Future of Working Cows Dairy uncertain

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SLOCOMB, Ala (WTVY) - Working Cows Dairy is the only certified organic milk farm in the Southeast.

But the future of the family-owned farm is in jeopardy.
Husband and wife team Jan and Rinske de Jong moved from Holland to the Deep South 33 years ago to live out their dream of running a dairy farm. But after three decades of hard work, retirement looks alluring.

"When we get a little bit older, we would like to see what our goals are in life,” says Rinske. “And even we say, 'Hey… maybe we don't want to milk 7 days a week.'"

Now, the fate of the dairy farm rests in the hands of their three children.

"Our biggest concern is that the next generation is not interested in dairy farming anymore,” says Rinske. “Because of the commitment it takes to have animals and milk cows 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 2 times a day."

Apart from family ties, the de Jongs worries about their foothold in the Wiregrass. Out of the 2200 gallons the dairy produces in a week, only 70 to 80 gallons get sold here. The rest ships to Birmingham and Atlanta.

"If we can sell more milk locally, we can employ more people to help us process the milk,” says Rinske. “But if we have the milk and we have to truck it, it almost adds a $1.50 for every gallon what goes on the milk truck.”

In recent years, running a dairy farm has been no easy ride. Dairy products are no longer in as high of a demand. The de Jongs blame the recent popularity of plant-based milks.

"People don't realize-GMO free is a nice label, but they still use round-up and pesticides and herbicides. So you still get all the chemicals,” says Rinske. “Whereas if you buy our organic product, with its low temperature pasteurized and not homogenized, then you get it more what nature intended milk to be."

Despite their children looking to make a living outside of the dairy farm, and despite the lack of demand for organic milk in the Wiregrass, the de Jongs haven't lost faith just yet. The future may hold greener pastures after all.

"There needs to be something like an organic dairy farm, a grass-fed dairy farm,” says Rinkse. “Maybe in the long run we would find someone who is interested on carrying on our dairy farm, and that's really where we're looking for. Somebody that would love the opportunity that is here to at least manage it for us for a while, and then maybe take it over later."

In the meantime, Working Cows Dairy's gates are always open.

"We milk the cows at 4:30, just feel free to come on and check on the cows, and help milk or just walk around and enjoy yourself on the farm."

And hopefully, the cows will always come home.

Working Cows Dairy not only produces milk and cheese, but also yogurt, sour cream, butter, and grassfed beef-- but the latter only from the "retired" cows.