If you’re lucky enough to live in or travel through South Carolina’s Upstate region, you’re probably familiar with 12 Aprils Dairy near Pelzer. Tom Trantham, owns and operates 12 Aprils with his wife and grown children, and is the state winner in the Swisher Sweets International Farmer of the Year award. Trantham says he just chose a different way to dairy:
“I start with the harvest and silo and turned that into a bottling plant. Its quite unique how we milk the cows from the bottle is 48 feet and its never exposed at any time. Our grazing system is 12 months and we graze crops not grass. Input costs are reduced as much as 42% over a conventional dairy farm. Our rotational pastures are in all different stages.”
All the milk from 12 Aprils is pasteurized and bottled right on the farm from just 90 cows. As Trantham mentioned, all his milk cows are grazed on a 12 month crop rotation:
“Soon we will plant our clover and that will get us up to March when we plant sorghum. Then in May we plant millet with different types of clover. Then we are back to the fall.”
It’s also a closed dairy, Trantham says they haven’t brought in a cow in in almost 30 years, and also use no chemicals on their land.
As mentioned earlier, 12 Aprils does their own pasteurization and bottling. Trantham outlines the process:
“We do not sell raw milk, we feel it’s a risk that shouldn’t be taken. With low temp you get the same nutritional value.”
In addition to all that, 12 Aprils has an on-farm store where they sell their own milk, and ice cream. But, about half their product is wholesale says Trantham:
“We sold first at the farmers market then got into Fresh Market and then Earthfare and Whole foods. We do great with all of them.”
Regarding the award, Trantham had this:
“What I went through from the day I bought the dairy until now is amazing.”
And as to the future of the dairy industry in South Carolina:
“I would like to be remembered as someone who made a difference. I would like to see many of the dairies in our state come back.”
The Farmer of the Year award will be presented in October at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.