Mississippi’s Dairy Farms Rely on Rich Heritage

Everyone knows that “milk does a body good.” Dairy foods contain nine essential nutrients that are important for building strong bones and healthy bodies. Dairy foods are great sources of protein and calcium for people in all walks of life, including adults, seniors and athletes. Just one 8-ounce serving of milk has 8 grams of protein, which builds and repairs muscle tissue.

Mississippi’s dairy farmers are some of the hardest working farmers. They have definitely faced many challenges through the years in maintaining the industry here in the Magnolia State. We currently have 65 dairy farms in the state that supply schools, restaurants hospitals and grocery stores with milk, cheeses, ice cream, yogurt and other essentials to our dairy food intake.

Doug Popwell and Larry Martin from Tylertown are Genuine MS members. They are third and fourth generation dairy farmers. Tylertown is in Walthall County, better known as the “cream pitcher of Mississippi.” They talk positively about revitalizing the dairy industry. Their hope is that the younger generations will take an interest.

Popwell states, that it’s hard to get the supplies needed to meet the demands of the farm at times. Mike Ferguson, vice-chair of the Dairy Alliance also has stated that during these times that farmers have to plan ahead and schedule products to be delivered in advance to keep the farm running smoothly.

Katie Mauthe from McComb owns Mauthe’s Farm and she is the fourth-generation dairy farmer. As Genuine MS members, they strive to deliver fresh wholesome dairy products to businesses and consumers in Mississippi. Their milk is only pasteurized not homogenized (meaning less processed) and comes from cows that are grass-grazed.

Grazing improves the cow’s health, physical fitness, and fertility. Milk from grass grazed cows is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which have wonderful health benefits for humans. They offer other dairy products such as; butter, cream, cheesecakes, and cream cheese.

Pat Ard and Julie Ard James from Ruth, MS are members of the Genuine MS program. They are third and fourth generation farmers. Their journey started way back in 1894 with Julie’s great grandfather farming cotton. Their dairy business started in the 1940s. Ard’s Dairy Farm is one of the first to open its doors to the public for agritourism in the dairy industry. They feel that it is important for the public to see the farming process. Ard’s offers spring and fall fun for the family.

At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis many stores began limiting the amount of milk that shoppers were allowed to purchase. Although this increased the demand for milk at the time, the supply of milk remained strong with no shortage. The purchasing limitation, coupled with the impact from the loss of markets for milk due to school and restaurant closures, led to an oversupply of milk.

In addition, Covid-19 struck so quickly it has taken some time to re-tool storage and packaging of this perishable commodity. Milk processors are not capable of processing the excess supply leading many farmers with no choice but to dump their milk. Cows continue to produce, even in times of oversupply, and unlike many other agricultural commodities, milk is highly perishable and can’t be frozen or stored.

With new health trends of 2020 being brain food with Omega-3 fatty acids, less sugar, and simple home-cooking, we can achieve all of these healthy habits in one glass of milk.  As we move forward in this uncharted time, the message from the farmer is this, “don’t forget the local family-run farm.”

Mississippi is proud of the dairy farmers and the on-farm bottling plants selling direct to the consumer. The next time that you go to the store or pick-up milk off of the shelf or even call your local dairyman, remember “milk is the most wholesome product that you can put in your body.”