Bradley Johnston is a third generation dairy farmer from Buncombe County. He owns and operates Mills River Creamery and Dairy that bottles fresh milk daily.
Johnston has stocked his dairy with Jersey cows with bloodlines from the first Jersey cows raised on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Jersey cows produce a milk that is higher in butter fat which produces richer and creamier milk products like ice cream.
Johnston stands in his small milking parlor and points out the difference between his operation and modern dairy farms.
“This part is real old school,” Johnston says gesturing toward one of the milking stalls. “The cows are much more content.”
“The old saying, ‘happy cows give more milk,’ there is some truth to that. Jersey is one of the highest butter fat producers. We do a lot of stuff by hand.”
Johnston walks out of the milking parlor into a large room containing large stainless steel vats full of milk and a machine filled with empty plastic milk jugs.
“The old saying is, ‘I’ve never met a dairyman that didn’t want to bottle his own milk,’ number one,” Johnston said. “I mean, everybody would love to see their milk going into a jug with their label on it sitting on a shelf.”
“This milk produced last night will be on the shelf in Hendersonville this afternoon.”
Johnston reaches over to flip a wall switch and the machine starts pushing the empty milk jugs down a conveyor belt.
“These little machines have kind of went through a long period that nobody was doing this small kind of stuff,” said Johnston.
The machine fills seven empty jugs with milk and caps each jug before pushing the filled jugs on to a table.
“The first week I bottled, I bottled 30 gallons of milk and said well you know if we can get up to selling 50 to 100 gallons a week just out of our store here that would be just fine,” said Johnston. “Then somebody came in and wanted to put it in their store, then someone came in and wanted to put in their store, and then you know it just started snowballing.”
One of Johnston’s employees grabs the milk jugs off the table and slides them into plastic milk crates.
“We’re very fortunate the fact that Asheville is a huge local food supporter, you know, it is a big movement,” Johnston said. “The people in Asheville are very food conscience, they want to support local. It’s just really one of the best places in the county to do something like this.”
Another employee grabs the stacked milk crates with a had truck and rolls the freshly bottled milk into a refrigerated delivery truck.
“My mother had on old saying,” said Johnston as he watched the crates of milk roll past him. “’The shoemaker’s kids is supposed to make shoes,’ so I guess I’m a dairy farmers son, I’m supposed to milk cows.”
CLICK HERE to find out more about all the different products the Mill River Creamery produces.