Nestled deep in the heart of Central Texas along Highway 36 in Comanche County, Gustine with a population of just over 400, is home to a thriving dairy farm and bottling plant run by a family of Aggies, five of whom graduated with degrees from the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Volleman’s Family Farm is truly a family run enterprise with four brothers at the heart of the operation. It includes a working dairy farm and a bottling plant that fulfilled a family goal of bringing their milk products directly to the consumer.
Aggie education fills dairy administration
After each of the four Volleman brothers left their family farm to get an education, they returned to fill key positions in the operation.
- David ’12, who is a graduate of the the Department of Agricultural Economics, and his wife, Anna ’14, who graduated with a degree from the Department of Animal Science, manage the dairy and cow health.
- Andrew ’17, a graduate of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, runs the bottling plant and milk distribution. His wife, Shelby ’17, earned her degree in marketing from the Mays Business School and is the marketing director.
- The youngest of the brothers, Daniel ’19, earned an agribusiness degree and helps with milk sales and managing his uncle’s dairy. His wife, Makenzie ’19, also graduated with an agribusiness degree.
- The oldest of the brothers, Ben, manages the farm and grows the feed for the cows. While he did not attend Texas A&M, he earned his degree from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, a member institution of The Texas A&M University System.
“This is something I wanted to be a part of; I wanted to work with my family,” said Daniel. “It is an amazing dynamic. Seeing the business grow; I just knew we could keep growing and make room for us to join into the family business through the efforts of our mom and dad.”
“This is something I wanted to be a part of; I wanted to work with my family. It is an amazing dynamic.”
Daniel Volleman ’19
Volleman’s Family Farm
How the dairy farm started
The Volleman Family Farm traces its roots back to Europe, specifically Luxembourg, where Frank and Annette Volleman helped manage the family dairy farm. However, having heard about the agricultural opportunities in Texas, they dreamed of starting their own dairy farm in the U.S.
In 1993, with their family growing, Frank and Annette knew they needed space to build a legacy for the next generation, so they decided to relocate their family and move to Gustine.
Their farm began with a small herd of 100 cows and Frank and Annette did most of the daily work. Over the years, their sons left for college and ultimately graduated and, one-by-one, returned to the farm to use what they had learned to expand their family’s business.
“I was very hands-on, and I wanted to really understand how systems worked,” said Andrew, whose degree is in systems management. “As a student, I had the opportunity to go on several trips through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to various manufacturing facilities, which really sparked my interest. I think those learning opportunities had a huge impact on me in terms of finding out what I wanted to do.”
For the past few decades, the family farm has continued to grow. Today, the farm consists of about 10,000 cows and calves, with about 5,000 head of milking cows. In 2020, the family built the bottling plant, fulfilling one of Frank’s dreams of bringing their milk products directly to the consumers.
Giving back to both Texas A&M and the dairy industry
As their business has continued to grow, the Vollemans have looked for ways to give back to the university, specifically the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which played a large part in setting them up for success.
“I’ve been working closely with my former department and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Andrew said. “For example, I attend career fairs to try and hire more students because we know the value of Aggies and the skills they are capable of.”
Among the groups the family is involved with are the Texas A&M Dairy and Science Club and the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, which is a multi-university organization established to meet the education and training needs of the rapidly expanding dairy industry in the U.S.
“The consortium, as well as other opportunities we have experienced through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has really helped drive my career toward the family business in the dairy industry, as well as farming as a whole,” Daniel said. “Whether it is by finding great people to hire and add to our business or just building our network in another way, it is a supportive industry, and we should give back and support them.”