Saturday, April 30, 2011

South Mountain Creamery

     Imagine if the majority of the food you eat at home grew up out of the ground of your very county!  Well, this weekend, the Spring Festival at South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, MD is the perfect chance to explore that possibility.  Today and tomorrow from 10am-5pm they are open for fun!
     I have heard for a couple of years about the delicious milk produced at this local dairy farm, but could never seem to find the time to drive over there and check it out for myself.  So when I heard that they were gearing up for a major festival, I took a trip over there a few days in advance to get a preview of what to expect this weekend.  I knew that they produced fresh, great tasting milk, but on this visit I found that they do so much more.
     If you haven’t heard of the creamery, the first thing you should know is that their milk is totally different from what you would normally get in grocery stores.  According to general manager of the farm, J.R. Byrd, who left a career with a big dairy producer because he didn’t like their practices, most store-bought milk is “ultra-pasteurized” and contains additives to extend the shelf-life of the products.  He said that because SMC can do home-deliveries of their milk to the customer within 24 to 48 hours of bottling, their milk can get away with a 15-day expiration code, while grocery stores need about 30 days.  This enables SMC to use only the most mild pasteurization technique so as not to damage the milk.
     “With ultra-pasteurizing, basically you’re killing the same bacteria that we kill at just high-temperature pasteurizing,” he said.  “The problem with that is they’re actually bringing the milk to where you’re losing a lot of the good enzymes and things in the milk that you want to have in your body.   We don’t add anything to the milk except what the state mandated with vitamins.  So it’s as all natural and as straight from the cow as it basically possibly can be without being raw milk.”
     J.R. is also proud that all of the cows are only fed by what they grow on their own 1,400 acres of farmland.

     But health isn’t the only difference.  I can vouch for the taste myself.  It is so much hardier, smoother and creamier than anything I’ve tasted in the grocery store.  I also like that all of their milk comes in glass bottles.  In the past I’ve noticed an almost stale taste that comes along with milk from a plastic or paper carton, whereas the only thing I taste with a glass bottle is the milk itself.  And because SMC recollects the glass bottles for recycling, I can feel good about not adding to a landfill.
     The really cool thing, though, is that milk is far from the only product they offer.  They also use their own milk to make several different types of butter, heavy whipping cream, cheese, and ice cream.  J.R. said that recently they are trying to branch into more traditional ice-cream parlor offerings, like banana splits and ice-cream sundaes.  I had the honor of trying the first banana split that one of their employees ever made at their onsite store.  Like the milk itself, the ice-cream is an altogether different creature from its grocery counterparts.  Ambrosia is really the only word that comes to mind with any sense of justice.

     But they offer even more than dairy.  In fact, according to J.R., you could theoretically replace most of the food that you would buy at the grocery store with their home-deliveries.  In addition to dairy, they offer all of their own beef, pork and poultry products, and they team up with other local producers and like-minded farmers to provide everything from jam to coffee.  Imagine waking up every morning to a fresh delivery of milk, bread, meat, eggs, cheese, jam, coffee, juice and even hummus right on your doorstep!  All of that and more is available from their easy-to-use web site within 48 hours of placing the order.
     As for the Spring Fest, J.R. said it will be a two full days of food and fun.  He wants everyone to see the inner workings of their production process to show that they have nothing to hide.  The products won’t be running through the lines that day, but guests can see all of the equipment turned on and working so as to get an up-close view of where their food comes from. Throughout the day there will be special events, like a massive pork and beef BBQ, and a chance for guests to feed the calves.

     But the great thing about SMC is that they encourage guests to come any day of the week to look around and learn about how they operate.  I was worried that I was going to get in the way of the farmhands as they went about their work, but they were all extremely friendly to me and let me walk through the calf-barn and get up-close pictures of some of the bigger cows.  I was also excited to see a huge collection of antique tractors sitting out in the open right in front of their store.
     Even if you think you already know SMC, it’s important to always check out for new products and interesting innovations.  J.R. said that within the next 5 years, they aim to an entirely self-sustained operation, drawing no electricity from the grid through a combination of wind turbines, solar panels and a methane-digester.
     “Even though it’s a lot of money coming out, what you’re getting in return and what you’re doing to help the earth is a huge bonus,” he said of adding the upgrades.
     That is actually a good philosophy to remember when considering making SMC a regular part of your weekly groceries.  Yes, their products run a little more expensive than the big corporate stores, but it’s affordable and you definitely get back that little bit of extra expense in the pure quality of the products.  Not to mention that you are keeping your money in Frederick County, which contributes to the overall economic health of our community.
     So go check out South Mountain Creamery and become a believer in local farming!

South Mountain Creamery
8305 Bolivar Road
Middletown, MD 21769

1(877)COW-2-YOU (269-2968) 

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