Generally speaking, there are two sides to how we get food in this country: how we think our food is produced and how it really is produced. These two seem to have drastically diverged somewhere in the 1950s. To a certain extent, this has allowed greater prosperity in the form of cheap food for the masses. However, to a much larger extent we are learning that much of what we sacrificed for lower prices, uniformity, and universal availability is slowly killing us. Further, it has nearly already killed off the way our food producers (farmers, mostly, but even those further down the production line) do their business.
I’ve been talking for years about the ethical and environmental reasons for buying local products and foods but since we’ve had kids, we’ve also been concerned about the health reasons. We had been buying organic foods when possible (products which are getting easier to find and cheaper as a result of greater demand) and also recently went about trying to find locally grown or made products. As Wyatt is about to turn a year old – and thus will be switching off baby formula and on to cow’s milk – we decided to try and find some local milk. This is what led us to Hatcher Family Dairy only a few miles away from us, in College Grove, TN.
We had intended to just head down to the Hatcher farm store to have some sandwiches for lunch and get a couple of gallons of milk. We ended up also purchasing some ground lamb and gelato, as well as signing up the entire family for the farm tour later that afternoon. This would be Wyatt’s first gallon of milk and wouldn’t it be fun to see exactly where it came from and how it was made?
If you watch the film "Food, Inc." – or even read almost anything from Eric Schlosser – you’ll learn about some proposed laws which would make it illegal to report on or photograph food processing plants in the U.S. I’m not going to comment on these laws, their current status, or even if this is an accurate description of what they purport to do; but just want to mention that at least some people in this country are concerned about this aspect of the state of food production in this country. So what would we expect from food producers who had nothing to hide? How would we expect a company who is actually proud of how they produce our food? Well, you can find at least one answer at Hatcher: they offer bi-monthly tours of their farm facilities, by members of the Hatcher family and their long-time staff. They – in no uncertain terms – make it clear that if you as a customer have any issues with their milk, come and see them. They are the epitome of the cliche “the buck stops here.” Their product is expensive and they freely admit they don’t have plans to feed everyone; but you can’t help but respect their willingness to be completely open and honest with anyone who walks off the street and onto their farm.
It is also worth noting that it is clear that the family and staff at Hatcher surely do love what they do. I already knew enough of dairy farming to know that no one chooses it because it is an easy life. When you take into account that immediately across the road from the farm is a huge golf course and subdivision of half-million dollar plus homes under construction; you have to realize that farming is a lifestyle they want to continue. It would be so tempting for any farming family sitting on a few hundred acres in one of the country’s wealthiest counties to sell out and retire (and likely free a couple of generations to come from ever having to consider if they want to continue the family business). It has happened time and time again all across Williamson County. But here are the Hatchers, of whom the youngest sibling just graduated with a degree in agriculture business and now runs the business in addition to personally milking most every cow, daily.
At the end of our hour-and-a-half tour, our two young kids probably didn’t have any better of an idea of where their milk comes that they did before. After all, Ainsley already knew that milk came from cows. However, as an adult, it is amazing to see that someone still makes and sells their milk just as they did since before the Civil War, when they started the farm.
That being said, we all could appreciate the sample of chocolate milk we got.
Later that evening, we made beef & lamb burgers with some of the ground lamb from Hatcher and then had some of their vanilla and strawberry gelato for desert. Dinner with the family out in our back yard was the best; knowing much of it came from another family down the road.