A Pontotoc County dairy farm churns out tasty products including unique cheeses and flavored milk.
Written by Eugene Stockstill | Photographed by Joe Worthem
So new that the owners don’t even have a sign out front, and visitors easily pass right by the business on Highway 15 in Pontotoc County. But don’t be fooled.
The mega-popular creamery near Algoma is plenty busy, cranking out 600 gallons of milk every week. (For comparison purposes, the typical milk truck holds about 6,000 gallons.) And as of this writing, you can find Southern Cultured Creamery’s milks and/or cheeses at the Pontotoc Farmer’s Market, Pontotoc-area gas stations and breakfast nooks, Native Son Farm and CharCutie in Tupelo, Chicory Market, Saint Leo and Local Honey in Oxford, and Reed’s Market and Scarlet’s Donuts in New Albany.
Not bad for a mom-and-pop sort of business that started because a bright daughter had a big idea.
“She tricked us, then she trapped us,” said Scott Hardin about his daughter, Kaitlyn Anderson, whose brainstorm got Southern Cultured Creamery up and running.
Anderson grew up around all things dairy. Her father has a degree in dairy science from Mississippi State University, worked for years with the old Naugher Dairy Farm, used to run MSU’s dairy research unit and also traveled as a dairy specialist for Purina.
“During the summers, I would ride along with him to all his dairies and see how different farms operated,” Anderson said. “Growing up around a dairy, showing cows and traveling with Dad to all his farms is definitely why I fell in love with the dairy industry and cows.”
Anderson, who has biology and animal science degrees from MSU, considered veterinary medicine for a career, then opted for a graduate degree in lactation physiology from Virginia Tech, continuing the family’s distinguished history with cattle.
“My wife says dairy work is an incurable disease,” Hardin said.
A visit to the legendary Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia changed the whole trajectory of Anderson’s thinking.
“It was the first creamery I had visited. That kind of got my wheels turning,” she said. “I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to sit in an office.’”
Then six to seven years ago, she decided the thing to do was to open a creamery in her home county. She had her husband and father convinced, and then COVID interfered with the whole shebang.
They were ready to pour concrete when the pandemic quarantine kicked in, and it took them months to get back on track. But if the family ever struggled with doubts about the practicality of opening a local creamery, the on-site “red, white and blue” sales event they held last Fourth of July must have banished all misgivings.
“The line was around the driveway,” Anderson said. “We sold a weeks’ worth of milk in 30 minutes.”
The big hit of that party? Strawberry and blueberry milk, which Anderson’s husband, Jake, dreamed up.
“We were going to make yogurt smoothies, but once we moved into our processing room, we realized the yogurt was too thick for the agitator in our cooling tank to move. So, we had to pivot away from that idea until we update our equipment,” she said. “We had the yogurt flavorings and decided to try it out on milk. We honestly didn’t even know if it would sell.”
The process of milking cows and making cheese has become much more efficient since the days when someone would wake up at 3:30 in the morning, sit on a stool and squeeze in the bitter-cold morning hours.
Here is the process, in a nutshell:
Cows approach a mechanized parlor and wait to be milked.
In the parlor, workers clean cows in order to avoid animal infection and product contamination, and they feed them during automated milking, which takes about seven minutes.
Milk travels through pipes into a cooling tank, which chills milk at 38°F.
Milk then flows into a pasteurizing vat for preparation for bottling or cheese-making. The business uses a dual-vat pasteurizer for both milk and cheese.
Fresh milk then gets pumped into bottles and jugs for sale.
You might expect life at the small Pontotoc farm and creamery to be on the low-key side, and you would be correct. If you happen to go, one of the family’s dogs, Julep, will probably greet you when you park at the end of the gravel driveway and make you feel most welcomed with an abundance of licking. Everything on the premises has that lived-in yet scrubbed look that gives you the idea you’ve stumbled onto something quite special in a local business.
And as in times past, the cows are considered so much a part of the family that they have names, like Beauty, Rose and Bubbles. Julep the dog liked one cow so much that they named that cow Mint Julep.
The oddest thing all these dairy vets have seen in recent years? Cows on the farm routinely give birth after artificial insemination. But one bull seemed to have his eye on a particular cow, and not long after insemination, the two of them were caught in rather intimate circumstances. The result? One Holstein calf, one Jersey-Holstein calf.
You could call Southern Cultured Creamery a labor of love, too.
“I love cows, because I know what cows are going to do,” Hardin said. “I don’t know what people are going to do.”
IF YOU GO
The farm store at 8930 Highway 15 has regular hours: 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
Get updates on happenings at the farm, new product offerings and more at facebook.com/southernculturedcreamery.
Our recommendation: Excuse the brief editorial license, but dang, please try the strawberry milk and the pepper-stuffed $2 Pistol cheese! “It’s a little throwback to George Jones’ ‘hotter than a $2 pistol,’” Anderson says, “but we didn’t think that one through, because some people are upset when it’s not $2, lol.”