“From the cow to the shelf in three days,” Cindy Hamrick said, trying out a possible slogan for the fresh yogurt made daily on her family’s farm in Bahama. Carolina Farmhouse Dairy’s organic cream-top yogurt is the first North Carolina yogurt we’ve ever had and is now in stores.
We drove out to visit the dairy farm this week to pick up our inaugural batch of yogurt. When we arrived, Cat, Kevin, and Tristan were outside tending to the herd: eight Jersey cows. The cows were purchased from one herd and were selected because of their efficiency of turning forage into high-quality milk and because of their sweet personalities. We watched as they headed onto a new pasture, thick with grass and other forages, for the afternoon.
As an Animal Welfare Approved herd, the cows receive most of their nutrition from rotational grazing, and are supplemented with locally sourced certified organic feed from Reedy Fork Farm in Elon, NC (the source of our organic Reedy Fork eggs as well as an Organic Valley dairy farm).
Cindy showed us the milking parlor, where two cows are milked at a time. A new, 400-plus gallon storage tank is due to arrive, the first of many equipment purchases the farm will make as they begin scaling up production. In the office, we saw the notes kept on each cow and the careful recordings of test results, made daily. Next we visited the creamery where a team prepared the filling machine to make 6 oz cups of vanilla yogurt. The machine filled the cups with the pasteurized (but not homogenized), cultured milk, covered each cup with a foil lid, and sealed it with a heat press. The cups amass on a rolling rack until they are wheeled into the incubation room, a warm room where the yogurt cultures ferment the milk. Then they move to the cooler.
Other team members include Cindy’s son Brandon, Caroline Gregory, Heather Street, Anna Parsons, and Erin Yount, who’s usually in the kitchen working on recipes. How did they get started making yogurt? The Hamricks loved cows and wanted to have some, so they explored various dairy foods and settled on yogurt, which was missing from the local food scene. They began making small quantities, adjusting temperatures and the mix of cultures to control the yogurt’s acidity and flavor. They’ve been making yogurt on and off for about four years, but with the help of some very kind friends, have finally been able to find the land on which they could graze a small herd and build a production level Grade A Dairy.
Carolina Farmhouse Dairy is committed to our local food scene in many ways. The farm is doing everything organically as they await eligibility for certification. They’re investigating buying frozen organic berries from Vollmer Farm for year-round use in the yogurt, and planning future recipes with other NC ingredients. All the farm’s workers want to own farms someday, so the Hamricks make payments into escrow accounts for each of them, building savings that will someday enable them to realize their dreams.
Carolina Farmhouse yogurt arrived in our stores this week–three days after the cows produced the milk. The yogurt has a cream top (which you can mix in or not) and fruit on the bottom. Small cups are on sale 3 for $5 this week.