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It Takes a Village: Our Chat with Jersey Girls Dairy

Written by Aimee Blinder, CFM Committee Volunteer

On a recent warm summer night, I gave a ring to Leah and Brady Courtney who spoke to me from their home in Winnsboro, situated two hours away from Coppell. Their dairy operation is a family affair having started as a commercial dairy farm back in the early 90’s by Brady’s dad Toey and mom Linda, transitioning to a retail farm in 2007. As the sole dairy offering at CFM, we were eager to get a look into their life and hear their stories.

Where were you born and raised? As the son of a military dad Brady was born in Washington state and moved around a fair bit as a kid, but Texas became home during his childhood. While Leah was born in Tucson, Arizona and came to Texas at 18.

Leah showing Jersey Girl product on a market day. Photo by Abigail Paxton Photography.

What does it mean to be able to serve the community directly as part of CFM? This dedicated couple rises before dawn every Saturday to make the 2-hour drive to CFM and they shared “It’s a long drive, but it’s so worth our while. We just love the people at CFM. The customers and the market staff are like no other.” They both agreed that being able to bring their fresh high-quality products to their customers feels so satisfying. And the long journey each week actually serves as a source of precious quality time for this busy duo who rarely get to see one another throughout the day.

What does Texas pride mean to you? For Leah Texas pride is the presence of deep moral values, and for Brady “Texas folks have ideals that make them independent minded, standing on your own and taking care of your family and community.” Even though they live rurally, they know their neighbors and are part of a close-knit community, like most Texans can proudly say.

Taking in a scenic view would you rather it be by horseback or in your favorite classic convertible? Leah didn’t skip a beat, for her it would be “a blue ‘65 mustang convertible”. Brady chose a bit slower route and said he’d like to take the view in by horseback. Although he hasn’t ridden in years, Brady used to have a horse of his own in his teens and would hit the roping and team pinning contests every Friday night at the local fairgrounds. He wasn’t one to take home too many top prizes, but boy was it a good time.

Jersey Girls’ market day display and menu. Photo by Abigail Paxton Photography.

If you could have any creature comfort upgrade to your CFM vendor stall what would it be? They both absolutely agreed it would be central air, with heat in the winter and AC in the summer. And we do believe we just heard an audible amen from all of the other vendors.

What is your proudest moment so far in regard to your business? For this couple they agreed that the most joyful compliment is when someone tells them that one of their products is the best they’ve ever had, because they work so very hard to cultivate their offerings. Brady shared, “I love when a new customer buys something small like a yogurt, and quickly returns after eating it during the Market and stocks up on more products. That’s just the best.”

You move a bucket in the garage, would you rather see a snake, gigantic spider, or a badger? Leah said that hands down its anything but a spider, while Brady said he’d rather it be a spider. Just another reason these two make such a great team!

What is the hottest day in Texas by degrees that you’ve ever experienced? Although Leah doesn’t really pay much attention to specific temperatures, she definitely thinks some of her hottest days have been at CFM, during the peak of summer. With absolute certainty, Brady shared, “It was the summer of 1980. I remember being a kid playing soccer and we were just absolutely soaked. It got up to 113, 115 for a few weeks on end.” Well we did a little research and Brady’s memory indeed serves him correct. The endless summer heat wave of 1980 is known around these parts as The Great Scorcher and certain days during that period remain some of the highest recorded temperatures statewide.

Leah (left) and Brady (right) at the Coppell Farmers Market. Photo by Abigail Paxton Photography.

When is the last time you were on a slip-n-slide? Bonus question, do you use soap on the slide? While neither could remember the last time they were actually on one, in the summertime their kids Easton & Avery both 10, set one up on the slope in their backyard and they do use soap. We challenged both Leah & Brady to give it a whirl with the kids one of these hot summer days and we do think the seed has been planted.

Do you have a favorite movie or TV show that would surprise people, a guilty pleasure? Always loving the joy of reading since a child, Leah is an avid reader who says she will read just about anything, anytime, and anywhere. Although neither of these two has a lot of free time on their hands they do occasionally enjoy catching a real-life mystery show together such as Dateline, and who doesn’t.

Of your peer vendors, what is one of your favorite foods that you enjoy? Each week Leah ducks out for a bit to do the family shopping at CFM so she has her favorites for sure. Among them being delicious tomatoes from their vendor neighbor Weathertop Farm and chocolate Temptress cookies from Wackym’s Kitchen, which by no coincidence go great with Jersey Girl milk!

Is there a particular family tradition that stands out in your life? For Leah as a child it was always cutting their own Christmas tree and they have carried that forward with their own kids. Each holiday season they cut a tree off their own property. They both laughed “The trees on our property are more like a Christmas bush than a tree, like the Charlie Brown version, but we love them, dress them up real nice, and they have a lot of heart.”

