Putting it all together
A dream realized: Happy Cow Creamery
Milk processing and direct marketing were the next frontiers for Tom and Linda Trantham. They made that decision in the summer of 2000 when a letter from the milk co-op informing them that milk prices would stay flat for the next year arrived on the same day they heard that consumers would be paying nine cents a gallon more at the store. Tom said, "Let's go look at some processing equipment."
Besides, with increased profits and more time, one thing still bothered him—the expensive silo that once stored dairy feed still loomed over the milking parlor as the last trace of the old confinement dairy. It had no place in his herd's new life. It seemed the perfect place for his next dream--a small processing plant and on-farm store.
“That silo laughed at me every morning until the day I came out here with a torch and started cutting doors in it,” Trantham says.
The next two years were a blur of permits, regulations and construction, but the dream was fully realized in 2002 when the silo opened as a stunning three-story, one-of-a-kind milk bottling plant and farm store. Appropriately named Happy Cow Creamery, it was the first homestead creamery in South Carolina and is still the only dairy in the state where the cows dine twelve months year on pasture.
“Our milk travels only 48 feet from cow to bottle,” says Trantham, pointing to a pipeline passing through the milking parlor roof to the pasteurizer on the second floor of the silo. Through glass doors, store customers can see their milk being bottled and labeled. The view works both ways.
“For 23 years I produced milk of superior quality and had it pumped, transported and mixed with other milk on the way to the customer,” he continues. “Now I have the satisfaction of watching customers stand on my property, drink a glass of milk, say 'Tom this is the best milk I've ever tasted' and then pay me a fair price for it."
Besides the milk, Happy Cow Creamery sells organic produce fertilized with—you guessed it! Depending on the season shoppers can find heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplant, peppers, salad mix, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. From other local farms there are organic apples, pastured beef, poultry and eggs. From around the Carolinas come stone ground grits, cornmeal, aromatic rice and shrimp right from the boats. Amish farmers in Wisconsin and Ohio send cheeses and preserves.
Only a 30-minute drive from the Greenville-Spartanburg airport, the farm is becoming somewhat of a tourist destination. But even with the excitement of the farm store and creamery, Trantham never tires of showing visitors how milk is made from the grass up. For the man who cared about cows, it's still all about the cows.
“My favorite time is when I move them to a new paddock,” he says. “They really are jumping up and down from anticipation. But you know a lot of them will come up to me as if they are saying ‘Thank you' before they go out to eat. I never get tired of that."