I was born at the tail-end of the era of home milk delivery and therefore, had never tasted “fresh” milk. After reading an article by Damon Lee Fowler about Southern Swiss Dairy, I decided it was time to try it for myself.
I liked what I read about Jimmy and Ginny Franks, who during the economic downturn of the late 2000s decided to transform their cattle operation into a commercial dairy that would focus on non-homogenized low-pasteurized milk, with no use of growth hormones. They also sell butter, ice cream, beef, and fresh eggs. Southern Swiss Dairy has been in business since 2010.
They source their milk from these wonderful Brown Swiss cows, which are among the top milk-producing breeds. Besides productivity, the Brown Swiss are just happier cows than most. They’re friendly, even.
Southern Swiss Dairy wasn’t the easiest place to find, and though they sell most of their product in retail locations, I wanted to see the cows myself. I could tell that Ginny Franks was busy when we pulled up to the dairy office but she was very welcoming. This isn’t one of those “tourist farms” that source their products from all over the place and call it local, but a place where what you see is what you get. And there are a lot of those “tourist farms” around the state.
We bought some whole and chocolate milk and some fresh butter and I’m impressed with the taste, which is slightly different than what I’m used to. But more importantly, I have a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication that goes into making milk. The dairying life is a hard one and at Southern Swiss Dairy, it’s obvious that it’s a labor of love.
I made this photograph in 2010 and somehow forgot all about it until working on my archives today. It’s quite unusual to see a horse being hitched at a convenience store, though I’m sure Surrency once had more than its fair share of horses. These young men even made sure to “park” the horses within the marked parking spaces.
I was very eager to find this house after being made aware of it by Cindy McDonald Swartz, who lives in nearby Goldsboro. I can’t thank her enough for sending me here. This historic property was built by Alcanah R. (Cain) & Martha Dikes Coley and used at times as a travelers’ inn. After changing hands several times, the house is now owned by Alan Johnson, who operates a restaurant here called “Fritters”. Signs on the fence leading to the home suggest they have the best fried green tomatoes in Georgia, as well as local wines and fried Moon Pies.
The house was destroyed by fire in September 2015.
When I was standing by the fence photographing the house, this beautiful Gypsy Vanner h0rse met me with a friendly greeting and made for a wonderful shot.
My friends Roger & Laura Wiggins Norris raise these wonderful cows at their farm in Arp. They once had the largest herd in Georgia and though they’ve reduced their stock, it’s still an impressive bunch.
Texas Longhorns are a low-maintenance, high-yield variety; they’re one of the few Spanish varieties brought to North America in the pre-colonial era to have survived.
Many thanks to Laura & Roger for allowing me to share these images.
To learn more, visit the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.
Pioneer Cabin in Winter, Tulip Road, Ben Hill County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
In preparation for an upcoming documentary, I’ve been reviewing my archive of over 2,000 photographs made on various film cameras before I made the switch to digital in 2007. I’m sharing some of them here and hope they are of interest. Amazingly, most of these structures are gone now and remind me why I do what I do. The image above, of a wintry landscape adorned with a crude pioneer cabin with a fieldstone chimney, was among my first favorites. I had 8x10s printed and looked at them with a sense of awe at the loss that was accelerating around me. As with many of the places I shoot, I’ve wished many times that I’d returned to this quaint little cabin for more photographs. I’m not quite sure when it was demolished but it was gone before 2010. Such stories of loss motivate me to photograph nearly everything I can that I believe to be of cultural or historical value and I hope my work inspires others to pick up their cameras and do the same in their neck of the woods.
Hunter’s Bar-B-Que, Irwin County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
Hunter’s was a local favorite and welcome stop for travelers along Highway 32 for years. They even had parking for semi-trucks. Their goat sandwich, with chips & Coca-Cola was my favorite. Though Hunter’s closed not too long after this photo was made, it’s legendary barbeque sauce has been resurrected by the Hutto family, who now operate the location as Hutto’s Barbeque. It’s just as good!
Craftsman Farmhouse, Irwin County, 2001 – © Brian Brown
This house was demolished by 2010.
Pigs in Winter, Starling Road, Ben Hill County, 2001 – © Brian Brown
Loony Layton’s Store, Waterloo, Irwin County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
I can’t count how many times I passed this store traveling between Fitzgerald and Tifton over the years, though I honestly don’t remember it ever being open. It was razed in early 2012. (I’m not sure of the spelling of the owner’s name, but thanks to Dale Bledsoe for the information.)
Thompson Road Farmhouse, Irwin County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
This house was also an early favorite of mine. It was razed in 2007.
Griffin House, Irwin County, 2003 – © Brian Brown
This Folk Victorian, long a landmark in the area, was demolished before 2007. Thanks to a recent (2016) message from Daphne Griffin, I now know a bit more about the place: My father grew up in that house beginning around 1941. His name is Charlie Jesse Griffin, known as C.J. He grew up there with his mother, Osteen Roberts Griffin, his grandfather, Charlie Roberts, and his three brothers, Denzil, Herman, and Therman Griffin. My grandmother Osteen lived there until around 1960. The house was owned by Otto Griner at the time they lived there.
Player Cemetery Road Tobacco Barn, Ben Hill County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
This barn was razed in 2009.
Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Ben Hill County, 2003 – © Brian Brown
Union Baptist Church, Ben Hill County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
The two churches pictured above are among Ben Hill County’s most historic African-American congregations.
Snow Shower, Dogwood Lane, Fitzgerald, 1989 – © Brian Brown
Wooden Shingle Farmhouse, Ben Hill County, 2001 – © Brian Brown
Burning Beaver Dam, Irwin County, 2002 – © Brian Brown
The second weekend in November will be the 19th year that Richland has been holing their annual PigFest, which is as much about community as it is barbecue, but the barbecue. That’s just magic.
Bill Ricks writes: Until about two years ago the top of the sign was covered by a Firestone sign. The J. G. Webbs opened their business in the late 40s after Mr. Webb’s military service ended. He was experience in radio and electronics, and both of them were frugal and hardworking retailers. They lived in the building up until about late 50s or early 60s, and the business was open until Mr. Webb died. Beside Firestone tires, they had the local franchises for Snapper, Zenith, GE, and others. Mrs. Webb was related to the O’Connors. The original horse and mule business was operated by John Fisher and Mr. Lowrey. J. B. O’Connor was a business and political leader in Treutlen and Montgomery counties.