Farm life in the Sweet family is just that – sweet. In Lakeview, Michigan, a small town outside of Grand Rapids, 640 acres of farmland has been a part of the Sweet family's lives for more than 100 years. When Elverne Johnson purchased the acreage in 1906, he had no idea this would shape their family for generations to come.
The farm land has been passed down through four generations, and soon a fifth will come into play when Johnson’s six great-great-grandchildren grow up. Deanna and Don Sweet are the second generation owners of the farm, and their livelihoods are spent ensuring that the land they have rented out to farmers is being put to good use.
The Sweets are hardworking, passionate and the typical “All-American” family, making sure that their children learn the benefits of farm life. By growing their own food and raising cattle, they know where their food is coming from. Deanna Sweet takes great pride in their family’s way of life.
“We love living on the farm. We don’t have to worry about what people have to say or following rules. We would never choose a different way of life. This is where we were meant to be and we love the family farm,” Deanna Sweet said.
Dennis Sweet, son of Don and Deanna, also owns his own section of the land. Him and his wife Dawn, alongside their son Donavon, all work to produce various crops that have a large impact on feeding the nation.
“We’re formally a dairy operation, but we also do potatoes, soybeans, corn, horse hay for the cows,” Dennis Sweet said. “Farming life is the best life. You've got wide open spaces, you learn to work hard, you appreciate how we get our food. In my opinion, it’s the best place you can raise a child.”
Farm life does come with hardships as less people are staying in the community. The government’s overarching hand has caused worry amongst farmers. Threats to the farming community such as government regulation and taxes have become more prevalent now than ever before.
“A lot of money is required and the payback just isn’t there. What probably deters a lot of people from wanting to be a farmer is just the cost of doing business. It can be done, but government regulations are probably their biggest threat,” Dennis Sweet said.
Six-year-old London Replogle is one of Deanna and Don’s great-grandchildren. She loves growing up with the freedom to play and learn all about the farming operations. Her favorite part is getting to go out and see the various cattle the family owns.
Zachary Bartell, uncle to London, is also very involved in the farm. At 26-years-old, he has decided to stay involved with farming as a hobby.
“I really enjoy what we do because you know where your food is coming from. For us, we hand raise and freeze everything. That’s kind of a big benefit for us economics wise,” Bartell said.
Farm life in Michigan’s Sweet family centennial farm will continue to play a major role as the children grow up and one day add on more generations.
“It will be up to the kids if they want to keep farming or rent it out, but the farm will always stay in the family,” Deanna Sweet said.
By Jordan Wolfe