Farm: C.R. Melear Dairy
Location: Zolfo Springs, Hardee County
Date of Origination: 1930’s
The Watkins family owns and operates C.R. Melear Dairy in Zolfo Springs, Florida. The dairy has been in the family since C.R. Melear and Henretta Melear began milking cows in the 1930’s around the Hialeah area. In the early 1970’s the family sold the dairy they owned in Palm Beach County and moved to their current location in Hardee County.
C.R. Melear Dairy has been practicing a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) on the dairy since 1994. A CNMP is a part of a good conservation plan for livestock operations and serves to protect water quality and soil health by managing the manure and the nutrient content. This plan included the installation of a water reclamation system that was designed to cut down the use of fresh water by recycling the water that is used to flush and rinse the cow barns. The system catches all of the solids that wash out of the barn, which are then used as offsite fertilizer, while the liquid is captured in a 28-acre waste storage pond and pumped out for use in nearby irrigation systems or reused to flush the barn. As part of the BMPs that were implemented, the dairy also recycles the sand that is used for bedding.
The Watkin’s family is actively involved in their local community. Tommy Watkins is a current Hardee County Farm Bureau Board Member and was recognized as SMI’s Outstanding Young Producer in 2014-2015. He actively supports Hardee County youth sports and is a member of the Florida Farm Bureau Dairy Advisory Committee. Kara W. Sanders is an active Florida Dairy Farmers Board Member and Class 6 Graduate of The Wedgeworth Leadership Institute.
When asked why they are farmers who CARE, Watkins responded, “Our father Tom Watkins worked very hard to make the dairy what it is today. He and our mother have instilled in us a respect for the environment and the animals we care for.”