Students help usher in MTSU Creamery’s milk bottling process

Nearly 20 Middle Tennessee State University students wanted to be a part of Wednesday’s formal celebration rolling out bottles of whole white milk and one of MTSU’s best-kept secrets — it’s whole chocolate milk.

Senior animal science major Kayana Fonseca and other students work seven days a week, 365 days a year, often arriving at 3 and 4 a.m. and again 12 hours later to ensure a quality product from the farm and dairy in Lascassas, Tennessee, reaches the MTSU milk processing plant inside Stark Agribusiness Center on campus.

With the installation of new equipment complete, MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience unveiled its latest endeavor — the MTSU Creamery — along with its new bottling process Wednesday (June 21) during a ceremony featuring milk and cookies in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium.

It marks the first time in nearly 50 years MTSU will have bottled milk products. They will be for sale to the students and public on campus starting June 21 in Phillips Bookstore and soon in Dwight’s Mini Mart in Keathley University Center and through Aramark’s Provisions on Demand stores, or PODs, across campus.

“The reputation of our award-winning chocolate milk, long a pride point of our university, precedes us at this event,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “You didn’t need today’s event to know this is simply the very best chocolate milk ever made. Period.”

McPhee said MTSU has become a national leader in helping students reach their goals through “exceptional teaching … and life-changing opportunities in our classrooms, at our laboratories and through enterprises like the MTSU Creamery, which we celebrate today.”

Tom Womack, deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said the MTSU dairy move further solidifies the university’s footprint as a state and regional leader.

“MTSU’s dairy program also has been responsible for working with many dairy producers and processors in the region to advance the industry through education and economic opportunities,” said Womack

“The addition of this new creamery will no doubt extend the program’s reach and impact to the university and the greater community it serves,” Womack added.

Speaking for her school in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Director Jessica Carter said the venture “marks the beginning of a new era with the re-branding of the MTSU Milk Plant as the MTSU Creamery.”

“We have aligned our school to become the leader in this state in not only providing our award-winning milk to our campus and community, but in providing workforce-ready graduates for our industry partners,” she added. “… We have positioned ourselves to provide an experiential learning component unequaled anywhere in this state.”

Featured in a new university video about the entire milk process — from the feeding and milking of cows, the processing plant procedures and delivery — junior Jessica Schriver has become the face of the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience’s latest endeavor: a creamery.

To view video about the entire process, visit https://youtu.be/Z1lHoaonV2o.

“Together with our industry partners, alumni and friends, we have brought a new vision and new opportunities to our students, our faculty and our campus community,” Carter said.

Major gifts from corporate sponsors Farm Credit ($50,000) and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and CoBank ($20,000) made the purchase of the bottler possible. Alumnus Matt Neal, regional vice president for Farm Credit Mid-America, was instrumental in facilitating Farm Credit’s gift.

Alumnus Fred Adams and his family and Tennessee Farm Bureau provided additional corporate support.

In addition to meeting MTSU’s demands for bottled milk, Matthew Wade, Experiential Learning and Research Center director, envisions pint, half-gallon and gallon-size plastic bottles on the shelves in smaller local stores.

Milk has been delivered in 5-gallon bags for campus dining dispensers, Hattie Jane’s Creamery on the square in Murfreesboro for ice cream and Two Fat Men Catering Company in Lebanon, Tennessee, for light coffee cream and ice cream products.

MTSU utilizes a 600-pound, two-valve filler, filling two bottles at the same time. Wade said students and staff can fill 10 gallons of milk a minute into the bottles.

Carter said MTSU is the only university in Tennessee with a dairy on or near campus.

“We’re proud of this opportunity for our students,” she said.

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