The Survival Story of a Dairy Farm in a Subdivision Neighborhood
Hatcher Family Dairy in Williamson County, Tennessee produces 3000 gallons of milk a week from 75 cows on a 290 acre farm located right across the street from a fancy-schmancy million dollar home subdivision.
The Dairy Farm in a Subdivision Neighborhood
On a recent late-winter trip to the Nashville area, we visited Hatcher Family Dairy. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and in an effort to make sure we overstayed our welcome, we brought my infant nephew and 2-year-old niece along for the tour.
The sun was low in the sky when we arrived, casting an egg yolk-like orange glow on the hills of the farm. The naked limbs on the trees created dancing shadows for the farm chickens to chase, and fifth generation dairyman Charles Hatcher greeted us with all the energy of a Monday morning just before explaining how he works two jobs – co-managing the farm with his Uncle Jim being the first and coaching football at the local high school being the second.
It was milking time when we arrived on the farm. There was a low roar from the milking barn as the equipment did its work while cars whizzed by on the increasingly busy local thoroughfare just yards up the hill from the barn. Surreal, really.
Five Generations of Farm History
In 1810, the Hatcher’s relatives moved to the area and in 1832, farming began on this property. In 1980, there were over 150 dairy farms in Williamson county. Today there are two.
Charles explained that when he was a senior in high school, his father, Charlie explained that it might be about time to give up on the farm. Times were tough in that business, and he had a healthy veterinary career including serving as the state veterinarian for the state of Tennessee. Million dollar homes were going up across the street. Land values were soaring. He thought, it just didn’t make sense to go on.
But the junior Hatcher didn’t agree, so here we were, visiting a flourishing farm just a few short years later where some things haven’t changed and many things have. The smell of musty hay and sawdust hasn’t changed. The self-distributed Hatcher Family Dairy brand… that’s new.
Blazing a Trail for the Future
Today, Hatcher Family Dairy is the producer, processor, packager, retailer and distributor of their dairy products distributing their milk to 60 retailers in a 4 county radius, with milk going from cow to bottle in less than 24 hours. Their products include milk, creamline milk, cream, buttermilk, chocolate milk and their own proprietary Jumpin Jim energy milk drink.
Charles says, “It’s our family’s name on the bottle, so our reputation is at stake if anything goes wrong.”
We could sense that care when we approached the milking barn. The cows appear very happy and well cared for. They were approachable and friendly beasts that seemed to be almost smiling at us on that lazy Friday evening as they waited for their turn in the milking stall. Maybe that’s because these cows are more than a number to the Hatcher family – they’ve got real names written on their ear tags! Charles told us that whoever finds the new calf gets to name it, and he smirked as he shared that his calves usually get named after celebrities.
Charles is certified by the state to do all in-house lab testing, and he gets audited routinely by the state. Under Charles’ leadership, Hatcher Family Dairy was the first in the state of Tennessee to have digital recordkeeping on the farm.
Father Charlie serves as animal nutritionist for the farm and formulates a ration to supplement what they don’t get from the pasture grass.
The farm boasts a significant agritourism venture as well with farm tours offered routinely during the warm weather months with upwards of 200+ people per week touring the farms, many families and school groups.
Their farm is also home to a veterinary clinic where Charles’ sister Jennifer not only takes care of all of the Hatcher farm animals including dairy cows, sheep and chickens but also many animals in their nearby community.
Next door to the veterinary clinic is the farm store, which offers meat grown on the farm – beef and lamb – as well as their fresh farm eggs and farm products produced by other local farm neighbors. They say they’ll sell 30 dozen eggs a week if the chickens will produce them.
Recently, someone had the idea to start cooking burgers using their own beef and sell them in the store. Now they sell 15 to 20 burgers a day and just had to expand their store space to hold more people! Because of the farm store and now burger sales, they tell us that they’ve gotten to know a lot of their neighbors – and there are plenty of them. With a huge new subdivision right across the street, they’ve been a little shocked that no one has complained about the “farm smell.”
Maybe it’s the homemade cinnamon rolls. Or the burgers. But probably it’s the chocolate milk. It’s the stuff inner-toddler-dreams are made of.
Plan Your Visit
The Hatcher Family Dairy is a must-stop on any agri-tour of the South, but plan ahead, because they only allow tours during warmer months with longer days. This is a family farming operation that just hits all the right notes. Not only do they have an exquisite milk product, the Hatcher family are unified in their by a sense of calling and purpose and a responsibility to their past. They hold a deep concern for the quality of their product as a gauge of their own personal integrity, they are dedicated to being simply great neighbors to their (growing) community.