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Gov. presents Tom Trantham with Order of the Palmetto

Happy Cow Creamery owner recognized for his pioneering efforts in Dairy Farming

On Saturday, February 20, 2021, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster presented dairy farmer, Tom Trantham Jr., with the Order of the Palmetto.

The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina. It is awarded to persons who make contributions of statewide significance.

L/R Tom lll, Gov. McMaster, Daughter Tracy Ferill, Farmer Tom,
Wife Linda and Daughter Tammy Trantham

Governor John C. West presented the first Order of the Palmetto in the summer of 1971 as a means of recognizing outstanding service to the state and industrialists who had located facilities in South Carolina. Over the years, the use of the award has varied from administration to administration but, has always been used to recognize outstanding achievements of South Carolina citizens, and contributions to South Carolina. Since 1971, there have been over 4000 citizens of South Carolina recognized with the Order of the Palmetto.

An auxiliary honor is “The Order of the Silver Crescent.” Today it is awarded to persons who make community or professional contributions of local significance.

The significance of this Order for farmer Tom was his contribution to the field of dairy farming in South Carolina and his innovative “12 Aprils” System along with his record of service to the community.

In 1986, during a devastating drought, farmer Tom put together an idea to help local farmers in South Carolina survive the challenging season. He appealed to farmers not only in South Carolina but across the country to donate hay to help feed hungry farm animals. Tom called it the Great American Hay Lift. Over $1 million in hay was transported from all over the country into the little farm in Pelzer and then distributed to farmers in South Carolina. One lady drove her pickup truck completely full of hay from Texas to donate to the hay lift. Not one farmer had to pay a penny for the hay they received.

When farmer Tom founded Happy Cow in 1977 there were over 500 dairy farmers in South Carolina. Today there are only 60. Of the farmers that Tom shared his program with that adopted “12 Aprils” all but three of the 20 are still in business.

His grazing program has come to the attention of farmers in Ireland, Australia, and even Africa. He has addressed committees in Congress on several occasions, lobbying for programs with the United Farmers Organization and Clemson University. Tom was the recipient of USDA’s Madden award that recognizes environmentally sound farming.

The “12 Aprils” program, simply put, provides April quality forage all year long. Livestock moves from one paddock to the other, and eats just the top portion of the plant in each field. After grazing, the field is mowed to the ground and replanted. Happy Cow does not use chemical fertilizers, rather they enhance the soil with organic nutrients. The paddocks and the milking stations are designed to allow the milk to travel only 58 feet from the teat to the bottling station.

After accepting the award, Tom commented, “I am very proud, as a humble farmer, to be recognized by the Governor and the state of South Carolina. I cannot believe I was awarded this great honor. I thank the good Lord for providing a system of Happy Cows.”

Happy Cow Creamery is located at 332 McKelvey Rd. Pelzer SC.♣

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