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A streamlined juggling act: How Hatcher Family Dairy makes it all work

Maura Keller for Progressive Dairy Published on 12 May 2022
Hatcher Family Dairy

The Hatcher Family Dairy is a six-generation family farm located in College Grove, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville.

While operating a large dairy farm offers plenty of work for most dairy farmers, the Hatcher family recognized that in order to secure a long-standing future for this multigenerational farm, the family needed to expand its horizons and embrace new avenues of revenue. From merchandising their own farm products to introducing people to farm life via tours, Airbnb stays and an event barn, to running an on-site vet clinic, this family has embraced a myriad of opportunities to expand their product offerings. And their efforts have resulted in a Nat Geo television show highlighting farm life and educating viewers on the intricacies of running a successful dairy farm.

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As Charles Hatcher explains, the family first moved to College Grove in 1831 and has been farming their land ever since.

“Colonel Dr. George Hatcher, my great-grandfather, served in both WWI and WWII as a medical doctor while also maintaining the dairy operation. The example he set plays a huge role in our family drive and desire to work our hardest to keep our family farm going for many more generations,” Hatcher says. Hatcher currently serves as the president of Hatcher Family Dairy, and his mother, Sharon Hatcher, helps run the business as well.

“My wife manages our social media, retail and website. And my sister, Dr. Jennifer Hatcher, has a veterinary practice here on the farm and helps maintain our herd,” Hatcher says.

Dr. Jennifer Hatcher

So how did the family decide to embark on the various business entities and television programming, in addition to managing their dairy operations?

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As Hatcher explains, in 2007 the family was at a crossroads when it came to their dairy operations. They were a conventional dairy, selling their milk to a cooperative, and they realized they could no longer sustain the farm through conventional milk sales alone.

“Our family made the huge leap of faith to build our own creamery here on the farm and start to bottle our own milk,” Hatcher says. “We started selling locally at our local farmers’ market and a select few retailers; then we started our own dairy store here on the farm.” The creamery is named after Hatcher’s grandfather – The Abe Hatcher Creamery.

Fast-forward 15 years, and today the Hatcher Family Dairy partners with close to 100 retailers in the middle Tennessee area who carry their farm’s products. As a result of the growth in product sales, the farm now processes nearly 3,000 gallons of milk per week.

Contributions to their success

Sustaining their family farm for future generations has always been the main goal for the Hatcher family. In addition, agriculture education is also extremely important to them.

“We try to get involved in our community as well – supporting our local FFA and 4-H kids makes us extremely proud to be a farming family,” says Hatcher, who was a FFA adviser for four years at a local high school (which is his alma mater). The average age for farmers in the U.S. is 60-plus, and Hatcher takes great pride in being a farmer in his 30s.

“Creating a great, quality product to help feed families and bring families to the table inspires us as well,” Hatcher says.

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Of course, location plays a key role in the farm’s ongoing success. In fact, Hatcher stresses that being a multigenerational farming family just outside of Nashville has been a huge blessing for the family’s farm and all its business entities.

“We do not take for granted being close to such a booming city with some of the best restaurants around,” Hatcher says. “We have the most amazing customers – most have been with us since the beginning. And we take pride in producing a great product – from the farming practices, keeping our cows healthy and happy and being involved in every aspect, from milking to delivering, we truly believe that is reflected in our product.”

Lights, camera, action

The Hatcher family was filmed as part of a docuseries

A few years ago, the Hatcher family was approached by a production company to film a docuseries about the family and its farming operation.

The show, which is televised on Nat Geo Wild, highlights the family and how they manage the day-to-day operations on the farm, as well as bringing agriculture advocacy to such a big platform.

“Nat Geo Wild is owned by Disney, so the fact that our show can be streamed on Disney+ worldwide is huge for us,” Hatcher says. “We have met so many wonderful people through the process – from the people who helped produce the show to those who watched and reached out. It has been a great experience.”

As a result of the television series, the Hatcher Family Dairy’s business has grown tremendously, although Hatcher is quick to point out that is not what it is about for the family. Rather, they filmed the show purely to bring awareness to the industry.

“It has been really cool to hear families say they watch the show together and their kids want to be farmers or veterinarians when they grow up,” Hatcher says. “That’s what it is all about.”

Looking ahead

The Hatcher Family Dairy is currently growing by offering Airbnb rentals on the farm, farm tours, growing the farm’s retail store, as well as its online store – and hopefully continuing to film the television show and show the world a little bit more about life as dairy farmers.

Rightfully so, the Hatcher family is extremely proud of their family history and continuing their family farm for another 200 years. Recently, Charles and his wife, Mary, had a baby.

“He is 4 months old, and we do everything for the next generation and the next. We operate our business as a family and that will never change. We learn and grow and adapt – we are farmers so we are very used to going with the punches,” Hatcher says. “We work hard every day, and we continue to do so as long as we are blessed to be the stewards of this land.” end mark

PHOTO 1: The Hatcher Family Dairy is a six-generation farm in Tennessee. In 2007, the family built an on-farm creamery to process their own milk. Photo by Andrew Morton Photography.

PHOTO 2: Dr. Jennifer Hatcher shared in an early episode of the television show that she may see up to 10 different species of animals in her vet clinic in a single day. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

PHOTO 3: The Hatcher family was filmed as part of a docuseries, and the epsiodes air on Nat Geo Wild, which is part of the Disney+ platform. Pictured left to right are Charles Hatcher, Dr. Jennifer Hatcher and Sharon Hatcher. Photo by Andrew Morton Photography.

Learn more about the Hatcher family at Hatcher Family Dairy.

Maura Keller is a freelance writer in Plymouth, Minnesota.

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