Local Dairy Serves Local Need
According to television ads, happy cows come from somewhere west of the Mississippi River. According to Eric and P.J. Cornelius of Rogersville, happy cows come from Lauderdale County.
The Cornelius family started its dairy farm a couple of years ago with some acreage and used equipment.
Well, actually it began with one Jersey cow and the goal to provide fresh milk for the family.
Once the family purchased a cow and an automatic milker and then fed the animal, Eric quickly realized he could buy milk at $10 per gallon and still come out cheaper than doing it himself.
Eric, who is an assistant principal at Lauderdale County High School in Rogersville, wanted an agricultural business his family could do together. He had been searching for the right business when he experimented with the milk cow.
He decided the dairy business was just right for his family, which includes his wife and four children.
The family has built Honest to Goodness Dairy from the ground up. They built a dairy barn for their 24 Jersey cows and are currently constructing the family home, which is on top of the dairy barn.
The entire structure looks like a giant red barn. Even though the barn and the milk-processing area are complete, the family’s living quarters are not completed.
P.J. said the children are involved with the dairy to varying degrees. Eric’s two oldest children, Taylor, 15, and Aaron, 13, are able to help with the more involved tasks, while the younger ones, Bella, 6, and Kellerann, 2, like to do what they can.
All totaled, the dairy produces about 500 gallons of milk per week, which is sold at local grocery stores.
Cream Line Milk
Though not thought of as the typical dairy cow, Eric chose Jerseys because of their high milk production and the nutritional content of that milk.
"Jersey milk is higher in protein, higher in calcium and it’s higher in butter fat," said Eric, when comparing Jersey milk to Holstein milk.
Eric said many old-timers have compared his milk to the milk they drank as a child, which came fresh from the cow.
Of course, today there are safety concerns and milk must be pasteurized before it is sold for human consumption.
The Corneliuses use a different method of pasteurization than is commonly used by commercial dairies. Instead of flashing the milk with a high-temperature process for a short time, Eric heats his milk to 145 degrees for 30 minutes, which pasteurizes the milk according to state standards, but preserves much of the taste.
"We vat pasteurize so the milk retains live enzymes and cultures," said P.J. "It also retains CLAs (conjugated linoetic acid) which aid in digestion and have been proven to fight cancer."
P.J. explained Honest to Goodness milk is considered cream line milk, which means even though it has been pasteurized it has not been homogenized.
Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat particles in milk and keeps them suspended. Honest to Goodness Dairy doesn’t homogenize their milk so, as it sits, the cream will rise to the top and form a cream line.
Even though the dairy has worked hard to educate the public in Lauderdale County, P.J. said she occasionally gets complaints from people that the milk contains clumps.
"All you have to do is shake the milk before you drink it," said P.J.
Eric blames the lack of understanding on the fact many people today have never had anything but commercially-produced milk.
He is proud his milk has been compared to fresh milk.
P.J. said many people who purchase their milk are considered lactose-intolerant. But, because of the limited processing their milk undergoes, many of those people are able to consume the milk with no ill effects.
"I’ve had folk tell me that because our milk is non-homogenous, they can drink it without it hurting their stomachs," said P.J.
She said her research into the matter has pointed to the fact the larger fat particles in the non-homogenized milk don’t penetrate the stomach lining and cause the discomfort many people experience when they drink milk.
Eric explained his small dairy is able to produce non-homogenized milk where commercial dairies cannot.
"We can do it where a commercial dairy can’t," said Eric. "Because we work in small enough batches, we can produce a consistent product, where the cream level is basically the same. You can’t do that on a large scale."
The Honest to Goodness Dairy produces an all-natural product. They use no fertilizers on their land and no pesticides.
The animals are allowed to graze freely and are offered a natural feed to supplement their diet.
Expanding Product Line
In response to customer inquiries, the Corneliuses are working on expanding their current product. In addition to the regular whole milk, the dairy is experimenting with several new products, like 2 percent milk, buttermilk and chocolate milk.
One day the dairy also hopes to produce ice cream, which is said to be even better when made with milk from a Jersey cow.
The family also produces a soap made from the cream, which is valued for its nourishing capabilities.
Taylor makes the soap and markets it under the name Harmony, which was the name of her first Jersey cow.
The soap is made from a chemical process called saponification. According to Taylor’s research, during this process, glycerin is produced naturally. Glycerin has long been used as a moisturizer for dry skin.
Contact and Purchase Information
Honest to Goodness milk can be purchased at Lauderdale County Big Star and Foodland stores.
Persons interested in more information about the Honest to Goodness Dairy or its products may call Eric at (256) 366-9059.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.