Mississippi Family’s Small Dairy Produces Fresh Milk

Mississippi's Brown Family Dairy proves local small dairy can work.

| September/October 2010

  • Gritty and His Milk Cow
    Gritty appears a bit miffed after Betsy kicked over his full pail for the second time.
    illustration by Brad Anderson
  • Jersey Cow Faces
    Jersey cows are key to Brown Family Dairy's success.
    iStockphoto.com/James Whittaker
  • Grazing Jerseys
    Grazing Jerseys are one sign of a nearby dairy.
    iStockphoto.com/George Clerk

  • Gritty and His Milk Cow
  • Jersey Cow Faces
  • Grazing Jerseys

Out in the country, eight miles south of Oxford, Mississippi, Billy Ray Brown embarked on a risky venture last year by opening the doors to his new small dairy on his farm, ignoring the advice of seasoned dairymen across the state and pursuing his dream of building a niche business.

Just past its one-year anniversary, the dairy continues to find success selling pasteurized, non-
homogenized milk in glass containers to customers at farmers’ markets, local groceries and restaurants.

Brown’s success is rare in northwest Mississippi, where hundreds of small family dairies once dotted the landscape. Today, the few commercial dairy farms left are milking hundreds of cows and still find themselves in the red. 

Going dairy

Only in his 30s, Brown, son of the late Southern writer Larry Brown, originally began thinking about a dairy about three years ago while shopping with his wife at a discount store. There, he noticed organic milk from Colorado and asked the manager about the sales.

“He said they couldn’t keep it stocked,” Brown says.

Having raised cattle since he was 15, Brown was knowledgeable about beef cattle, but not dairy cows. As he sought advice from area extension staff and other farmers, he found more skepticism than support.

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