2013 22/05

Playing with pigs and learning about Soy — all in a days work.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with a few other bloggers and a group from Pure MI Agriculture touring two businesses that I drive by every single day. But I really knew nothing about either. So, I slipped into my plastic boots covers and white coveralls and dove right in.  Well, not literally…that would have been gross!

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Dykhuis Farms

It all started with one man, a few pigs, and a very dedicated family 35 years ago. Now they are the biggest pig farm in the state of Michigan! And still family owned and operated!!!

With around 16,000 sows (those are the lady pigs) located in six Sow Farms around West Michigan, Dykhuis Farms is a well-oiled machine. Because that doesn’t even begin to touch their operation. They also have 48 locations around Michigan and Indiana where their pigs are kept and cared for until they are ready for market (240-280 lbs). They have their own trucking system to transport the pigs. Mechanics. Managers. And another whole team that takes care of the crops they grow to help feed their pigs. And they would all tell you that they feel like family.

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But then there is the operation of running a farm like this. Again, well-oiled! Everyone has their job. And they take pride in their job. And they can’t effectively complete their job if everyone else isn’t doing their’s to their best ability either. Hello, accountability.

While at Dykhuis Farms we got to see the pigs at every stage — from just a few hours old to full grown. When I say every stage, I mean pretty darn close to every stage…even the artificial insemination. And that’s all I’m going to say on that…

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I was struck at how much attention is spent on each stage of the pigs’ life. Their care is specifically tailored to the stage they are in — where they are housed, how many and what stage pigs they are housed with, how much food they get, and the nutritional make-up of that food. Just like when we are pregnant, a sow who they are hoping to get pregnant will receive a certain nutritional make-up and a sow who is nursing her litter of piggies will receive another. They are making sure these pigs are getting the best nutrition possible to create healthy litters and great meat for us.

The only disappointing thing I learned is that we do not have a pork processing plant (say that 5 times fast) in Michigan. So, the pigs from Dykuis are shipped down to a Tyson plant in Indiana and then the food is shipped back here to your local stores. I would LOVE to see a processing plant like that open here in Michigan in an effort to create more local jobs and lessen that carbon footprint!

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It was obvious after spending a few hours with the team from Dykuis Farms that they truly love what they do. They really must if they can stand that smell every day!

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Zeeland Farm Services

Another “family business” story, Zeeland Farm Services, Inc. started out in 1950 as Meeuwsen Produce and Grain by Bob Meeuwsen. In 1977, it was reorganized as Zeeland Farm Services to truly incorporate all it was doing and, 15 years later, Bob’s three sons took over ZFS.

Today ZFS does more things that you can imagine. From providing farmers with a variety of grains and specialty seeds for planting to creating feed for livestock and poultry to storage and freight services.

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And then there is the Zeeland Farm Soya, Inc. and Zeeland Food Services, Inc. divisions. As the largest soybean processing plant in Michigan, ZFS creates soybean meal and hulls are used in animal feed, soy biodiesel, and an entire line of soybean cooking oils called Zoye.

Again, just like at Dykhuis Farms, ZFS is a well-oiled machine {no pun intended}. Still operating in their original location in Zeeland, they have round amazing ways to utilize the by products of different processes. Oh, this area is producing a high amount of steam? Well, let’s pipe that over to this section of the campus and use it to help “fuel” things over here. And, hey, there’s a landfill just 6 miles down the road? Let’s create a pipe and pipe in that methane gas to help fuel things here!

They are finding ways to truly utilize everything to run as efficiently as possible and are constantly looking at ways to “change with the times” to provide their customers and the community with the best products possible.

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Way to go West Michigan! I know we are in a time where agriculture and farming are often under scrutiny and questioned for the materials and methods they are using, but I’m happy to see two amazing companies and families truly doing it right!

Thanks again to Pure MI Agriculture for this great experience!

As an invited member of the press to this tour, I was not required to share this information or my experience here but did receive a lovely gift bag as a “thank-you” for taking the time to learn more about Pure MI Agriculture and these two businesses. All opinions are my own. Some photos included here are compliments of Pure MI Agriculture and ZFS, Inc.

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3 Comments

  • I’m curious if there was any discussion about whether the soy they produce is genetically modified or not?

  • Yes, they produce both because that’s what the market is demanding. The interesting thing I learned was that they ship a ton of non-GMO soy over to Japan because that is what Japan demands. I think it’s like most production companies….if the end user demands a certain product or standard, then they will adapt to that. They also talked a lot about why farmers opt for GMO products. It’s all very interesting and there are a lot of very convincing arguments on both sides. Me? I just don’t feel like I’ve done enough digging and research on either side yet.

  • Hello Fam. Dykhuis..

    found your story and read it. very interesting what you have build up.

    what is your link with Holland / the netherlands ???

    A.G. ( Gerrit ) Holland
    De Kerkegaarden 55
    NL 7478BZ – DIEPENHEIM
    The Netherlands

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