COLDWATER, MI — When the Norton family built their first hog barn in 1980, little did they know that it would eventually become part of a multi-million dollar operation. By the first week of May, their newest venture will be official with the initial group of sows being delivered to the facility. Spartanwood Sow Farm will continue the tradition that was started with Rolland Norton and carries on with his grandsons and their families.
Norton was a third-generation farmer and passed on his knowledge and enthusiasm for agriculture to his two sons, Ken and Dale. The men formed a partnership within Kendale Farms which has been in existence since 1974. They farmed together until 2005 when Rolland retired and the grandsons graduated from college and joined the family business. Ken’s son Josh studied agribusiness and finance while Dale’s son Michael earned a degree in animal science. Both graduated from Michigan State University.
The Norton family is now entering a new phase on their farm with the expansion of their hog operation. Previously, they were caring for 1500 sows that were birthing 60-64 litters a week. As of May, they will be preparing for the production of 3000 piglets a week. The 780’ by 158’ breeding/gestation building will contain 6000 sows who will providing those babies. Once the piglets are weaned, they will be transported from their 640’ by 121’ farrowing building to another farm to continue the procession to the Clemens Pork Production plant in Coldwater.
On Friday, April 25, the Norton families invited the public to the new facility for tours, pulled pork sandwiches, meet and greet with vendors, businesses, and Spartanwood employees, and the opportunity to ask questions about the new operation.
“There were between 850 and 900 who came out to the barn,” Dale’s wife Bobbi said. “People came from Kentucky, Ontario, Ohio, and Indiana as well as next door. We were very pleased with the comments that we heard as people were leaving. They were glad for the opportunity to visit and see the facility.”
There were over 30 sponsors for the open house with several setting up booths within the building for the attendees to ask questions and learn more about the facility. Tours were conducted throughout the seven-hour event and included both buildings. One of the questions asked was how many lightbulbs the structures contained and the answer was 1700 with them all being LED bulbs. MSU Extension staff were on hand to share information about the farm’s accountability to the state and the area.
When asked about the name Spartanwood Sow Farm, Dale explained how it developed.
“The pasture where the buildings are located is in the middle of some trees so the wood part came from that,” he said. “Since Dad (Rolland), Josh, Erica (Josh’s wife) and Michael are MSU graduates and the Norton family supports MSU, we decided on the name Spartanwood.”
Though Rolland passed away in 2016 at the age of 95, his spirit lives on within the farm he worked, the family he raised and the values he taught.