What began a century ago as a small town dairy operation in Athens, Tenn., can now boast of being one of the Southeast’s leading dairy brands.
This year, Mayfield Dairy Farms celebrates its 100th anniversary, a legacy that started with the purchase of 45 Jersey cows in 1910.
T.B. Mayfield Jr., the son of a cattle farmer, purchased land adjoining his father’s farm and began a dairy operation with his wife, Goldie, and a small herd.
The couple initially sold milk to local residents in McMinn County, Tenn., but expanded the business in 1923 with the purchase of an existing ice cream business, christened Mayfield Creamery. The following year, a milk plant was built and began producing the first pasteurized milk in East Tennessee.
In 1977, Mayfield ice cream arrived in Atlanta and North Georgia, and in 1997, a Mayfield Dairy Farms milk production plant opened in Braselton. Today, the company delivers milk, ice cream and other dairy products to nine Southeastern states.
Following the death of T.B. Mayfield Jr. in 1937, his sons, Thomas B. Mayfield III and Charles Scott Mayfield Sr., began operating the company. Mayfield grew and celebrated several milestones along the way.
In the 1950s, the company replaced glass containers with paper cartons and was the first dairy in the U.S. to use the Aro-Vac system, which removes unwanted flavors from milk.
In 1970, Mayfield Dairy began packaging its milk in clear plastic jugs. Later, in 1983, it became the first dairy in the United States to bottle milk in a yellow jug.
The yellow jug "protects the milk inside from harmful ultraviolet light rays that can diminish taste and nutrition," according to the company’s website.
Scottie Mayfield, current Mayfield Dairy Farms president, said leadership has allowed the company to thrive for so long.
"There’s just so many people and so many efforts on their part that have caused us to be able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish," said Mayfield. "And to still be a strong and viable brand in the marketplace is really a credit to a lot of different people."
Mayfield is the fourth generation in his family to head the dairy giant. Together, he and his cousin, Rob, who recently retired, began running the company in 1990 after Dean Foods Company, now the nation’s largest dairy, purchased it.
Though quick to give credit to others, Mayfield, too, has helped the company expand, by helping develop new innovations and through his personable nature and that signature bowtie.
Ellen Petree, who now lives in Barrow County, grew up in Athens, Tenn., attending the same church as the Mayfield family.
"I can remember being a little girl and seeing Scottie at church with a bowtie," she said. "Scottie’s always worn bowties, I mean that’s just him."
Petree always drank Mayfield milk, but when she moved to Athens, Ga., in 1986, she made a startling discovery in the grocery store.
"There was no Mayfield Dairy," she said. "I had never been anywhere that didn’t have Mayfield."
She remembers telling her father to ask Scottie Mayfield what kind of milk she should drink in Georgia.
Today, finding the Mayfield name is much easier, and Scottie Mayfield hopes to continue to expand the company. Just last year, Mayfield ice cream was introduced to Cincinnati.
Locally, Mayfield Dairy is one of the attractions promoted on the Town of Braselton’s website.
The Mayfield visitor center is trying to attract more people this summer. From birthday parties to a revamped tour to more interactive features, the center is about to receive a major makeover.
In March, it added children’s birthday parties to its host of activities. For about $7 a child, Mayfield will host a birthday party, giving each child ice cream, goodie bags and a private tour of the facility. So far, the center has hosted three parties.
Later this summer, the tour itself will be revamped to make the experience more interactive. Flat-screen TVs along the walk will explain more about milk production and the company’s famed yellow jugs.
The center also plans to place four life-sized cow replicas on the facility’s front lawn where children will be able to learn how to "milk" a cow.
Additionally, the center plans to build a flavor station that will allow guests to smell the different flavors added to Mayfield ice cream.
One of the most popular attractions, the ice cream, will remain, however. Brad Burns, from Hamilton Mill, sat outside the center last Friday with his daughter, Page, 15, and Eric, 13. Each had a cone in hand piled high with Mayfield ice cream.
Moving forward, Scottie mayfield said he believes the company will continue to capitalize on the leadership that has helped it survive for so long.
"It’s really going to be interesting to see where Dean (Foods) takes our company," he said. Though he couldn’t disclose any specifics, Mayfield said new advances are being developed.
"I think we have a very exciting future, and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out," he said.