Dairy is big business in the Virginia economy. It’s the fifth largest farm commodity in the Commonwealth and Franklin County is in the top five milk-producing counties! Rural is different in Franklin County and it’s easy to see why. The work that happens here makes a big impact on the state economy — dairy produced more than $297 million in cash receipts in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

June is also National Dairy Month! It’s a great time to highlight the importance of dairy in our food culture and economy. That’s why we were so thrilled to talk to Joanna Shipp of Bowmont Dairy Farm Inc.

Joanna is the Chair of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and is a passionate advocate for the nutritional and economic benefits of dairy products and the farmers that make it possible. Keep reading to get the inside scoop about life as a Franklin County, VA, dairy farmer. 

Tell us about yourself!

I’m a 7th generation dairy farmer at Bowmont Dairy Farm Inc. where I work in partnership with my father, Laird Bowman. We milk 200 Holstein and mixed breed cows and farm 700 acres of land. We grow corn, soybeans, rye grass, barley, wheat, and grass hay to feed our cows. The farm has been in our family since 1839. 

My husband Robb is a middle school band director in Roanoke County, and we have are blessed with our wonderful daughter Jenna who is in 8th grade this year!

What part of Franklin County do you live in? 

I live right on the edge of Boones Mill and Callaway at the family farm where our family has been since 1839. I grew up on the farm but moved away for college and the first 5 years of my working career. We returned to Franklin County in 2011.  

What’s your favorite park about living in Franklin County? 

Franklin County feels like home. I love looking out at the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains each day. I also love feeling connected to and knowing the community I am a part of.

What do you do for fun outside of work? 

Dairy farming is a 24/7 job! But my family has always loved to travel and I have seen most of the United States and many other places around the world.

What’s your favorite place in Franklin County? 

I love driving on the back roads and hills and taking in all the natural beauty here.

What’s your go-to conversation starter? 

Hello, I’m a dairy farmer!

What advice do you have for finding or meeting new people? 

There are many organizations in the county doing great things! The library has book clubs. The community choir has concerts each year. The local fire department has fundraisers and need volunteers. And the high school always has sporting events that need community support. Volunteering is a great way to get connected in the community.

What professional groups/organizations are you involved in? 

I have served on the local Dairy Herd Improvement Associate Board since I moved back to the county. In 2014 I served as the Outstanding Young Cooperator for our milk Co-op Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association. That lead me to serving on the Virginia State Dairy Promotion Board starting in 2015. In 2019 I was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to the National Dairy Research and Promotion Board. I finished my first term in 2022 and was appointed to a second term this past winter. I am currently serving as the Chair of the National Dairy Board.  

What does #FranklinCountyShines mean to you? 

Franklin County has a diverse and interesting group of residents who are doing amazing things here at home and around the world. Shining a light on those individuals is important.

Franklin County Shines is a series about the people and places that make Franklin County one of the best places to live, work, and play. #FranklinCountyShines