Preparing for the Next 100 Years
SwissLane Farms was a 2017 winner of a U.S. Sustainability Award – Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability – for their leadership in utilizing practices that improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet.
My family members began farming in Alto, Michigan over 100 years ago when my great-grandfather purchased the land my family still farms today. What drew him here was a beautiful creek that runs through the land.
In 1915, many thought it was best to allow animals access to natural bodies of water. Now, 100 years later, we know that in order to protect the creek for our children, their children and their children’s children, it’s best to limit the animals’ access to natural bodies of water. Instead, we provide fresh water to the cows in the barn, where it’s easily accessible all year long.
Being proactive is really important to us, so we took steps to become verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to document the steps we take every day to protect the environment.
Through the MAEAP verification process we also learned the barn where we raised our heifers, or young cows, was not in a good location. It was too close to a steep hill, increasing the potential for runoff to enter the waterway during a torrential downpour. We moved the animals away from the hill and creek, and built a new, modern barn to help us continue caring for our animals, land and water.
My husband is an avid fisherman and spends lots of time in that creek. In fact, on Mother’s Day in 2015 he made a trout dinner with fish he caught in the creek. And, on opening day of trout season that same year, I caught a beautiful trout – the largest catch of the season!
In 1915, Great-Grandpa thought the best spot for our cattle was as close as to the water as possible. Now, 100 years later, we know different, and we’ve taken every precaution possible to protect that water. We want it to be here for another 100 years!
Annie Link is the HR and PR manager for SwissLane Dairy Farms, her family’s fifth-generation dairy farm. She is passionate about educating people about agriculture and connecting them with their food, and she has a special interest in teaching others about the importance of technology on modern farms. SwissLane Farms runs Dairy Discovery, a fun and educational organization that provides farm tours, field trips, camps, and special events. Visitors can feed the baby cows, watch the cow parade, learn about the health and care of their cows and calves that provide the public with healthy milk.
Annie is active on Twitter and Facebook where she shares stories about life on the farm. She is also an avid runner who completed the Boston Marathon in 2011. Annie and her husband are raising three wonderful children.