Breuninger Farms, a longstanding family dairy farm in Dexter, is making a change
A new chapter is starting for Breuninger Farms after its dairy herd, around 230 cows, was auctioned off on May 11.
The farm, which is located just outside of Dexter at the corner of Parker and Marshall Roads, has been a working farm since 1909. It’s been a dairy farm for nearly 100 years. And all that time it’s been a family farm worked by generations of Breuningers.
As a dairy farm, the past two years have been good ones, so it’s not like bad times led to this. Really they are changing on a good note.
The Sun Times News spoke with Bruce Breuninger to learn more about the change, which in some ways is another sign of change in local farming.
Breuninger’s great grandfather established the farm after coming to America from Germany. His great grandparents met each other while working at other farms in the Dexter community. They made a connection through eggs and breakfast when his hungry great grandfather brought an egg or two over to his future wife’s farm to have some breakfast.
The two of them made a connection and soon afterward set out to make their own way in the world of farming. So they went about building their own farm. Their first barn was built with wood cut down from the land around the farm and which was then sent to the local saw mill and back by horse and sled all during a snowy winter.
It was in the 1930s or so when dairy cows were introduced and the farming operations began to grow even more. At that time and for years after there were many farms in the Dexter community.
Born in 1962, Breuninger was raised on the farm, and for the past 61 years, it’s been his life and work.
He left the family farm for a time after high school to attend Michigan State University in order to learn in its renowned agricultural technology program. He took some new ideas back home with him to Dexter and again went back to work with helping run the family farm.
As time went on for him and the farm, changes started happening around them. The overall dairy farm industry saw consolidation into bigger operations while locally they were seeing more and more development over the years of residential while seeing less and less farms like theirs, he said the area is not as conducive to agriculture as it once was.
This plus working with over 200 cows basically all of the time helped lead to the decision. Dairy farming is a full, full-time job, from Christmas mornings to many mornings, days and nights, the life of a dairy farmer is always busy.
Breuninger said it was time for a change.
His son, Zeke, has worked the farm with him for many years as well, but he said he’s not sure if his son wants to live the lifestyle of a dairy farmer. Knowing this and considering his age as well, Breuninger said he made his decision.
There are still a few cows on the farm, but they will now adjust their operations to be more of a crop farm.
Breuninger said he’s looking forward to this next chapter.
Looking back, he said there are some things he will miss about being a dairy farmer, with one being the people. From the veterinarian to the milk hauler and the always important employees, they have all played a big part.
Of the employees (around five), he said they have always been great and played such a big role in the farm’s success. He said he agonized over the decision because of them. He wanted to see them find a new opportunity before making such a big decision, and thankfully, they did.
Going forward there will be fewer cows at the corner farm at Parker and Marshall, but there will still be a working farm. Breuninger has been doing this his entire life and he will continue to, but just in a different way.