How a Fifth-Generation Dairy Farmer Embraced the Local Food Movement
When Maple View Farm started raising Holstein cows in Hillsborough in 1963, there were 100 dairy farms in Orange County. Today, two remain.
Fifth-generation farmer Roger Nutter blames the low price of milk for the struggle to survive.
“Milk co-ops are paying the same price for milk today that they were when I graduated from high school in 1979,” Nutter says. “It helps keep milk affordable, but it makes it very hard for dairy farmers to survive.”
Maple View Farm started in Maine in the 1800s. Just over 50 years ago, several members of the Nutter family relocated to North Carolina with 100 cows from their registered herd, called the Maview herd, and continued raising dairy cattle. Today, all of the cows on the farm are descendants of the original herd.
To continue the centuries-old tradition of dairy farming, Nutter knew the farm needed to rethink how its milk got from the cow to the customer.
Looking for Local
In 1996, Maple View Farm built a creamery and, instead of selling milk to a co-op, which had been standard practice for three decades, they began bottling the milk on the farm – in traditional glass bottles – and selling directly to customers who were eager for local dairy products.
“People want to support local and want to know where their food comes from,” Nutter says. “All of the milk we sell comes from cows raised right here on our farm.”
Establishing a creamery forced Maple View to rethink its farming practices. For decades, the herd of 350 cows spent the winters indoors, eating a steady diet of grain and silage; in the spring, the herd was sent out to pasture to graze. Their seasonal diet changed the flavor of the milk.
“Whatever we feed the cows affects the taste of the milk,” Nutter explains. “We started getting calls from customers because their milk tasted different [from season to season].”
Maple View Farm moved the milking herd to an open barn to control their diet and ensure a consistent milk flavor. The Holsteins are milked three times per day, and each of the 180 cows in the milking herd produces 26,000 pounds of milk per year (the remaining cows are either too young to milk, pregnant or taking a break from milking).
In addition to selling whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk and butter through supermarkets, food co-ops and specialty grocers across the state, Maple View Farm also sells its milk at the creamery adjacent to the farm. Nutter believes customers like coming to the farm to purchase their milk because it creates a connection to the source of their food.
“There has been a big swing toward supporting local farms,” he says.
The ice cream is also a draw.
Maple View Farm Ice Cream opened its doors in 2000. All of the ice cream is made with milk from the Maple View Farm herd – and the rocking chairs on the front porch overlook the pastures.
Chocolate, vanilla and butter pecan are year-round favorites, while seasonal flavors such as black cherry, sweet potato and black walnut are made with fresh ingredients and sold for a limited time. The cow-to-cone ice cream is also sold at County Line Creamery in Gibsonville.
For Love of the Land
Nutter isn’t just committed to preserving his family’s farming heritage. He also wants to conserve the land for future generations. Since 1995, the farm has placed 187 acres in a conservation easement through the Triangle Land Conservancy, ensuring that the natural areas and agricultural soils will never be developed.
All of the barley and corn used in the silage are grown on the farm and ground into feed on site. This practice eliminates shipping from another farm and allows Maple View Farm to control the quality of its feed and the flavor and nutritional content of the milk; manure is sprayed on the fields as fertilizer. The cows are never given artificial growth hormones.
A lot has changed since the Nutter family started raising dairy cattle more than 200 years ago. While the process is more mechanized and efficient, the commitment to caring for the animals and the land – while producing great-tasting milk – remains the same.
“My grandfather would be proud,” Nutter says. “We’ve been doing this for five generations and I hope we can keep going.”
If You Go...
Maple View Farm Ice Cream
6900 Rocky Ridge Rd., Hillsborough, NC
Maple View’s County Line Creamery
113 E Main St., Gibsonville, NC 27249
– Jodi Helmer