Mr. van Bakel’s company, Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development, signed up 70 Dutch immigrants over the past decade for a package deal designed to help them start dairy farms here. Typically, Mr. van Bakel helped clients sell their farms in the Netherlands and used the proceeds as seed money to finance bigger dairies with more cows in America.
He often helped arrange for immigration papers, obtained government permits and helped with incidentals like enrolling children in school. He pitched his countrymen with ads in Dutch trade magazines featuring cows in front of the Stars and Stripes saying, “Life Is Great in America!”
Today, the dream has soured. About a dozen of his clients have filed for bankruptcy protection or are being foreclosed on by banks. Sixteen farms sit idle because construction was halted for lack of financing. Mr. van Bakel says his lender reneged on an agreement to provide funding. Some of these farmers have been waiting for five years or more and still have no farm, despite having given Mr. van Bakel millions of dollars from the sale of their old farms.