C.R. Melear Dairy
“We’re the third generation, and we’re raising the fourth generation of dairy farmers.”
As the Watkins kids, Tommy and Kara grew up on the family farm, learning firsthand about barns, cows and milking parlors from their parents.
“We’re the third generation, and we’re raising the fourth generation of dairy farmers,” says Tommy, the chief operating officer at C.R. Melear Dairy in Hardee County. “I was born into this industry, and I’m honored to carry on the proud legacy of dairy farming passed down to me by my grandparents and parents.”
Working with parents Tom and Debra Watkins, the two siblings run their 7,600-acre farm in Zolfo Springs. Dairy farming has been a family tradition since C.R. Melear and Henretta Melear (Tommy and Kara’s grandparents) began milking cows in the 1930s near Miami. They later owned a farm in Palm Beach County before moving to the current location in the early 1970s.
As the brother and sister gained knowledge about the dairy business, their hard work and commitment earned them respect throughout the industry. Kara Sanders serves on the board of directors of the Florida Dairy Farmers and is an alumnus of the prestigious Wedgworth Leadership Institute. Tommy is a member of the Hardee County Farm Bureau board and was selected as the Outstanding Young Farmer by Southeast Milk Inc., the state’s largest dairy cooperative.
“This isn’t just a job,” Kara says, “it’s our lives.”
They hope to inspire in their children – Tommy and wife Anna have five, Kara and husband Mike have one – the same love and devotion for farm life that they were shown by their parents.
“Our father worked very hard to make the dairy what it is today,” says Tommy. “He and our mother have instilled in us a respect for the environment and the animals we care for.”