• Karrie Brown

Walnutdale Farms

Waldnutdale Farms has seen a lot of changes over the years. Aubrey Lettinga is the 4th generation running this dairy farm in Wayland and provided a tour of the operation. She highlighted the technology that has helped them go from milking 80 cows to 2,500. Multiple hardware and software packages monitor everything from cow health to the protein and fat content of the milk. Automation exists in the carousel that allows 3 people to milk 50 cows in less than 5 minutes. Technology is essential to ensuring the work is done efficiently and safely.

Technology goes beyond the milking operation.

Walnutdale Farms also grows crops to feed the animals in their care. “It is precision agriculture. Soil samples tell us what each part of the field needs and the software in the tractor tells it how much seed, fertilizer, or other inputs to apply. We are MAEAP certified, which means we monitor everything. It is about sustainability, and that matters because I want my five kids to be the next generation running this farm someday,” Aubrey said.

The next generation matters to Walnutdale Farms. Aubrey and her team value telling the story of farming to students. They took part in virtual farm tours throughout the pandemic to ensure students who couldn’t come for field trips could still learn about where their milk, cheese, and ice cream come from. Aubrey shared, “We have to tell this story. Too many people just don’t know what it takes to bring food from the farms to their tables.”

Their virtual farm tours continue, with a feature in the 2022 World Dairy Expo on October 4. Walnutdale Farms was selected because they excel in technology, community engagement, environmental stewardship, and cow comfort.

Community engagement inspires new members to join the team. This means their long-time employees can move into more skilled roles. “We have a great team here. Some employees have been with us 20 years and many have suggested members of their own family to work here as well. We’re really fortunate to have them with us,” Aubrey shared. Entry-level positions start in the milking parlor, but as team members become familiar with the mechanics of the automation, they can move into maintenance positions. “It takes 40 full-time employees to keep the farm operating. Everything from truck drivers to tractor work,” she said. Everyone is there to ensure the cows are well cared for and that quality is maintained in the milk they deliver through Walmart and Guernsey Farms Dairy products.

With Michigan being sixth in the nation in milk production and home to many milk processing operations, dairy farms like Walnutdale Farms keep our economy moving.