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Dairy Farmers Story

Moo-ving Michigan’s Economy

New processing facility gives dairy farms a helping hand

Matt Oesch is tired of the financial pressures of the dairy business.

We He’s hopeful a $510 million world-class dairy processing facility in St. Johns will usher a new era for Michigan’s dairy farmers.

Our economic development team played a key role in landing the 146-acre project that will bring nearly 300 jobs. The company expects to provide the processing plant up to $500,000 annually in energy efficiency rebates for energy-saving equipment that will be installed in the new facilities.

The joint venture is comprised of three facilities:

  • Spartan Cheese Michigan, LLC, the main dairy processing plant and a joint venture of Glanbia, Select Milk and Dairy Farmers of America.
  • A secondary milk plant owned by Proliant.
  • A wastewater treatment plant that will be built, owned and operated by Spartan Cheese Michigan group
  • “This news is a silver lining we have been hoping for,” said Oesch, a dairy farmer who owns Swisslane Farms in Alto near Grand Rapids. “It’s a game changer that I didn’t think would happen. But I am glad it did.”

    Creating new possibilities for the dairy industry

    Michigan farmers have struggled recently with rising transportation costs and too few milk processing options.

    “This will help immensely,” said Oesch, who plans to deliver his milk and cheese for processing at the new facilities. “I think this will keep a lot of dairy farms from closing in the future.”

    Gov. Rick Snyder lauded the new facility, which will rank among the largest dairy processing facilities in the country upon completion in 2020.

    “Once again, Michigan’s national reputation as the best place to grow jobs is bringing new investments to our thriving agriculture sector,” Snyder said at groundbreaking ceremony for the facility. “Michigan’s dairy industry is an essential economic driver in our state, and this new investment elevates and expands our potential to rise even higher while bringing new jobs and opportunities to this region.”

    Milk, cheese on the menu – in the millions

    Two dairy cooperatives—Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers—will supply milk to the processing plant, ensuring Michigan dairy farmers have a dedicated home for their milk. Glanbia PLC, a global nutrition group with presence in 32 countries, also is an investor. Michigan Milk Producers Association is expected to supply milk to the plant.

    The Oesch farm – which has 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans, hay, wheat and cover crops as well as eight robotic milking units - recently won the national Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for the U.S. They added another award in 2018 when they were named the Dairy Farmers of the Year by Michigan State University’s Department of Animal Science.

    The farm has been in the family since 1915 when his great-grandfather bought it. Back then it had 91 acres and 22 cows. Today, they milk more than 3,000 cows.

    The new processing center in St. Johns will help dairy farms throughout Michigan, Oesch said.

    “This is not just a farm,” he said. “This is not just a business. This is our heritage.”

    To learn more about Swisslane Farms and the Oesch family, visit www.swisslanefarms.com

    To learn more about how we help Michigan farmers, click here.