Every day since 1953, Southside dairy farmer Joe Brown has gotten up before the sun and most morning commuters to milk cows.
With the help of his son, Joel, and grandson, Ben, three generations of dairy farmers run 110 cows on 276 acres in Etowah County.
“I bought 10 cows, and that’s how I got in the dairy business,” Joe said. “I worked them by hand for a couple years. I toted the bucket and poured it in a 10-gallon can, and then I put the 10-gallon can in a cooler.”
Technology has improved things, but Joe said the routine is the same. Thankfully, with the help of his family, farm duties are divided among the trio.
“When you’re a farming family, it’s different from a regular family,” Joel said. “You work together for seven days a week, and if you don’t work together, nothing gets accomplished.”
Ben starts his day at 5 a.m. by herding cows out of the barn and making sure they’re fed. After the sun creeps up and his duties are done, he leaves for a job at Gadsden Water Works while Joel starts milking cows around 7 a.m.
“I’ve been by Paw Paw’s side since I was three years old,” Ben said. “There’s a specific time for everything, every day. When we find time for fence work, planting, plowing and everything else, that’s added in.”
Joe raised crops when he first started farming, but due to more frequent and profitable pay, he quickly switched to dairy.
The Browns grow crops for feed and personal use outside of the dairy, but Ben said they’ve started to experiment with other moneymaking endeavors on the farm.
Joe has encouraged Ben to expand the farm in other areas.
“All farmers work hard, but if you’re a row crop farmer you have down time during the year where you can work on equipment,” Joe said. “But in the winter, as dairy farmers, we’re working our hardest. I’d like to row crop, but it wouldn’t be feasible for me to go out and buy a half-million dollar piece of equipment.”
Joe said hard work has been a theme for his life and is why he still works around the farm. During cold nights, early mornings and tough circumstances, he said he’s never lost sight of what’s important.
“I feel sorry for a fellow who doesn’t like to work,” he said. “It keeps you healthy. There’s no question about it; that’s why I’m still here.”