1992 Pioneer Dairy Leader Award

Elmer C. Adams, Blue Springs, (1892-1980)

Elmer Adams, founder and president of Adams Dairy, Blue Springs, Missouri, was one of the most colorful, innovative, and successful dairy operators in the annals of Missouri’s dairy industry.

Elmer was born in 1892 on the Adams farm near Blue Springs. He attended grade school and graduated from Blue Spring’s High School. After his formal education he worked with his father in operating the family farm which was in the beef cattle and mule business. By the age of 16 he had shown his first mule at the state fair. At age 19 he showed the grand champion mule at the state fair and drove a six-mule hitch there as well.

Mr. Adams and Blanche Hall, Blue Springs, were married in 1912. Four children were born to this union, Violet (Mrs. Arthur Frye), Blue Springs; E.C. Jr. an active partner in the business; Howard, Attorney-at-Law, and Peggy Sue, who died in an accident at 18 months of age. His wife, Blanche, died in 1937 following a long illness. In 1943 Elmer married Alice Dean, who died on 1991.

His dairy career began in 1914 when he bought two milk cows. The income from the beef herd was scant so additional milk cows were purchased. He considered Adams Dairy to have been founded in 1916 when operations were established at the home farm m Eastern Jackson County where it continued for nearly 60 years.

From the beginning he kept meticulous records. Each cow’s production, the yield from each field, days on pasture, all were recorded and studied. He knew his costs and income in detail. He worked closely with the Extension Service and the Missouri College of Agriculture and developed efficient operations in every phase of the dairy enterprise as it grew. The milk was placed in cans and sold to distributors in Kansas City the first few years.

In 1919 Adams Dairy began producing Certified Milk for infant feeding under supervision of the Jackson County Medical Milk Commission. This was raw milk and standards were very exacting in all phases of production. The milk sold at a premium. Certified milk was produced and bottled at Adams Dairy and distributed by Aines Dairy in Kansas City from 1919 to 1936. In 1936, Aines Dairy under new management, reduced the price of milk so Mr. Adams and his son E.C. Jr., began a door-to-door retail business which became quite successful. This business was sold to Longview Farm, Lee’s Summit in 1940.

Always progressive and usually well ahead of the parade, in 1940, Mr. Adams remodeled the processing plant to handle milk in paper containers. In 1941 he began operations by selling milk in paper containers to Kansas City retail grocery stores – the first paper milk containers to appear in Kansas City and the Midwest. The plant had packaging machines that filled 2000 milk cartons per hour. In 1948 he introduced the paper cartons in the St. Louis market where E.C. Jr. was manager. In addition to their own herd of high producing cows Adams Dairy purchased most of their milk from producers in Western Missouri and the St. Louis area. A dairy distribution firm in St. Joseph was purchased and added to the operation as was the Cloverleaf Dairy in Springfield. With sales in Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Joseph, Springfield, Joplin and Carthage in addition to many smaller towns, Adams Dairy became one the major milk distributors in Missouri.

Always a lover of horses and mules, in the mid 50’s, Mr. Adams purchased and trained a six-pony hitch of dapple grey Shetland ponies as a means of advertising Adams dairy. They were shown in parades, at fairs, the American Royal and on occasion at Madison Square Garden and in Chicago. Mr. Adams loved to drive the ponies at high speed. A second hitch was used for the St. Louis market and shown by E.C. Jr.

The large volume of milk and dairy products moving through grocery stores increased, so by 1963 some of the major chains built and operated their own processing plants. The Adams Dairy then gradually sold all its operations during the1970’s.

Elmer Adams was more than a successful dairy operator. He was an astute businessman and a public spirited citizen. He always had the interest of his family, employees and producers at heart.

Elmer was a lifetime member of the Blue Springs First Baptist Church and was chairman of the Building committee when the Baptist Memorial Hospital of Kansas City was built and later served as its Board Chairman. For years he was on the Board of William Jewell College. During the “Depression of the 30’s” he was chairman of the Debt Conciliation Committee to negotiate arrangements between farm owners and lenders. He led the way in organizing Public Water District #8 in the 1930’s to ensure an adequate, safe water supply for Eastern Jackson County.

He was president of the Jackson County Farm Bureau, and served on the State Farm Bureau Board for 16 years. He was a local 4-H Club Leader for 12 years and on the Missouri 4-H Club Foundation Board for 20 years. He served as a Director of the American Royal Board of Governors for over 20 years and was a long-time member of the Blue Springs Rotary Club. He was honored in 1972 with a Resolution by the City of Blue Springs when October 13-21 was proclaimed “Mr. Adams Week”. He was paid tributes by the Missouri 4-H Club Board of Trustees and a Resolution by the Missouri House of Representative following his death in 1980.

Few men are more worthy of the words “Well done thy good and faithful servant”.