Chaney's Talk Milk, Ice Cream and Family Business Dreams

By: Melissa Warren Email
By: Melissa Warren Email

"It's never been anything we got into knowing it was going to make us rich, but the things we've acquired you cant put money value to have been so much greater..."

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Kentucky Proud is more than a sticker you find on your fruits and veggies. It's the sign of a story, and in this case it's the story of a nearly 116 year old dairy farm in Warren County and a family's dream that just keeps getting bigger.

The red barn and the "udderly delicious" cow sign are both reminders of the dream that is Chaney's Dairy Barn. It began in 1888 with a farm, and six generations later, in 2001, it housed more than 200 cows, but this journey has been one with growing pains.

"We either had to get bigger, we had to get smaller, or we had to get out, and we weren't going to get out. So we just felt like we needed to curtail back a little bit, so we had an internet sale. We sold 100 head of cows over the internet too 32 different states, over two days. At that time, Debra and I started really looking at, ok so now where do we go from here," said Chaney's Dairy Barn Owner Carl Chaney.

In 2003, Debra Chaney, who had once operated smocking and drapery shops, and her husband Carl, a life-long farmer, looked for a new source of revenue. What they found was ice cream.

"Here's somebody that makes drapes, and here's somebody that milks cows... what in the world were they thinking? All it was, was we were just focused on trying to make a living," said Carl Chaney.

That January the two debated who would take the world famous ten day course in ice cream at Penn State.

"I said just let me stay how with the cows, and she said, no, I'll stay here and milk and you go, so of course I got my way... no, not really, because I wound up having to go to Penn State," said Carl Chaney.

Carl joined the 111th class to take the course, and headed to State College, Pennsylvania that winter. Where his professor asked each of the hundred students to introduce themselves.

"The guy from Breyer's gets up and he's like, "I'm in charge of northeast production of ice cream. Last year we made so many hundred thousand gallons of ice cream," and I'm feeling smaller and smaller and smaller in my chair. So they get to me, and hand me the microphone, and I get up and say, "My name is Carl Chaney. I'm from Bowling Green, Ky., and yesterday morning, I got up and milked my cows. Without those cows, none of you would have a job, and nobody said a word." said Carl Chaney.

The rest is history. On Oct. 1, 2003, Chaney's Dairy Barn opened to serve ice cream, and is now an attraction for locals and tourists. Last December, they made another big change, deciding to take over the distribution of their milk to Houchens stores, and added national chain, Kroger, to its clients.

"We just felt like to really give our milk a true chance, we needed to try the distribution," said Carl Chaney.

With another change came another challenge.

"If you distribute the milk yourself, if the milk does not sell, you pick it up and bring it back home. The challenge we're facing is meeting the demand with the supply. I hope people are patient with us and they understand that we're trying. Every week we're getting more information, and should be able to have the right amount of milk on the shelf that will last the week, because we only deliver once a week," said Carl Chaney.

The Chaneys bought a refrigerated truck, and Debra and Jeremy Jones deliver the milk to dozens of stores across south central Kentucky every Thursday.

"I think it's important anymore that our consumers get to see where our products come from," said Debra Chaney.

They often give farm tours and introduce each cow by name.

"They all have personalities just like people. Except they've got four legs. You form an attachment to those cows and you hate to see it when they have to go. A farm is a wonderful way to raise a family, because it teaches you responsibility. The kids learn that at a very young age. They learn about life and they learn about death. They see baby calves born. They see cows pass away, and it's all part of life," said Carl Chaney.

Even those who aren't family when they begin work there, become part of the family.

"It's never been anything we got into knowing it was going to make us rich, but the things we've acquired you cant put money value to have been so much greater.. the value of family, and the value of friends, and we feel like with the business, we've really created a community center for families to come to and there's true appreciation and gratefulness, and that's one reason we keep doing what were doing, because we know it's making a difference," said Debra Chaney.

The Chaneys say they hope their growing business will eventually provide them the ability to add things like solar energy systems to the dairy barn and farm, and maybe even a robotic milker.


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