By Deanna Hindsley
“When discussing the history of Indiana dairies, perhaps no name is remembered as influential and honored as the Bottema’s.” Thus began the story of C.M. Bottema (the first) as written in the book, Hoosier Pride: Basketball, Racing, and Dairy, Cattle by C. Dru Mercer. I had to learn more.
When I met with C.M. Bottema III in his Avon office to learn about the Bottema Dairies, I could see he still had the famous Bottema pride about his family, even though the farm was sold in 1984.
Cassius M. Bottema was just eighteen when he arrived on Ellis Island from Amsterdam on August 24, 1896. Two suitcases held everything he owned. The ship’s manifest listed him as a cattle dealer and soon he found a job milking dairy cows on a farm in Pennsylvania for two dollars a week. He eventually came to Indiana and bought a farm in Beech Grove where he raised his family.
His son, C.M. Bottema, Jr, called “Cash” by his friends, established his own herd in 1928 with the purchase of a cow for 4-H at age twelve. Now, that in itself is inspiration for any young 4-H’er, because he grew that herd into over 1500 cattle. He remembered his roots and loved teaching 4-H’ers, even providing some with cows to show.
“I started out in the dairy business, along with my father”, mused C.M, III. “Our family had continued in the dairy business from my grandfather to my father, and I planned to do the same.”
From C.M. III’s youth, he always worked in the family dairy business, joining 4-H as a youngster, and continuing through age 18 – when a person “ages out” of 4-H. After graduation from Purdue, he joined the family business and loved dairy farming.
The Bottema family won many awards and accolades for their cattle business – far too many to mention here and most had names I didn’t understand. But C.M. explained a few to me. He fairly glows when he tells about the famous bull, “Zeldenrust Fond Memory”.
“Zeldenrust?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies with a smile. “That was the prefix name of dad’s herd, and in Dutch, it means ‘seldom rest.’” Seems to me that is a good name for the Bottema family.
He continues. “Dad was at the airport loading his cattle into a plane, when….”
“Whoa, they transport cattle by plane?!” I ask incredulously.
“Yes. They are loaded into a crate for four. But Fond Memory was so big, over 3000 lbs., he wouldn’t fit into one crate by himself. They tried every which way – corner to corner, but he just wouldn’t fit. They were headed for a dairy cattle show in California. People were so disappointed that he couldn’t come, that the story made the headlines in Fresno. Here, let me show you.” And the headline read, “The No-Bull Plane”.
Bottema Dairy showed and sold cattle all over the world and won awards almost too numerous to count, and C.M. still has many of them. But the way he has kept the family name associated with the dairy business is through cheese.
C.M continues, “While visiting Wisconsin to buy cattle in 1948, dad learned of a small family-owned cheese-making business that made Edom cheese. This was a Dutch cheese and since we are Dutch, he loved the cheese so much that he began to bring home truckloads which he stored in his walk-in refrigerator on the farm. He would give it as gifts and sell it to friends and neighbors who also loved the cheese.”
“When the farm was sold, people began calling me to ask how they could get it. So, when weather is cool enough, I drive my 1984 pick-up truck to the same cheese maker in Wisconsin and bring it home. I have several refrigerators in my garage, and I am still selling it and giving it as gifts.”
C.M has been in the real estate business since 1984, and as one friend said, “He is still earning a living from land, like his father and grandfather did.”
And at the end of each sale, guess what he gives as a gift. Yes, Edom cheese sealed in red wax from Holland, from the same Wisconsin cheese maker that supplied his dad, C.M. Bottema, Jr.
The great bull, Fond Memory is just that, and C.M. Bottema, III of Plainfield is still keeping that memory alive through cheese. He gave me Edom cheese that day. Mmmmm.