Surprise gift from HGTV celebrity couple relieves dairy farming family

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By Tammy Shaw

Dairy farmers across the state were hit hard and still worry about the future after Dean Foods abruptly dropped contracts in April with milk producers across the country, including local dairy Jericho Acres. 

The dairy, owned by Guy, Denis and Curtis Coombs, didn’t have the luxury to dream after losing most of their cows, but a $50,000 windfall from HGTV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines dovetailed with the family’s plan to recreate Jericho Acres.

The Gaines family owns an umbrella company called Magnolia. They watched the Coombs family on NBC News, picked up from Local stories in April and July about the plight of dairy farmers in the county.

Then Chip Gaines called in July; he asked how he could help and offered advice. Afterward, a relationship formed between both families.

The Gaines family invited the Coombes to attend Silobration, in Waco, Texas, Magnolia’s annual festival featuring a free vendor fair, food trucks, daytime activities and evening concerts.

At a concert, Chip Gaines asked the family to come up on stage, then showed a clip from footage a film crew, on behalf of the Gaines family, shot during two days on the farm. 

“It was hard to watch,” Carilynn Coombs, married to Curtis, said. “It was hard to see Guy and Curtis so vulnerable. You just don’t see that.”

Alexander, Carilynn and Curtis’ 3-year-old son, walks the farm with his dad and asks why he’s not milking cows. “We’re not doing that right now,” Carilynn tells him.

After the video played, Chip gave the family a large check with no strings attached to use in whatever way they needed. 

“We will be eternally grateful for their graciousness and the wonderful people they are. I’m blessed to be able to call them friends,” she said. The check takes pressure off the family. 

Chip Gaines created Chipstarter, a way to fund dreams and goals, according to its website. Chip’s goal is to provide help to fund dreams, desires and passions and the Coombs story struck a chord, Magnolia’s publicist John Marsicano, said.

“For Chip, some of his dreams worked out and some didn’t, but without the people who believed in him, he knows he wouldn’t be where he is today,” Marsicano said. “We believe in the Coombs family.” 

Diverse business

To move forward, the family must diversify, Carilynn said. 

The family decided to build and operate a micro dairy processing plant, just for milk from eight cows first, to keep it small, and possibly a farm store to sell agricultural products. 

If successful, the goal is to create a place where these dairy farmers can help other farmers stuck in the same situation.  The monetary gift will help build some of the infrastructure, but it won’t pay for the entire venture.

The family will apply for state grants, through the Kentucky Agriculture Development grant and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and also apply for community grants, if it’s justified, she said. 

Guy and Curtis work fulltime on the farm, Denis works off the farm and Carilynn owns a marketing firm, A Modern Milkmaid, which she runs out of their home.  

The goal of the new venture is to educate the public about what goes into agriculture, she said. 

Tours, a picnic area and live music events on weekends are ideas to draw customers to Jericho Acres and other area farms. 

The family knows it won’t be easy. “It will be as hard as the sell-off,” Carilynn said, but the family wants to give the next generation the choice to keep it alive.

“It’s been hard. No one should have to go through what we did.”

But the Gaines’ investment has given the farm hope, and the media attention, name recognition. 

“It’s given us permission to dream again,” she said.