Being in the dairy industry is all Brad Bouma has ever known. Brad, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, grew up in southern California on a dairy farm with his parents and two siblings. In 1981 at the age of 25, Brad moved to El Paso, Texas, to start on his own dairy. Little did he know, he would soon play a major role in what is now one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country.
“I was born into it,” said Brad. “My grandfather, my great grandfather, and my father were all dairy farmers in California.”
Brad has lived in West Texas ever since he left southern California in 1981. Brad and his wife, Barb, have been married for almost 40 years, and are now enjoying their retirement living on the waters of Ransom Canyon, near Lubbock.
Like Brad, Barb was also born into the dairy industry. She too comes from a background of many generations of dairy farmers, going all the way back to the early 1900s in the Netherlands. Her father immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands and raised his family on a dairy farm in California. Barb still has a cousin living and operating a dairy farm in the Netherlands.
“It’s pretty much genetic,” said Brad. “We both come from a background in the dairy industry.”
With so much family history in the dairy industry, it was no surprise the Boumas decided to raise their children on a dairy farm and continue the farming legacy. Although they live in residential Ransom Canyon, Brad and Barb still own dairy operations in Abernathy and Plainview, Texas. They also have partnerships with dairy farms in Northwest Ohio and Northwest Indiana at Fair Oaks Farms. Their two sons, Brent and Brandon Bouma, completely operate and manage the dairies, feed yard and other farming operations in Plainview and Abernathy.
“Dairy farming has been passed down from generation to generation in our family,” said Brent.
The Boumas established Legacy Farms 13 years ago in Plainview. Legacy Farms is an open, dry lot dairy farm, which currently has 150 full-time employees with one on-site veterinarian. The farm occupies about 16,000 cows and calves, with around 30 new calves being born each day. Legacy Farms can milk 160 cows at a time, and each cow gets milked twice a day. The farm produces about 60,000 gallons of milk per day, which is all sent to Gandy’s in Lubbock.
Both Brent and Brandon, currently live on their father’s 4,000-acre dairy farm, Legacy Farms, with their wives and children. Brent is the general manager and oversees all dairy operations at Legacy Farms. Brandon operates the feed yard just a few miles down the road in Abernathy and oversees all other farming operations.
It’s just in my blood. It’s just what we do.Brent Bouma
Brad still travels to his dairy farms multiple times a week to make sure everything is running smoothly like it should be. His wife, who the grandchildren call “Ya-Ya,” likes to come along to spend time with her boys and the six grandchildren who live on Legacy Farms.
“I love being able to work hand-in-hand with my kids and my grandkids,” said Brad.
While Brad’s passion and love for the dairy industry has always been strong, it has recently led him and his family to business success. About 15 years ago when the Boumas still lived in El Paso, Brad and a couple of his dairy farmer friends founded Select Milk Producers, a small group of family dairy farmers who believed in the same pursuit of perfect milk. Select invented a process where the dairy farmer used a filtration system to remove water from milk so dairies could transport milk further distances without having to haul the water. During this process, they started to play around with the idea of creating drinks out of filtrated milk.
Six years later, Select Milk Producers had developed and was selling a drink called Core Power, a high protein milk shake for athletes, and was in the process of launching Fairlife, an ultra-filtered milk. Fairlife, compared to regular milk, has less sugar, more protein and calcium, no lactose, and an extended shelf life of 90 days, according the Brad. Fairlife milk comes in reduced fat, chocolate, fat-free and whole.
“Fairlife and Core Power are 100 percent milk,” said Brad. “There are no additives. If you look at the label on the bottle, there’s just milk and then whatever sweetener or flavor we decide to put in it. There are not big words that you and I can’t pronounce.”
Select Milk Producers sold Core Power and Fairlife online and through word-of-mouth for a few years, but they soon decided they needed to get their products into grocery stores. At the same time, The Coca-Cola Company was looking for a partner in their health and wellness platform. Select Milk Producers entered into a distribution partnership with Coca-Cola in 2012 to form Fairlife, LLC. Currently, Coca-Cola distributes all of the products Fairlife creates, markets and sells. Now, Fairlife is available nation-wide in many retail stores such as Target, Kroger and Wal-Mart.
“We were able to broaden our market tremendously and get coast to coast over the course of our first year of our partnership with Coca-Cola,” said Brad.
Fairlife is projected to complete close to $350 million in sales this year alone. The Fairlife fluid milk business has grown exceptionally fast, much faster than any other business Coca-Cola has been involved with in the past few years, according to Brad.
“We believe and Coca-Cola believes that Fairlife is a billion dollar brand,” said Brad.
Select Milk Producers owns half of Fairlife, while Coca-Cola owns the other half. Brad is currently one of three members of Fairlife’s board of directors and was one of the first five founding members of Select Milk Producers. He currently serves as the chairman of their board of directors.
Select Milk Producers is currently the fifth largest milk marketing cooperative in the U.S., made up of over 90 members, two-thirds of which own and operate their own dairy farm in West Texas. Collectively, they own Fair Oaks Farms, Fairlife’s flagship farm.
Fairlife milk products are sold in every venue and store on the Texas Tech campus. Fairlife also sells and delivers truck loads of Core Power shakes to the Texas Tech Athletic Department about every other month at wholesale cost. Tech’s athletic nutritionist uses Fairlife and Core Power products for the athletes’ high protein shakes and smoothies. Texas Tech is only one of four universities in the country who has a wholesale contract with Fairlife.
“Texas Tech has been a great market place for us and a great advocate for us,” said Brad.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Fairlife’s massive success is that dairy farm families built and own the company, and each dairy farmer still milks the cows that produce the milk used in Fairlife products, Brad explained. Each dairy farmer raises his own cattle, grows his own feed, and creates his own electricity by methane digestion. The Fairlife dairy farmers are in control of the entire production system.
“We at Fairlife say that we can take you from grass to glass, and very few people can do that,” said Brad.
Although Brad wears many hats in the dairy industry and plays a major role in one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country, he says he is a, “family farmer first,” and that is where his heart has always been.