Sharing Success: Caledonia Farmers Elevator

CoBank’s signature Sharing Success program doubles the impact of our customer-owners by matching their charitable contributions. In 2023, more than 670 customers contributed more than $5.1 million—which CoBank matched for a total impact of $10.2 million. Each year, we profile an organization that has tapped into Sharing Success to make a difference in their local community. This year we spoke with Caledonia, Michigan-based Caledonia Farmers Elevator.

CFE is a farmer-owned cooperative specializing in feed, grain, livestock nutrition and crop production. Serving Michigan farmers and communities for more than 100 years, CFE provides quality products, exceptional service and responsible stewardship of the resources entrusted to them. CFE has participated in Sharing Success since 2016, providing contributions to local fire departments and agricultural education programs. In 2023, CFE used its match to support Dairy Discovery, a nonprofit organization providing interactive education for children and their parents about agriculture, nutrition and the dairy industry.

Through Sharing Success, we take the lead in supporting important local programs, and CoBank partners right alongside us.

Dairy Discovery began as a way for founder Annie Link to help people connect with her family-owned dairy farm. “I had this idea about helping people to experience the farm firsthand—the way apple growers engaged their communities by letting people pick their own apples. We started doing community education and outreach and quickly realized just how much people didn’t know about the dairy industry. There is a big gap between consumers and their food, and it leaves a lot of room for misinformation. We wanted to give people an inside look at a modern dairy farm in a way that was fun, educational, sustainable and transparent.”

Dairy Discovery offers hands-on tours and camps at Swisslane Farms. Children between the ages of three and 15 can participate in one or multi-day camps that let them experience the life of a modern dairy farmer. Preschool campers name, feed and care for calves. They mix food for and get to milk cows. Older campers train and care for calves, participate in a calf show and experience many of the different jobs on the farm. There is also a “Camp for Champs” that allows disabled campers to experience the farm via a handicapped-accessible barn, wagon and other facilities. An emphasis on modern production practices teaches visitors the importance of technology on the farm and its role in helping farmers improve their businesses and the lives of their cows.

“The team [members] at Dairy Discovery play a really important role as ambassadors for agriculture,” said CFE’s Chief Executive Officer, Joel Stoepker. “Swisslane Farms is a long-time member of our co-op, and we’ve seen firsthand the value of the experiences they provide. Kids—and their parents too—get so much joy out of it, and they learn so much. That’s important for our co-op, our members and our community.”

“We’re proud to be a part of this important program and grateful to CoBank for helping us make an even bigger impact,” continued Stoepker. “Through Sharing Success, we take the lead in supporting important local programs, and CoBank partners right alongside us. You can’t get better than that from a financial partner!”

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Sustainability Report.