Burke County, Georgia is farm country. Dairy farm country to be exact. And there’s one family determined to do things their way.
Jimmy Franks, owner of Southern Swiss Dairy in Waynesboro says: “The farm is Frank’s Farm but our processing end of it is Southern Swiss Dairy.”
Whitney Keith, who is Franks’ daughter and also works at Southern Swiss Dairy adds: “We’re a small family dairy farm. We offer a complete line of milk products as well as ice cream and beef.”
“We started here in 1992,” explained Franks. “We were managing another farm and we wanted to get on our own and raise our family on a farm.”
“We’re a little bit different from most dairy farms in this area being that we have brown swiss cows,” added Keith.
“The brown swiss cow is one of the oldest breeds of cow in the world,” said Franks.
“The Swiss cows have a higher milk fat and protein than a Holstein does and that aids in the taste of the milk,” added Keith.
But even with a unique taste, the farm fell on hard times in 2009.
“When the price [of milk] dropped in 2009, we almost lost everything,” recalled Franks. “Now none of the dairy co-ops will take you if you can’t ship a tanker load at a time. With 150 cows we just couldn’t do that, but we fought with it and started the processing end of it.”
“We are mostly at high end restaurants in Savannah and Atlanta,” said Keith.
“They really love our heavy cream,” added Franks.
Franks said it takes about 3 years for a small family dairy farm like this his to actually start to turn a profit. The family was well on their way to that by 2013. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.
“When March 18, 2013 hit, when the tornado got us and just about wiped us out again,” recalled Franks. “We kept our customer base but we lost so much buildings and equipment on the farm and it has just taken time to get over that to get back to where we are right now.”
But they are back and better than ever.
“We just have people that come back time after time, year after year, and say that our products don’t compare to what’s on store shelves,” said Keith.
“Our cows I mean they’re just basically like family to us,” said Franks.
“It definitely has its challenges in its own but I would hope to continue the dream,” said Keith about keeping this family farm running.
Even with a few beefs, the Franks family’s dreams move forward.