Sanne Van Loon: Devoted to the American Dream
I was born and raised on a small dairy farm in Belgium started by my parents. With a desire to expand the dairy, in 2001, we decided to move to the United States to pursue the American Dream.
With our sights set on Michigan, Ohio or Indiana, we found a nice piece of flat farmland for sale in Michigan. It was the perfect place for us to build our dairy from the ground up and for our family to start living the dream my dad had envisioned for us.
When we moved to Michigan, I was only nine years old and like most kids, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. When it was time for me to head off to college, I decided to go to Michigan State University but was still unsure about my future career path. My freshman year I took different classes in a variety of subject areas to see what sparked my interest. None of the classes felt like the right fit for me until I took my first agribusiness management class. Agriculture is what I grew up around and it had a bigger impact on me than I had realized. After taking that class, I changed my major to Agribusiness Management with the hopes of one day returning home to farm with my family.
My older brothers Gert and Wouter always knew they wanted to farm, which is one of the reasons my dad was so persistent in the pursuit of his dream — he knew there would be another generation of farmers in the family. When I first graduated from college, we were just breaking ground for the construction of our new dairy. I spent the first few months in the tractor moving dirt and packing ground at the construction site. When the barns were done and ready for cows, my mom and I spent days in the parlor recording all of the incoming cows and their numbers. Although now most of my time is spent in the office working on bookkeeping and administrative duties, I enjoy being able to help out wherever necessary on the farm.
When we moved to the United States we started milking 800 cows, now 17 years later we are milking 8,000 cows across multiple dairies. In order to be able to accomplish that it takes a real group effort and that’s what I think is so great about farming together as a family. Each one of us brings different assets to the table and although we all have different roles, we’re all working together as a family towards a common goal. I love working with my mom and brothers and am truly thankful to get that opportunity. In 2016 we lost my dad to cancer but his passion for our farm and our family continue to inspire us today. He was determined to build a bigger and brighter future for us kids and we are proud to be able to continue his legacy. Our hope is to be able to pass that on for generations to come.
Want to read more about Michigan’s farm families? Visit the Meet Our Dairy Farm Families page!