AlabamaAlabama dairy farmers take pride in their cows, their milk and their land.


 

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Gilmer Family (Sulligent, AL)

 

     

Will Gilmer sees the new era of social media as a gift to the traditional world of farming.
Gilmer, a third-generation dairy farmer in Lamar County, Ala., said fewer and fewer people have any connection with farming or an understanding of the industry. As a result, many have misconceptions about farming, sometimes ranging from romanticizing life on the farm to distrusting it.
“Early on, I recognized that we, meaning agriculture in general, need to try to bridge the gap because it’s obvious that people didn’t fully understand what we do on the farm. My thought was that the internet is a good way to try to reach people and educate people efficiently,” said Gilmer.
Gilmer started a webpage, gilmerdairyfarm.com, to show how his farm – and by extension, how other farms – works.
And now, with social media like Facebook and Twitter, Gilmer not only can tell people about his farm, but he can interact with a public that may never before have had a way to talk to a farmer.
“I would much rather have face-to-face conversations with people, especially in my own community,” he said. “But even within my own state, in places like Birmingham, Huntsville or Montgomery, the only way to realistically connect with them is social media.”
And the outreach is beneficial. Gilmer said that people who are searching online for topics such as hormones in food or animal health and wellbeing, will find blogs he has written on the subject and contact him.
“I wrote about hormones in milk in January, and here we are in October, and it’s still the most viewed of my blog posts,” Gilmer said. “They don’t necessarily know me, my farm or my blog, but they’re finding me from search results.”
Gilmer said he uses humor to attract people to his sites.
“I try to be entertaining in a lot of what I do not only so people will pay attention, but also so when there is a serious issue, people feel they can turn to me and trust me,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Wright Family (Alexandria, AL)

 

         

David Wright is a second generation dairy farmer from Alexandria, Alabama. His father started dairy
farming in 1947, right after returning from World War II. He started his farm about 20 miles down the
road. David went off to school and when he returned, he was ready to join the family business, “I came
back in 1972 and had farmed with my dad in a partnership for 17 years and the opportunity came up to
buy this farm here in Alexandria. We decided to run both farms and help each other out whenever we
needed it.”
Wright Dairy Farm is now 200 acres and uses pasture-based grazing for the herd, “We used to raise corn
and corn silage. Now we’re pasture only and we do buy some grain and supplement in times of drought.
But just about 100% of our forage is grown right here on the farm.”
David says great milk starts under your feet, “This is a bottom up type of an operation. We start with the
soil by keeping the soil healthy and growing grass. We have our own cows, so we have to keep our cows
healthy in order for them to take care of us.“
Through the years, David looked for ways to improve his business, “We were finding that we weren’t
making a good profit any more. There’s a lot of profit between the farm gate and the customer. So we
decided that we’d pick up some of that profit by adding a value to our product, so we’ve bottled the
milk. So when we cut out the milk truck hauler, the processing plant, the truck from the plant to the
store, and the store- we went straight to the customer.”
Then things really changed when David met cheesemaker Corey Hinkel, “Corey and I got started several
years ago and the first product we made was Parmesan cheese. We had way too much milk and we
were taking the cream off to make ice cream and to sell heavy cream. We still had all of this skim milk
left over and it was just going down the drain. So, we started making a low-fat parmesan cheese. After a
while, we expanded and started making other cheeses and I’m trying to turn that part over to him. He’s
the merchandiser and has experience dealing with restaurants and wholesalers.”
Corey runs Yellow Moon Cheese, “I believe, especially in the food business, that if you’re going to do
something, you better do it right. I think once you start off with the main ingredient, milk, and you keep
it that way, then your final product is going to be spectacular.” Corey says it’s a partnership that works,
“David and I have a great relationship and a lot of respect in our knowledge. He helps me in a lot of ways
throughout this process. Sometimes the best advice you can get from people is what NOT to do.”
Corey says their most popular cheese is the Red Hill cheddar. His personal favorite is an Asiago cheese
called “Wanda.” He and David agree that above all, it is quality that counts, “I wouldn’t do this – I
wouldn’t do anything without doing it the right way. By having complete control over the grass, the soil,
the cows and their milk, it’s nice to know we don’t have to rely on an outside source, to a point, that
would impact our product or its price.”
David believes that the demand for local, more natural products is here to stay, “There is a trend to go
back to local. People want to know where their food is coming from. They want to know the story
behind it and we can provide that. At Wright Dairy, we let people see the whole process and then they
can ask questions. It’s important that they know about the health of the cow, the health of the pasture,
the health of the product when we finish. The more questions they can ask and we can answer, the
better they can feel about the product.”
David says his investment and hard work is paying off and now others are hoping to learn from their
model, “I enjoy seeing other dairymen come to our place to see how we run our operation. I would like
to see more dairymen do this so that more local communities will have this benefit.”

 

 

 

  

 
 

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