CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some dairy farm families in North Carolina say their industry is in jeopardy.

According to the Dairy Farm Alliance, 160 farms in the Southeast have closed shop over the last decade due to competition from milk alternatives and fluctuating milk prices.

In Lincolnton, a dairy farmer is using a unique and tasty way to keep his farm open. Corey Lutz started milking cows at Riverbend Dairy Farm in 1997.

He specializes in Piedmont Jersey cows and is responsible for more than 500 cows, 200 of which are currently being milked.

The cows are Lutz’ bread and butter. The Piedmont Jersey cows produce a higher amount of butter fat and protein. Milking usually takes about 3.5 hours and Lutz spends sun-up to sundown overseeing the process.

But, competition from alternative milk products like almond milk and even other drinks like soda are threatening the future of Lutz’ farm.

"What’s going to happen is the consumers milk production is going to move farther and farther away. So, it’s going to have to be trucked in and someone is going to have to pay those extra prices," Lutz explained.

To keep those prices low for his customers and ensure the future of the farm, Lutz and his wife started construction on a creamery in 2018 that’s almost ready to open.

Lutz said the creamery will help him turn the milk into other products to sell like ice cream, which would provide a buffer to keep the farm afloat.

Lutz plans to open the creamery just in time for the summer. In addition to several flavors of ice cream, like salted caramel, he’ll also be selling chocolate milk.