Jersey Girls’ market day product display. Photo by Abigail Paxton Photography.

If you set out on a camping trip and could only bring 3 provisions from your offering, what would you bring and why? Well given they only offer four standard products, of them they’d bring cheese for Leah, regular milk for Brady, and chocolate milk for the kids.

Are you able to fall asleep in a crowd of people or do you need absolute pin drop quiet? As Leah can attest, once Brady’s head hits the pillow he’s out, while she said she’s a very light sleeper. Someone needs to be on the night watch for spiders!

If given the opportunity, would you want to fly in the cockpit of a 747? Ask a simple question and you get an entirely unexpected answer. Brady’s dad Toey was a pilot so growing up Brady spent quite a few flights in the cockpit when his dad flew private charters, before finishing his career as a pilot for Southwest. Leah on the other hand shared “I think I’d want to, but the reality of that could be a totally different story.”

What utility upgrade is a must for any truck loving Texan and one you use most often? This was easy, 4-wheel drive, a good hitch, and AC.

Do you have a recent example of farm life ingenuity by using something for a totally different purpose and being very pleased with the outcome? As every good farmer knows, this happens pretty much daily. You become very creative and able to adapt. They both had recent examples of this type of repurposing, Leah shared “Recently we were getting ready to bottle milk to bring to CFM and the pipe on our chill water system came apart so my father-in-law used a rachet strap to hold it together.” Brady said recently he had this annoying little rattle in his truck and after finally figuring out that he had a bushing wear out he used a little piece of PVC pipe to fix it. And for anyone that doesn’t know, PVC pipe is a farmer’s cure all remedy, handy for countless uses.

After a very long day, what would be your favorite food aroma to come home to upon opening the door? We had to chuckle at Leah’s answer because it likely echoes every working mom, “It would be SOMEONE ELSE cooking ANYTHING.”

Do you have a life motto that serves you well? Leah laughed and said jokingly, “The Courtney motto is “I dunno” but the kind you say with your lips shut and a shrug, and it’s their great stress reliever in life and I definitely envy it.” Brady believes in the golden rule of treating people how you want to be treated. He said “My dad is honest almost to a fault, he’d rather short himself than do someone else wrong.” So, Brady learned this important lesson as a youngster and it’s served him well in life.

Are there any cows in your herd that really stand out as special and why? Their milking herd is now 100 strong, with another 150 or so other cows on the farm including their 5 bulls. With bulls on the grounds, the breeding aspect of their farm is a whole process in and of itself, which takes place at certain times of the year with Fall as their busiest calving season. They pride their herd on being high producers and having good fertility, but some also have great personalities, and Jersey cows in particular are known for being very social and docile. For as much time as he spends with his cows each day, Brady knows every one of his sweet girls by sight, he can look out on the pasture and know right away if one is missing. And fun fact, the number each cow is assigned is related to her family lineage. The farm maintains the family tree records for all of their cows dating back decades, which is so cool!

Cow #806 at evening milking time. Photo by the dairyman himself, Brady Courtney.

What is something that would surprise people about the nature of cows? Brady shared “Cows are smarter than people think, similar to a dog, and they really do have their own personality. Our friendliest cow right now is #806 she is just the best, she kind of reminds me of my very first cow as a kid who was named Rosey. And we still have cows from Rosey’s lineage carrying on today, it’s a great thing to see.”

What is your favorite fresh dairy staple that you can’t live without? Leah loves their cheese, queso fresco and cheddar in particular. She said cheddar is the hardest to make so she enjoys it that much more. At home Brady enjoys drinking their raw milk, he and his son go through a gallon every couple of days.

We were so happy to get some down time with this hard-working, sweet, and humble couple. Hearing their personal stories and having some laughs was a highlight of our week. If you haven’t treated yourself to some of their farm fresh dairy products curated with tender care, do stop by and see them at the Market or visit their website at www.jerseygirlsmilk.com. But we’ll warn you, you’ll be ruined from ever wanting grocery store dairy ever again. And don’t forget to talk books, cows, horses, and The Great Scorcher of 1980. Do note, this team only takes cash, check, Zelle, or Paypal so please keep that in mind when coming to stock up.

The Coppell Farmers Market provides groceries year-round and vendors are vetted to ensure they make and grow what they sell, so shoppers can be confident in the quality they receive! We’re asking shoppers to adhere to certain safety precautions, like practicing physical distancing and wearing masks, during this time. Please be familiar with these guidelines prior to attending.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are accepted at the Coppell Farmers Market. 

The market is located at 768 W. Main St. in Old Town Coppell. Open 8am-noon every Saturday.

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