Hardly a month goes by in Alabama that a dairy farm doesn’t close its doors. But in Hale County, Joe and Linda Heurion are beating the odds and discovering a good—albeit demanding—lifestyle to boot.
The Heurions ventured into dairying in 1987 when they moved from Mobile to Greensboro to resurrect the dairy farm Linda’s father, Connie Jones Sr., operated from 1949 to 1969. It was a giant leap of faith, Linda admits.
“Joey (their son) was in college, and (daughter) Mindi was in high school, and we really didn’t know much about running a dairy, but this was something we wanted to make work,” Linda says. “It was a risk, but we went into it with the understanding that we would live with nothing until we could get things going.”
At the time, Hale ranked second only to Morgan County in annual milk production. Within a matter of years, though, the industry turned sour, and dairy farms across Alabama were forced out of business. Today, the Heurions’ Windy Hill Dairy is one of only three left in the county and one of only about 100 dairies statewide. They have survived, Linda insists, “only by the grace of God.”
The Heurions milk about 70 Jersey cows twice a day, which takes a total of nine hours. For the past six years, Joe and Linda have shared the milking chores because prices were so low they couldn’t afford to hire help. In fact, Joe said milk prices last year were about the same as they were 30 years ago. The hard times, however, haven’t dampened their enthusiasm.
“I don’t have any money, but I’m the richest man I’ve ever known,” Joe said. “We are blessed to be able to live here. It’s the oxygen in my lungs.”
This spring brought the first positive signs dairy producers have seen in what feels like forever, when milk prices jumped to record highs. The Heurions are daring to be slightly optimistic, but they have no immediate plans to expand their herd or upgrade the farm’s decades-old milking parlor.
Instead, the Heurions are devoted to preserving the farming way of life for Joey, Mindi and their four grandchildren. They are so passionate about the dairy industry that they spend their free time promoting the health benefits of dairy products and rallying support for America’s milk producers.
“We’ve got to help people understand that if there are no farmers, there won’t be any food,” Joe said. “Too many people take a fully belly for granted, three times a day.”
Linda is an especially avid promoter of dairy products. So when a loyal Neighbors reader nominated Linda for the “The Country Kitchen,” she jumped at the opportunity to share some of her favorite recipes for June Dairy Month.
Linda’s excitement about dairy-rich recipes is two-fold. Not only are she and Joe members of one of Alabama’s most endangered species—the dairy farmer, but she also has a degree in nutrition from the University of Montevallo.
As a nutritionist, Linda knows that dairy delivers a powerful nutrient package. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins A and D. They also help build strong bones and lower the risk for hypertension and certain cancers. And most recently, several studies have concluded that dairy products in the diet actually promote weight loss.
So do yourself and dairy farmers like the Heurions a favor, and make these recipes regulars in your home.
Oh, and just for the record: When Linda says BUTTER, she means BUTTER.