Giving Back is "Dairy" Good!
- Bringing dairy to their community
- Expansion from 35 to 13,000 cows
- Cargill sponsorship
It all started with 35 cows in 1999 when Bart and Els De Saegher moved to the United States from Belgium. Fast forward to today where they own and operate three dairies in central Michigan, milk 13,000 cows, and own two feed yards where they raise heifers for seven other dairy producers.
“At the home farm, we have all of our transition cows. After they are 30 days fresh, the young cows move to one farm and the mature cows move to the other farm,” Bart says.
Farming at this scale certainly takes a team. Bart and Els have three kids, Bram, Lotte, and Brent. Bram is the oldest and manages the home farm. Lotte works as the office manager and focuses on environmental opportunities. Brent, the youngest, is attending school in Ithaca and dreams of being a veterinarian one day. One of their most exciting experiences as a family was officially becoming U.S. citizens in 2015.
“After becoming U.S. citizens, we decided to give back to children who might not have a meal every night at their own home. So, we started a program called Fuel Up Little Learners that our daughter Lotte has since managed. Every Friday afternoon we stuff backpacks with nutritious food (lots of dairy products!) so these kids can make it through the weekend and come to school healthy and ready to learn the following Monday,” explains Bart.
This program has really taken off and they currently help three different schools, feeding 300 to 350 children each week. The family’s dairy community also supports this program. Each year a fundraiser is held to help support Fuel Up Little Learners, and their dairy community always has a presence – Cargill included.
Bart mentions that the De Saeghers and Cargill relationship started about seven years ago. “We were struggling a little bit with our management and the cows weren’t performing like they should have. I thought if we changed nutritionists, the rest of my team would step up to impress the new guy. Joe Tarkowski was feeding my neighbors cows and they always bragged about him, so I decided to give him a try.”
It is apparent that the De Saegher family appreciates the team approach with Cargill. The service and additional resources are what help them thrive. Walking pens and pointing out additional opportunities, working with their management team, and the depth of knowledge the Cargill team brings to the table are a few examples.
Joe Tarkowski, Dairy Focus Consultant, says “I appreciate how open they are to trying new things. If it is going to make them better, they trust that it will. It has been fun watching them grow and reach their goals over the years.”
The De Saegher family always seeks to be a helpful hand in their community, finding new ways to be innovative in the dairy industry, and bringing their dreams to life. Cargill is lucky to work alongside them and reach higher every day.