Fundraiser Set to Raise Money for Dairy Discovery

Dairy Discovery offers dairy farm tours, providing educational experiences to those who visit.   Establishing itself earlier this year as a non-profit organization, they are poised to host their first fundraising event on Tuesday, September 18 beginning at 6pm.

A Brief Farm History
Swisslane Farms is the location of Dairy Discovery tours.  The history of the farm dates back to the early 1900s when Fred Oesch purchased 91 acres of land in Alto.  Today, the farm remains in the family and run by the family with a mission of growing within the dairy business.  The farm’s rich history transforms into present and focuses on the future.  The family has also wanted to provide an educational piece, establishing Dairy Discovery.

Bottle feeding a calf is one of the stops on a Dairy Discovery tour.

The family farm was opened up to visitors via Dairy Discovery tours in 2006 and the robot portion to the tour began in 2011.  These tours give school classes and group tours the opportunity to take an inside look at the dairy farm industry.  Visitors can see things including cows being milked, where cows hang out between milkings, and how their milk is stored prior to transportation.  Participants leave with further education and understanding of how a dairy farm works after seeing the operation first-hand. A snack of milk and cheese is also provided as part of the tour and gets get a goodie bag to take home.  

Dairy Discovery has grown over the years and those who run the program are eager to continue to expand.  Becoming a non-profit organization will help this effort. They are now able to seek sponsors, accept donations, and raise funds.  Accessibility for all has been a major goal as the tour has become more popular.

“We are always building on what we are offering.  For example, last year we were able to purchase a handicap accessible hayride wagon.” says Melinda Smith, Dairy Discovery’s Brand Manager.  A television has also been purchased as a means to show tours the history of the farm during snack time. Other items on their wish list are a handicap accessible ramp to the barn and a real bathroom.  “We are trying to keep the cost for field trips low, which does not cover the cost of staff to run the tours. Donations help us to grow in tour numbers and accessibility.”

The robot milking portion of the tour gives visitors a look at a more modern, automated milking system on the farm.

Food and Fun Await
Tickets to the fundraising event are currently being sold and are available for purchase online at their website.  The evening will be filled with farm to table food and wine, beer and cheese tasting in addition to live and silent auction items, which will help raise money.

Local food and drinks will tickle taste buds.  EB Coffee and Pub is donating their own craft beer for the event and having Michigan wine is also in the works.  These beers and wines will be paired with cheese from the farm’s very own Swisslane Speciality Shop. The shop will soon be selling Zingerman’s cheese, which will also be available for sampling during the event.  Additionally, one of the third generation of family members on the farm will also be making food from the farm’s own beef. Dairy snacks and veggies from Schuler Family Farms will round out the food offerings for the evening.

The main event of the evening will consist of live and silent auction items.  A current list of auction items can be viewed at the Swisslane Farms website.  New items will continue to be added up until the day of the event.  Upon arrival at the event, guests will receive information on whether an item is part of the live or silent auction.  With items such as gift cards, catering, Griffins’ hockey tickets, an airplane ride, chocolate lover’s basket and more, there’s something for everyone.

Annie Link of Dairy Discovery and Swisslane Farms drives a tractor during the Alto Harvest Festival.

Socialize, Eat, and Auction
Fun games will also entertain guests on the evening of the auction and fundraiser.  It will be a time for socializing, tasting great, local food and beverage items, and to raise money for a newly established non-profit organization.  

Approximately 200 guests are anticipated for the event.  They would also like to acknowledge and thank their sponsors as well as those who have donated items which will appear in the live or silent auction.  The Oesch family is no stranger to raising money or making big this happen. Thirty five years ago and again this summer during the Kent County Youth Fair, funds were raised to build dairy in honor Freddie Oesch at the site of the fair.  

The family is confident the community will show support for their Dairy Discovery program, which has already established itself as a destination for schools and groups.  Now, as a non-profit organization, Dairy Discovery is able to take donations.  They will also continue to be contributing members of the community through their programming and participating in special events.  A staple at the Kent County Youth Fair each year to their Dairy Day Camps, they strive to educate the public on modern dairy-farming.  Their Fall Family Fun day will take place in the coming months. And they will also host Christmas Through Lowell vendors on the farm in November.  Finally, the Swisslane Speciality Shop offers beef and dairy products and more (open Monday 10am-4pm, Tuesday – Friday 10am-6pm, and Saturday 10am-4pm).   

Can’t pass up an auction event, especially when it helps a non-profit organization?  The inaugural Dairy Discovery Auction/Fundraiser is an evening of fun, entertainment, food, and auction items.  Purchase your ticket online and be prepared to bid on some great items on September 18.

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