The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County closes and moves on

Sammy Busciglio hugs his daughter Samantha Busciglio-Payne this past March at Tower Dairy during a brief break from loading feed troughs for the next day's move to Georgia.

In the 1970s, at least 60 dairy farms operated in Hillsborough County. Their demise in a handful of decades seems the inevitable aftermath of urban encroachment, rising land prices and consolidation making it tougher for small and mid-sized dairy farms to milk profits. The last to leave: the Busciglio family, who sold their farm to a housing developer and relocated their cows to Georgia.

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Cows line up to be milked in the dairy parlor at Tower Dairy. Farmer Jeff Busciglio said the cows get used to their milking schedule, and some will start walking toward the barn as it approaches regular milking time.
Jeff Busciglio looks back into the milking parlor during an overnight milking at Tower Dairy. Dairy cows have to be milked twice a day, 12 hours apart. Depending on other tasks, like mixing feed, Jeff would arrive at the farm just after 1 a.m. to start milking the 160 cows promptly at 2. When working alone, the milking process took Jeff about four and a half hours. When talking about farming with his dad, Jeff said, "67 years for him and 43 years for me. That's all we know."
The milking machines use suction to pull the milk through tubing into a cooling tank. Jeff Busciglio watches the milk levels using this glass gauge to tell when each cow is done milking.
The nearly 250 acres of Busciglio family farm land, as seen from the air in March. Tower Dairy is less than 10 miles from downtown Tampa, and the last dairy farm in Hillsborough County. The farm used to be at the end of a dirt road, but development has closed in on the property. "They offered them so much money they couldn't afford not to sell it, " Sammy Busciglio said.
Jeff Busciglio pauses for a breath in the old dairy parlor at Tower Dairy. After Jeff and his father Sammy Busciglio built a new milking parlor, this space became a garden. When they learned that they would have to move the farm the garden fell into disrepair.
Spiderwebs coat work tools in the shop at Tower Dairy. The is in an original barn built by Sammy Busciglio's father Joe, more than 60 years ago.
Jeff Busciglio grooms a Holstein calf before a 4H and Future Farmers of America dairy cow showing at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
Alex Busciglio, 9, and Dominic Busciglio, 5, pose for a photo taken by their mom, Jana Busciglio, after showing Holstein calves at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
Jeff's son, Alex, 9, writes a note for a time capsule that the Busciglio family hopes to leave buried somewhere on the Tower Dairy property.
Sammy Busciglio looks through family photographs and memorabilia in the office at Tower Dairy.
Savannah Busciglio, Sammy Busciglio, and Samantha Busciglio-Payne ride on a tractor back to the barn after taking a family portrait. Savannah and Samantha are Sammy's daughters. "I wish there was some way we could buy it," Sammy said, referencing the family property in Tampa. "We could make it a showcase place. We could make it a place where we could teach children where milk comes from."
Sammy Busciglio, left of center, his two brothers and extended family toast to Tower Dairy and the Busciglio family with wine and Busch beer on March 26, the day before the cows were moved to Georgia. Sammy's father Joe Busciglio loved to drink Busch beer. Although Jeff and Sammy own the dairy, the property was owned by a larger group of family that was ready to sell.
Jeff Busciglio hugs his son Alex while his sister Samantha Busciglio-Payne, leans on his shoulder after a family toast to Tower Dairy got emotional.
Sammy Busciglio drives a truck loaded with feed troughs, calf pins and bales of hay north on Interstate 75 to the new farmland in Gay, Ga.. The new property is 270 acres, and the family hopes to expand their herd.
Alex, Jana, and Dominic Busciglio look out at the cows running in the pasture at the new farm in Gay, Ga., on March 27. "Look at how free they are," Jana said.
Jeff helps his dad Sammy up a steep hill near a creek that forms the property line at the new 270-acre farm in Georgia.
Cows hesitate to walk over an unfamiliar drainage grate into the new dairy parlor for the first milking at the new farm in Georgia.
Sammy Busciglio laughs at one of his grandsons after a long day of work at the new dairy farm in Georgia. When touring the new farmland Sammy said, "This is like a dream to me."
Jeff, Alex, Jana and Dominic walk up the hill toward the new dairy barn after all the cows had been moved from Hillsborough to the property in Gay, Ga. It took four 18-wheelers to move the 160 cow herd. After arriving on the farm with the cows in tow, Jeff said, "I told you it was nice."