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FERRIER FILES: Family saves middle Tennessee farm with chocolate milk

(Fox 17 News)

Being a dairy farmer is about as tough as it gets.

If you are lucky enough to stay in business, you get to work seven days a week, 365 days a year. Santa doesn't milk the cows on Christmas morning. You do. Nevertheless for some reason these dairy farmers love it and can't imagine any other life.

Hatcher Family Dairy in Williamson County is that kind of place. It has been a family dairy farm for 185 years.

Charles Hatcher keeps track of accounts and production and manages the milk barn.

“I can tell you who the cow is by looking at its udder,” Charles Hatcher said.

His dad Charlie works the farmer’s markets and helps with sales. His mom Sharon runs the farm store.

Uncle Jim runs the creamery, and his sister Jennifer is the veterinarian.

But in 2004, things were different for the Hatcher family farm. They weren’t going to make it.

A family dairy farm in Tennessee still closes every other week, and the Hatcher farm was in the same boat.

“We were dang near on the end of the line," Charles said. "Fortunately my dad is the visionary, and he had this wild idea."

His idea was to make old-fashioned pure milk, pasteurized but not homogenized, from cow to kitchen table and then sell it.

Cream rising to the top with your own name on your own label, and nobody was talking farm to table in 2004.

“At that time, it was kind of a goofy idea, and it was make or break,” Charles Hatcher said.

The family had a herd of grass fed cows on the rolling hills of College Grove that were treated more like dogs than cows.

"A 2,000 pound dog," Charles said. "This is Toffee, and that is all she wants right here is some loving. She would let me stand here and scratch her all day."

They knew they were producing wonderful milk, but they needed something different. Hatcher Family Dairy chocolate milk became a sell-out hit, and that changed everything.

“It really did," Charles said. "In a crazy way it saved the farm."

Hatcher Farm chocolate milk is now in 70 outlets, and there is a waiting list for more.

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