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Land of (chocolate) milk and honey

Middle Tennessee State University debuts its newly rebranded campus creamery and reintroduced bottled milk products
Story by Allison Parker Photos by Allison Parker and Sarah Geyer 7/31/2017


The ceremony debuting the new creamery at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro on June 21 ended with the inaugural first drink featuring, from left, MTSU President Dr. Sidney A. McPhee; Dr. Jessica Gentry Carter, MTSU director of Agribusiness and Agriscience; and Tennessee Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Tom Womack.
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Ask Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) students, faculty, staff, or alumni what their favorite on-campus food is, and it’s a good bet that many of them will say the chocolate milk produced at the school’s own creamery.

With this tasty dairy treat on their minds, hundreds of MTSU students, alumni, and community members gathered on campus June 21 in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium for a special event celebrating the rebranding of the MTSU Creamery and the reintroduction of bottled milk products after 50 years.

The ceremony kicked off at 10 a.m. with remarks from MTSU’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann. Oppmann introduced MTSU President Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, who told the group that the university has become a national leader in helping provide students with “exceptional teaching… and life changing experiences through enterprises like the MTSU Creamery, which we are celebrating today.” McPhee concluded his remarks by thanking the sponsors who made the creamery happen, by saying, “We all know that you didn’t need today’s event to know this is simply the best chocolate milk ever made. Period.”

Following the president’s remarks, Oppmann welcomed Tom Womack, Tennessee’s deputy commissioner of agriculture, to the podium. In his remarks, Womack shared that “there are only 275 licensed dairy farms remaining in Tennessee, and anyone involved knows we have had our challenges….”

He added that because of the challenges, “It is truly gratifying to see that MTSU has maintained the quality of their dairy farm and their program over the years and has set a great example for others.”

Next, Dr. Jessica Gentry Carter, director of the MTSU Creamery and of the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, spoke on behalf of the creamery staff. Carter recognized retired university staff who were instrumental in making the MTSU Creamery happen, including the late Joe Jack Dement, Harvey Young, and Dr. Warren Gill.

The MTSU Creamery debut ceremony ended with McPhee, Carter, and Womack taking the inaugural first drink while volunteers passed out the new bottled milk to all attendees. Following the ceremony, MTSU Creamery staff also provided tours of the facility.

After the event, Carter reflected on the educational impact of the MTSU Dairy Farm and MTSU Creamery.

“In my opinion, the most valuable part of this is the experiential learning opportunities they it provides for our students,” she said. “MTSU students are gaining real-world work experience by participation in class laboratories, research projects, and part-time employment opportunities that will help them to be hired in the animal science and food science industries.”

MTSU prides itself on being the only university in the state to have both a working dairy farm and processing plant on campus. School records indicate that the dairy farm has been part of the university experience since the 1920s. This original farm’s herd of Jersey cattle provided milk for the students and faculty. Nearly a century later, the school continues to produce its own milk at a farm located in Lascassas, just a few miles from the MTSU main campus.

Each day, the student workers milk 51 Jersey and Holstein cows at 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. Then the milk is picked up by a Sampler/Weighmaster-licensed student who transports the milk to the MTSU Creamery for processing. The school has been processing milk in this facility since the 1960s.

Prior to the Creamery’s rebranding, students would process the milk and then package it into five-gallon bags where it would be shipped to campus dispensers, Hattie Janes Creamery, and Two Fat Boys Catering Company. Now, one piece of machinery has changed the future of MTSU’s dairy and the entire agriculture department.

With support from Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, Farm Credit, and CoBank, MTSU purchased a state-of-the-art bottle filler with the capacity to fill two pint bottles at a time.

“The bottler will be able to fill around 10 gallons of milk a minute when in full production,” says Matthew Wade, director of MTSU’s Experimental Learning and Research Center. “With this piece of equipment, we’re off to a good start to accomplish the department’s goals.”

Wade says he hopes to see pint, half-gallon, and gallon-size jugs sold in smaller, off-campus retail venues in the dairy’s future.

Pint-sized bottles of MTSU’s white and chocolate milk are available on campus in the Phillips Book Store located in the Student Union and will soon be available in Dwight’s Mini Mart in the Keathley University Center and Aramark’s Provisions on Demand, or PODS, located all over campus.

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