Swanson Pickle

Swanson Pickle is a family legacy deeply rooted in the soil of Muskegon. Starting in the 1950s with Wesley Swanson and his son Donald, this tale of overcoming labor challenges and pioneering in machine pickle harvesting symbolizes a journey from modest beginnings to a modern agricultural giant. Learn about the family’s journey through mechanization and fermentation, all while maintaining a steadfast commitment to their community and the land that sustains them.

The Past and Present of Swanson Pickle

In the 1950s, Wesley Swanson and his son Donald Swanson procured pickles and provided contract labor for the harvest of grower fields via the Bracero Migrant Worker Program. The first problem arose in 1964 when the Bracero program was abruptly shut down and labor shortage fears prevented most farmers from planting. Boldly, that was the year Swanson Pickle began farming themselves.

This gamble paid off, and by the 1970’s, driven by continued labor shortages, machine pickle harvesting was in full swing. Shifting in the 1990’s toward fermentation, large outdoor vats were being used to store and ferment pickles which leads us to the present. Today, Swanson Pickle is highly mechanized, and about 1500 acres of cucumbers and 1500 acres of corn and soybeans are grown each year, allowing them to process in total around 60,000,000 pounds of pickles annually.

Indeed, no day at Swanson Pickle looks the same. Each season brings about its own challenges and successes. Cash flow projections, customer relations, customer contracts, and inventory management are just some of the work done in the off-season, keeping the company busy during less pickle-friendly months.

Swanson Pickle’s Roots in Muskegon

Swanson Pickle has been a staple in Muskegon County since its inception, with its products reaching shelves nationwide. CFO Katie Hensley, originally a Swanson, holds a deep affection for Muskegon. She believes the area’s hardworking, genuine people combined with her family’s ties anchor the company’s presence by the lakeshore.

Looking ahead, Swanson Pickle eagerly anticipates the arrival of the SE Regional Force Main in the area. This project will provide direct access to wastewater treatment, a significant improvement over the current truck-hauling method. The Swanson family, deeply embedded in the Muskegon community, is excited to contribute to and witness its continued growth.

Katie Hensley sums up her thoughts with a family maxim—“As my Grandpa Don would say, ‘Eat more pickles!’”