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MSU names Wilson Centennial Farms as 2023 Dairy Farm of the Year

January 31, 2023
<p>Illustration by Abbey Ross and Madison Echlin</p>

Illustration by Abbey Ross and Madison Echlin

The MSU Department of Animal Science will be presenting its 2023 Dairy Farm of the Year Award this upcoming Friday. This year, the department has recognized Nancy and Brent Wilson of Wilson Centennial Farms as recipients of the award.

According to chairperson of the Department of Animal Science Cathy Ernst, the selection begins with a competitive nomination process, during which people on and off campus may nominate farms they feel represent the best of Michigan. 

Wilson Centennial Farms is a seventh generation family farm with Brent and Nancy Wilson being the fifth generation. They have two sons, Tyler and Ben, who are set to continue managing the farm in the years to come.

Brent Wilson said the history of the farm reaches back to 1851 when his great great grandfather came from Portage County, Ohio and officially established Wilson Centennial Farms. Over the years, the family has continued to expand the farm and its scope of success

“Our family has been able to persevere through floods and droughts,” Wilson said. “And we’re constantly trying to grow the farm, our yields. Over the past 20 to 25 years, yields have been going up.”

Beyond individual farm success, the Wilsons have also opened their farm to many MSU students and researchers, providing opportunities for internships, research and more.

“They’re always willing to have students,” Ernst said. “They’ve worked directly with our faculty and extension specialists to test new technologies … those sorts of things. So they’ve been a very collaborative farm for us to work with, both from a research extension and student education perspective.” 

Associate professor in the Department of Animal Science Miriam Weber Nielsen said the farm has fostered advances in research through its partnership with MSU researchers to address bovine leukemia virus disease in dairy cows.

“They have been working to eliminate it on their dairy farm and also in other research projects have been great partners for not only our faculty, but also (for providing) a learning experience for our students to be able to be out on a well managed farm,” Nielsen said

Many criteria go into determining the farm that receives this award each year.

“The winner for this year really reflected the quality of the herd,” Ernst said. “They’ve won many awards for the quality of the milk they produce, as well as the level of production in the farm. They’re very progressive in testing and applying new technologies, which keeps them at the forefront of the best of the best of dairy farms in Michigan.” 

Nielsen, also chairperson of the Dairy Farm of the Year selection committee, said other criterion that made Wilson Centennial Farms stand out against other competitors was industry and community leadership

“I think another couple areas that stand out are their teamwork on that farm and their pride.” Nielsen said. “So a strong sense of their heritage as a family farm, and their contribution to their community as well."

Brent Wilson agreed. He said working with his family is crucial for success.

“A big thing is that we all get along … that’s vital," Wilson said.

The award is set to be given on Feb. 3 in Mount Pleasant at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference, where Brent and Nancy Wilson will be in attendance to receive it

“Our whole family is excited,” Wilson said. “All of our children and their spouses and our grandchildren will be there.”

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