunities to expand his skills.
Sjerp lives in Rock Valley, Iowa with his wife where the couple are dedicated founders of the Green Meadows Foods dairy plant. Their plant came to fruition through hard work and a desire to fulfill Ysselstein’s rich legacy as a dairy farmer. A lifetime of experience in the dairy industry and an entrepreneurial spirit support Sjerp’s ventures in his field.
The tradition and legacy began with Sjerp’s great-grandfather, who was in the Friesian cattle export business. Few know that the classic black and white cattle, commonly seen in pastures across the US, were originally bred in Friesland and are called Friesian Holstein cattle, although this name has been shortened to Holstein cattle in the US and Canada only. Elsewhere in the world these black and white cattle are still known as Friesians. This little-known fact speaks to the rich history of dairy farmers in this small European province.
The Ysselstein family immigrated from Friesland to rural Ontario where Sjerp Ysselstein was born and raised. On their farm, Sjerp worked extremely hard, all the while diligently saving everything he could, always working towards something bigger and better. Aligning with true Friesian values, the family poured honest work into their farm, dedicated to providing the best quality product while simultaneously being frugal businessmen. The family is now part of an expansive legacy: The Dutch and Friesian ethnic portino of the dairy industry has a dominated impact and presence over the overall dairy production scene. Their key principles are authenticity and honorable business practices.
As a young man, these values of integrity, work ethic, and honesty were deeply ingrained in Sjerp, and he continues to implement these business practices throughout his own ventures. Authenticity and honorable business lie at the heart of all of Sjerp’s success, along with the support of his community and a continued focus on biblical principles.
Sjerp attended Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, where he met his beloved wife, Natalie. After renting a farm for several years, the couple pooled their savings and purchased a small plot of land in the early 90’s, realizing their dream of striking out on their own. While many at the time were wary of the Midwest because of the inclement weather and hard winters, Sjerp saw the huge potential for a dairy farm in Iowa because of the availability of land and feed.
They threw themselves into the work and remained extremely involved in all aspects of their business, from building their facilities to animal husbandry practices. The farm quickly expanded, eventually growing to the largest dairy farm in the midwest at the time. At that point in the early 2000’s, the Ysselsteins were traveling 160 miles in order to have their milk processed. Seeing a need that had to be filled, Sjerp Ysselstein founded Green Meadows Foods dairy plant, which would grow to become a massive operation. Sjerp and his wife Natalie invested close to $100 million into the plant, which today infuses $450 – $500 million dollars into the local economy each year by conservative estimates, or well over $1 billion depending on how the economic impact is interpreted. The plant provides a vital service to the local dairy business for miles around. Having built a successful venture, Sjerp and Natalie sold Green Meadows at the end of 2009 to Agropur Dairy Collective, a Canadian business with whom they maintain a longstanding milk supplier agreement.
Ambition and a strong work ethic drove Sjerp Ysselstein to expand his business, and a supportive community of friends and farmers with similar values helped lift him to success. They grew both by physically expanding into new territories and by breaking into new realms of the business outside of milk processing. His enterprise now stretches past the Iowa borders and has a strong presence in the midwest and southwest. Those regions include Iowa, Southern California, New Mexico, and Arizona where Sjerp’s operations raise cattle and provide supporting feed services.
Sjerp represents a strong family legacy that includes many others. The Ysselstein family remains deeply involved in the dairy farming and milk processing and are venturing into the cattle import/export business today.
With an entrepreneurial spirit that has carried many generations of the Ysselstein family, Sjerp Ysselstein focuses his future endeavors towards integrating the livestock import/export business with his properties in the US.