Tennessee milk logo gives local farmers a chance, shoppers a choice

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Everyone pitches in at Hickory Corner Dairy in Speedwell, where dairy has been a family business for Jim and Ann Shipley since the 1980s. The dairy sells its milk exclusively via a milk cooperative to the Weigel's stores, where now all of the milk carries a red Tennessee Milk label.

Dairy cows at Hickory Corner Dairy in Claiborne County produce milk for East Tennesseans.

"I wouldn't change it, not one bit," said Beth Shipley about how she and her brother growing up around dairy farming. Now she bottle feeds the baby calves. "I raise all the calves, I'm the calf grower."

The Shipley family manages a dairy involving 700 cows that need milked each day. Then a truckload of fresh milk makes its way to a processing facility in Powell. There, Weigel's processes milk from HIckory Corner and a few other East Tennessee dairies that it sells exclusively at its stores. A Tennessee Milk label makes clear to customers the origin of that milk.

Chairman Bill Weigel said since adding the new labeling, he's seen a slight increase in milk sales, after a long slump. "One week was up one percent, last week was up three percent...Really not expecting that because they'd been going down slowly all these years as consumption goes down."

Shipley said her family appreciates having a local market for their farm product. "We like knowing that our friends and our neighbors and family members are able to consume this, they're actually the ones who benefit, they're getting it fresh."

Meantime, the prices that dairy farmers receive for the milk coming off the farm is low, with competition from dairy farmers shipping milk to this area from other states. USDA data shows the average price per hundred pounds that farmers receive for milk is now $17.50, compared to prices around $28 per hundred pounds of milk five years ago. Farmers are struggling just to break even with production costs before turning any profit to make a living.

State dairy leaders say the state has 204 dairy farms now, compared to 486 farms in 2010. The state lost 65 dairies last year alone.

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, processors using the Tennessee Milk logo include:
Weigel's
Middle Tennesssee State University Creamery
Sunrise Dairy
Hatcher Family Dairy
G & G Family Dairy
Stooksbury Creamery

You can look for sources of Tennessee Milk products at
Drink TN Milk.

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