Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Cow Creamery- A Special Place

Tom Trantham
When was the last time you had the opportunity to see how milk is produced, from beginning to end? 

At the Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, SC, you can do that every weekday in the summer if you get a small group together (20 or more) and arrange a tour.

Why is it unique?  There are so many interesting aspects of this operation, that we hardly know where to begin.  Let's start with the info about their tours, then proceed to the reasons why you might want to travel quite a long distance to buy their milk for making your cheese:


We at the Trantham 12 Aprils Dairy are proud to announce that we’re now offering a full tour of the farm and creamery. The farm has been operating since 1979 and people often have requested to be able to come and see what it takes to run a dairy.  Since we bottle our own milk, we are able to offer more to see than on most typical dairies.

We are the only bottling plant in the world located in a Harvestore silo. Your group can actually see the “Got Milk” process from beginning to end.  Our tours are sure to be educational with a touch of good ol’ farm fun!

While touring, your group will take a trolley ride to see our lush grazing paddocks.  You’ll also see our milking parlor where our “girls” work.  And of course a sampling of the milk is a must.

We’re excited about what’s going on at Trantham 12 Aprils Dairy. We hope you will come and let us share what we feel will be a field trip your group will remember for years to come.

Tours are available in April - May and September -November, Tuesday - Friday. Occasionally, Saturday tours are scheduled and open to the public.

Tom Trantham - Cow Whisperer

So, let's begin with how we found this farm:  We have a Good Milk List and several of our customers wrote to us about how good their milk is for making cheese.  We then asked one of our customers to do an interview for this blog, and she again mentioned their milk.

We looked up their website:, and noticed that they have a Facebook account.  We went there and discovered that they have over 4000 fans!  The comments went beyond "supportive" into a range from "effusive to gushing."  Apparently, this is very good milk!!!

From their website and a discussion with the owner, Tom Trantham, (who calls himself a cow whisperer) we learned several interesting things about this farm and dairy:

1)  His Grazing System

There's a story here:  Despite being the top producer in the state, Farmer Tom was about to go bankrupt in 1986, farming the traditional way with chemicals and fertilizers.  One day, his cows got out of their pen and grazed in a nearby field.  Later that day, they produced significantly more milk than usual.  He let them graze for the next few days and he noticed that the cows were eating only the top part of the plants and moving on.  He had the plants tested and discovered that most of the nutrients were in the top part of the plants.

He developed a system whereby his cows eat just the tops, then move on.  Every day, they move until they are rotated back to the original area.  Thus, they are always eating the best part of the plants.  (Most farms mow the grain down to the bottom and this is fed to the cows.)

Farmer Tom stopped using chemicals and fertilizers (other than his own organic mix) and called his system "12 Aprils Grazing."  Since then, he has taught this system to farmers around the world, and it is now being used in a USDA educational video at agricultural colleges around the country.

He keeps his herd below 90 cows because that is what his fields can support.

2)  His Bottling Plant

After finally becoming profitable with this system, Tom converted a silo to a bottling plant and it is the only one of its kind in the world.  The beauty of it is that the milk is  pumped once and that's for only 48 feet.   The rest of the movement from one area to another is gravity-fed.  (In larger plants, milk is pumped 3 or 4 miles, up to 20 times.  This is what Tom calls "bruised milk.") 

3)  His Highly Nutritious Milk

The milk is low temp pasteurized (145F) and never homogenized.  It has no additives.  Yet, the nutritional value far exceeds that of "normal" milk.  In fact, this milk has 1 1/2 times the amount of CLA in raw Organic Pastures milk.  (CLA is the subject of new research which indicates that it may actually help to reduce body fat.  It is already proven to be an anticarcinogen and to prevent atherosclerosis.)  Happy Cow milk is so nutritious that 11 doctors travel 126 miles to buy this milk.

4)  His Creamery

The Tranthans have been in the creamery business for 7 years, and every month has been better than the last.  They have 11 employees, and, as Tom says, a good life and good food to eat.  In the store, they sell  their own whole milk, chocolate milk, and buttermilk,  Wisconsin butter and cheese, Vermont maple syrup, raw unfiltered local honey, jams and jellies, fresh whole hog sausage and free range chickens and eggs, organically grown.  They even sell a children's book which explains how the farm works.

Tom said they are thinking about making cheese soon.  It breaks his heart when he has to sell some of his milk to the big corporate dairies instead of his own customers.  If he was making cheese, there would be none of that.  So, we're looking forward to helping him with that and all we can say is,  "Look out, Wisconsin!  There's some competition coming!"

1 comment:

lee haskell said...

Wow, great article and hope these natural dairy farms continue to stay as they are. I live in SC so I'll be buying their milk now that I know about it.