Declining demand for liquid milk puts operation of local farms in danger

Image: WTVC

Dean Foods ended contracts with 10 farms in Tennessee. Six farms had to go out of business. That leaves the farming community worried.

The demand for liquid milk is declining.

"You have to question,'Might I be next?,' said farmer Howard Hornsby.

Hornsby is a third generation-farmer. His contract with Deans Foods means milk from his cows are sold under the Mayfield brand name.

Four farmers lost their livelihoods.

"It's depressing talking to them because I know they have spent their lives doing what I do and have been as passionate as I am," Hornsby said.

Julie Walker also owns cows. She believes many dairy farmers do business with Mayfield milk, because the company supports local farms.

When some local Walmart stores decided to take the popular brand off the shelves, and instead start their own milk processing plan, customers spoke up.

A spokesperson told us they brought Mayfield, and the yellow jug, back within a week to five local stores.

"We farmers are very grateful to know that consumers stood up for us," Walker said.

"We did not know that was going to happen, but we're very grateful to know that it has."

"Anything that hurts Mayfield's, hurts me because my milk is sold to Mayfield's," Hornsby said.

Walker said the next step is to revive liquid milk sales at a time when people seek other options.

"If consumers can tell us what they'd like to know about this product, which keeps our local farms alive, we would have a lot of open ears," Walker said.

Dean Foods bought Athens-based Mayfield Farms in 1990. They also sell milk under Dairy Pure and Organic Valley.

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