Cruze Dairy Farm – East TN
One might say that dairy cows and buttermilk run in Earl Cruze’s blood.
Earl is a third-generation Tennessee dairy farmer, and he was eight years old when he started getting up at 4 A.M. to milk cows.
“When I was real young, I hated getting up that early,” Earl remembers, laughing gently. “But after I got used to it, I decided I was going to milk cows for a living. I started saving my money when I was real, real young.”
That dedication enabled Earl to buy his own farm in Knoxville in 1964, a 117-acre plot nestled in the rolling hills surrounding the French Broad River. By the time Earl bought his farm, his family’s original land had been turned into an industrial site.
“It became a dump,” said Earl’s wife, Cheri. Seeing good farmland go to waste bothered Earl and Cheri.
“Once you’ve ruined farmland, it’s gone,” Cheri said. “It’s not good for the long-term. Communities need good farmland so they have the ability to feed themselves.”
Over the years, the Cruze family became active leaders in their community’s farm-to-table movement, supplying buttermilk and ice cream originating from their dairy farm to local groceries and eateries across Middle and East Tennessee.
But having witnessed the number of local dairy farms in Tennessee decline rapidly over the years, the family did not want the same fate for their land. In 2004, they bought a neighboring farm to add almost 300 acres to their property.
At that time, they decided to partner with The Land Trust for Tennessee to complete a conservation easement that will ensure the farm will never be lost to development, like Earl’s family’s farm decades ago.
Today, Earl and Cheri’s daughter, Colleen, and her husband, Manjit, are continuing the farming tradition and expanding their dairy business in new directions, all while taking care of the farm. The family takes great pride that the prime agricultural soils and pastures where their Jersey cows roam will be protected for future generations.
“I wouldn’t trade jobs with anybody, “Earl said. “It’s been a great life for me. I just hope it keeps going for a long time.”