Mary and Rollie Baumbach moved from The Flat Road farm in Norwood to the current farm with 6 of their 9 children. They ran the farm as their family business selling milk, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, and grain. Grace and Mary purchased the farm for their parents in 1944. Prior to the purchase, they were renting the farm.
Harrison and Grace were married and purchased the farm from Grace's parents in 1948. They were married shortly after in 1949. Grace continued to run the farm while she taught school and Harrison logged the surrounding area. Their only son Douglas was born in 1950. During his childhood, Doug would work the farm and started working for the neighbor milking their cows. Harrison and Doug purchased the neighbor's herd to start their own commercial dairy. Sadly, in March of 1971 Harrison passed away.
In 1972 Doug decided to officially become a dairyman. A new barn, feed room, and manure pit were built. The insistence of a cement floor has continued to keep our manure pit functional to this day. Our herd consisted of Holstein and Brown Swiss cows. Sadly, like so many farmers in the state, we were affected by PBB and had to destroy our entire herd. Starting in 1974 we built our herd again by purchasing registered Holsteins from NY. This continued until 1978 and we haven't purchased another cow since. For a short time, the farm was renamed Dou-Mar Dairy Farm when Doug was married for a few years. In 1976, Sarah was born, becoming the 4th generation on the farm. In 1978 the farm name was changed to HD Farms. The farm operated under that name for 43 years.
In 1982 a new dry cow barn was built. Grace also retired from teaching and started milking cows and feeding calves on the farm. We completely switched to artificial insemination and officially became a closed herd. We also switched to Polydome calf hutches to provide a cleaner environment for the calves. In late Spring of 1982 Doug was crushed by a semi when helping the semi make it up the hill for a delivery. The road to recovery was arduous and long but family and friends stepped in to keep the farm going. In 1983 we completely removed the walls of the lactating and dry cow barn and added curtains. This allowed for increase airflow through the barns adding to cow comfort. In 1986 we switched over to using AgBags to store all our forages. The calf condos were added in 1986 to accommodate our smallest heifers to start socialization with just a few other animals. By 1989 all the Harvester silos were removed from the farm and a new feed room was built. In 1991, Sarah moved back to the farm to finish high school and work on the farm. Working with the MSU Extension office, we changed the dry cow program and added animated salt in their diet in 1992. Animated salt stops cows' liver from filling up with Calcium. We continued to work on our agronomy to make improvements for the next several years. The large heifer hoop barn was also built in 1998 to accommodate our growing herd. 1999 brought additions to cow comfort in the barn with the installation of poly pillow mats.
In 2006 Jason Roy and Sarah were married and welcomed the 5th generation: Parker 2007, Temperance 2010 and Annabelle 2012. Later that same year, we became MAEAP certified and were the first farm out of Charlevoix, Emmet and Oswego Counties. On September 28, 2006, we received the cropping system certification. In 2008 the milking parlor was upgraded with a new system that included automatic takeoffs. Looking for ways to improve cow comfort, we added a grooved rubber floor to the lactating cow barn in 2010. Always working to stay ahead, we started using A2 semen for breeding in 2013. During 2014 through 2020 we grew corn to offset low milk prices and continued to improve our agronomy. We reduced the amount of acreage needed to feed a cow from 3.5 acres to 1.5 acre. Sadly, in 2018 Grace passed away just six months shy of turning 100. Always looking for ways to improve sustainability, we partnered with Short's Brewing Company in 2019. We use their spent brewers grain as a feed source for the cows.
Noticing a growing concern for animal welfare and specifically the practice of dehorning cattle, we started using polled semen in 2021. This eliminates horns through genetics. After much discussion of the future of the farm, Doug and Sarah decided to partner and create Norwood Centennial Farms in July of 2021. Cow manager was implemented to track cow health and heat patterns in November of 2021. Throughout the summer of 2022, the farm received a face lift and added 1,276,000 yards of fill from US 31 being redone. This allowed us to level off the feed lot where the AgBags are stored, create a circle drive, reinforce the manure pit and make a road around it, raise the large heifer lot to the barn foundation height, and regrade the ditch by the road. During the summer, several maintenance and landscaping items were addressed to prepare for farm tours. The old stave silo was also torn down in the fall making room for future expansion. Several of the staves were kept and repurposed around the farm. We had a forest management plan created to become better stewards of our forests on the farm. The plan will implement a select cut and sapling planting schedule to keep our forests healthy.
2023 was a big year for us at the farm. We launched our website that includes our farm events and shop. We can now be found on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and PureMichigan. In March, Leelanau Cheese started regular pickups of our milk to test its cheese making ability. We joined the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce and became a Bier's Brewery music sponsor. Our line of summer sausages and beef sticks made from our culled cows was launched in March. We were fortunate to be picked up by several local vendors before the year ended. We worked with a biochar company on a research project to test the use of biochar in manure. Even though the concept of using biochar in manure and on fields is sound, it is cost prohibitive at this time to use on the scale that would be needed to be affective on farms. We contracted a specialized agronomist to dial in our agronomy protocols and improve our agronomy practices. This will help us to maximize crop yields using the least amount of acreage along with making us even better stewards of the land. We switched our mineral provider and increased our per cow milk production to an average of 100 lbs. per cow per day with twice a day milking. The mineral change along with the use of Cow Manager has increased our conception rate to 40% and pregnancy rate to 50%. Tours began this summer and grew enough momentum for us to continue. We enjoy showing people our farm. The beginning work started for our CNMP (Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan) and will be finished in the beginning of 2024. Our manure pit was certified which opened the door for us to qualify for the MAEAP Farmstead and Livestock Certifications. We also finished our Forest Management Plan that allows us to take better care for our forests and qualifies us for the MAEAP Forest, Wetland, and Habitat System certification. Just in time for the holiday season we launched our suet wreaths. To finish out the year our social media presence has grown, and we can now be found on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
This year is shaping up to be another busy exciting year on the farm. Our CNMP should be finished by the end of January. We will then start working with the NRCS on a Conservation Stewardship Plan and an Agriculture Energy Management Plan. As soon as the snow melts the MAEAP verifier will be able to verify our Cropping System, Livestock System, Farmstead System, and Forest, Wetland, and Habitat System certifications. Once verified, we will then be the only commercial dairy in our regional MAEAP area to have all four certifications. We are continuing to work with Leelanau Cheese and are working on a fromage cheese line using our milk under our label. Our farm tours will change slightly to include a hayride around our largest home field, and we are partnering with other local businesses to make it a more robust tour. Our farm mascot, "Gracie the Cow" was the first baby born on the farm in 2024. We are excited to chronicle her life and to introduce "Gracie the Cow" as our farm mascot who is named after Grace Warner. We joined the "Taste the Local Difference" print and online directory to let more people know about our delicious farm fresh products. We will also be included in the "Charlevoix County Buy It Local Map." this year. Our Pure Michigan sign is scheduled to be installed on Hwy US 31 this spring. The farm has joined the Harvest Host community to provide yet another wonderful farm experience. We intend to join the Charlevoix Farmers Market this year but will see how things go. Keep an eye on our social media platforms to see more frequent updates.