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Family dairies, R.I.P.


Small, family-run dairy operations used to be very common all across North Carolina’s Piedmont and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. They are gone. I doubt that very many of them survived much later than the 1950s. Like all small family farms, the dairy farms had to deal with competition from the larger, more industrialized operations. There also were health regulations to deal with. If I remember correctly from what a dairy farmer told me many years ago, to sell top-grade milk required that the milk be chilled to a low temperature — 34 or 35 degrees, as I recall — within minutes of coming from the cow. Small operations couldn’t support the cost of this refrigeration equipment.

This old dairy, on Mountain Road near Danbury in Stokes County, was typical. The building in which the milking was done was usually made of concrete blocks. This was because the building was constantly being hosed down and washed.

The smaller room to the right, with the sink, is the clean room where vessels were washed and where the milk was brought. The larger room to the left with the cow-sized door is the milking room.

The sink was for washing the milk cans and other vessels.


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