The Watkins Family

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Tommy and Anna Watkins are third-generation dairy farmers from Wauchula, Fla. They are members of Southeast Milk, Inc, and were the 2015 Young Cooperator Vice Chaircouple. Tommy's grandfather started the dairy in Palm Beach County in the 1930s, then moved to Wauchula in the early 1970s. The Watkins have about 3,000 Holsteins and milk 2,500 of them 2-3 times per day. Pictured are Tommy and Anna with their kids, Taylor (13), Thomas (6), Carlton (4), Arley Kate (4) and Ashleigh (4).

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?
Our favorite thing about being dairy farmers is having our kids involved. The lessons they learn on the farm are more than just how to feed calves and drive tractors. We also enjoy the fact that no day is the same as the day before. There is always something new or challenging to deal with. Our least favorite part is time that has to be spent in the office doing paper work. Keeping records, making and adjusting plans, and dealing with the business end of things are all necessary and important, but certainly not the most fun we have on the farm!

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family?
As the third generation on our farm, we are farming with my parents, my sister and her husband. Anna and I run the dairy, my sister and her husband take care of the orange groves and beef cow operation. and Mom and Dad oversee all of us! 

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?
I think the biggest changes will include adopting new technology that will make our cows more comfortable and healthy. We will also  strive to use our land and water resources more efficiently.

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?
Well, if eating ice cream doesn’t put me in a better mood, I try to remember what we are doing here and why we are doing it. We aren’t just milking cows. We are providing a nutritious, wholesome food for our family and those who buy milk products. We have been entrusted with the task of supplying safe milk to the consumer. That’s huge. We are also building a farming legacy for our five kids and our niece so that they can be the fourth generation on the farm. 

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?
Anna says driving race cars isn’t an option, so I’m not sure. I can’t think of anything else I’ve ever wanted to do other than continue what my grandfather started in Palm Beach County, Fla., in the 1930s. Dairy farming is just in my blood. It’s all I know.