The signs are popping up all around Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, and even a few spots beyond.
You can find the signs at Hattie Jane's Creamery, City Café, Pearcy's General Merchandise and Lascassas Feed in Lascassas, Tennessee, and other business locations in Rutherford, Cannon and Wilson counties where MTSU dairy products are sold.
The MTSU Creamery has nearly doubled production at its small processing plant on campus and continues to market its milk utilizing a throwback from the past — tin signs.
The 11-by-17-inch, old-fashioned-looking signs' message — "We Proudly Sell MTSU Milk" — are a vehicle "to increase visibility of our product," said Matthew Wade, director of the MTSU Experiential Learning and Research Center (aka the MTSU Farm and Dairy) in Lascassas.
"It's a throwback and a fun sign," Wade said. "It takes us back to when milk was in old glass bottles and that vintage era. … Ours is a locally-sourced product and these signs display that."
The signs have been out for more than one month and, like the first 1,000 pints bottled, have become somewhat of a collector's item.
"We wanted to get them to the vendors and some sponsors first," Wade said. "People can relate to them — the look, feel and design. We are already getting calls from people who have seen the signs and want to buy them."
This interest might lead to an online store, Wade said.
Wade and Jessica Carter, director of the School of Agriculture, used part of a statewide grant from the Dairy Alliance through the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association to purchase 200 signs to not only promote the MTSU Creamery but also the Tennessee Milk Program.
"We're thanking the Dairy Alliance and Tennessee Dairy Producers Association for giving us this grant and we're getting the word out about what we're doing at the processing plant and our participation with Tennessee Milk," Wade said. "What are we doing in the plant? We're teaching, promoting and leading by example."
Wade and Carter help promote www.drinktnmilk.com. The Tennessee Milk logo on bottles means the milk is "certified 100 percent that it's produced in Tennessee, helping a Tennessee dairy farmer directly," Wade said.
Additional grant funds were used to place billboards in Nashville for 30 days and for an advertorial in "Edible Nashville" magazine.
"I love the sign. It's so cute," said Rhonda Schmitz, part-owner and COO of Hattie Jane's Creamery on the square in downtown Murfreesboro, adding that they like to tell everyone they use MTSU milk. "The fact that the Tennessee Milk logo is on the sign shows that it is Tennessee made and with that, there's no confusion (where the milk comes from)."
The MTSU Creamery, which is managed by Steve Dixon and includes student workers in the entire process, will be featured in an upcoming issue of "Tennessee Ag Insider" with several other creameries talking about small-scale processing, Wade said.