Farm Tours | Hayrides | School Field Trips | Dairy Discovery

Purpose of Dairy Discovery
As farms continue to disappear, the need to understand where food is coming from grows. Dairy Discovery is committed to educating the non-farming public of West Michigan about life on a large, modern, family farm by engaging them in interactive and enjoyable experiences at SwissLane Farms.

The Dream
Fredrick Oesch, the founder of Swisslane farms was born in Switzerland on August 8th, 1888. At just 6 years old, he was orphaned and forced to live with relatives. Unhappy with his situation, he began to dream of living in America where there was hope for a better life. He believed that one day he would move to America and purchase land of his own. In 1904, Fredrick was only 16 when he made the long journey to America. In 11 short years his dreams were realized when he bought 91 acres in Alto, Michigan a small farming community.

The Family
In 1918, Fred married the Swiss girl next door, Lucy Wingeier. Together, Fredrick and Lucy raised six children. Only their son Joe decided to stay and help Fredrick run the farm. By the time Joe was old enough to take on the responsibilities of the farm, they had 24 cows. In 1950, Joe married a local girl named Melva Crosby. Joe and Melva raised seven children on their growing farm. Fredrick and Joe continued to farm together until 1968 when Fredrick passed away. By that time, Joe and Melva’s oldest son, Fred, was ready to take on more responsibilities of running the farm. Immediately after high school graduation, he devoted his life to farming. Joe and Melva’s sons Jeff and Tom also made the commitment to continue to work on the farm after high school.

The Farm
As Joe’s three sons began to start families of their own, they saw a need for a change in the farm. Joe, Fred, Jeff, and Tom formed a partnership in 1981. The partnership was officially named Swisslane Dairy Farms. The farm expanded very quickly after the partnership was formed. In 1987, the partners milked 150 cows and needed to update from their stanchion barn to a double 12 milking parlor. Throughout the 1990s, the farm saw many changes due to the advances in technology. By the end of the decade, the partnership increased the size of the herd to 500 cows. The double 12 milking parlor became insufficient to support the increased number of cows. In 2001, the milking parlor was renovated into a parallel 16 and several new facilities were added. The expansion allowed the herd to be expanded to 1000 cows.

The Future
Today SwissLane farms is home to 2,000 milking cows (1,400 at the main farm and 600 at the "Robot Farm"). The farm continues to grow, as does the family. Currently, 33 members of the Oesch family live within two miles of the farm. The dreams of a young man from Switzerland remain alive and are being passed down through generations. This is not just a farm. This is not just a business. This is our heritage.