Food Notes: Norwich Farm Creamery to use Billings Farm milk

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The prize-winning Jersey cows at Billings Farm in Woodstock have a new item to add to their resumes. The herd is now producing milk for Norwich Farm Creamery’s line of premium dairy products.

“This is a perfect fit for us,” said Marge Wakefield, community relations coordinator for Billings Farm and Museum, a historic, working dairy farm.

The farm’s 65-head herd traces its heritage back to 1871 and has won numerous prizes for the quality and quantity of its production, Wakefield said. The cows are treated with care and pastured during the summer.

The new partnership allows the farm to showcase its milk in local products, Wakefield said. Currently, the farm has its own product line of raw milk cheese, which is made at Grafton Village Creamery, she said. The remainder of the milk is sold through the Agrimark Cooperative. That relationship will continue, but Norwich Farm Creamery will give the farm an additional outlet that’s well-suited to the pedigreed herd.

“(The milk) is very rich. It has a naturally high content of butterfat,” Wakefield said.

The partnership is also good news for Norwich Farm Creamery, which ran into a snag in its partnership with Vermont Technical College last year. The creamery, which opened in 2016, originally had an agreement to purchase milk from a working farm owned by the Randolph Center college, but the program was discontinued in 2017 due to budget problems and lack of student interest.

Chris Gray and Laura Brown, who own the creamery business, lease their business’ buildings and equipment from the college. They still have two years left on the five-year lease agreement, but they have been purchasing milk from other farms to make their bottled milk, yogurt and ricotta cheese, which they sell to local coops, farmers’ markets and stores, as well as at their own farm store on Turnpike Road.

Gray sought out the Billings herd last year, after he saw several trucks taking corn silage away from the farm while he was manning his booth at the nearby Woodstock Farmers Market on the green. Another vendor told him that the farm was switching its herd to grass feed, a prerequisite for the suppliers Gray works with.

“For us, it’s the high quality milk supply we’ve been hoping for, and it’s also a sufficient volume so that we can grow our business,” said Gray, who buys about 150 gallons of milk a week from the farm. “Jersey milk is higher protein, higher butterfat, and being as it’s grass-fed, it has different biochemical characteristics and flavor.”

Milk and other products made from the grass-fed Jerseys are distinctive, Gray said. It’s not homogenized, and its fat content varies with the seasons.

Gray and Brown, who hope to have their own herd eventually, are also pleased that the partnership closes the circuit between supplier, processor and customer.

“This is an amazing opportunity to be able to work with this milk and bring it 100 percent right back to the area,” Gray said.

The new partners will present their cheese, yogurt and milk side by side at the annual Flavors of the Valley food expo on Sunday from 12 to 3 p.m. at Hartford High School.

More about Jerseys

And in other Jersey cow news, there’s a new farm store in Canaan, selling raw dairy products and free-range eggs. Makayla and Austin Murphy, who both grew up in the area, began operating a small farm on Route 118 about two years ago and are now selling their products in a converted sunroom attached to their home. They sell fresh, raw Jersey milk, heavy cream and half-and-half in glass canning jars that can be returned for a $1 refund, as well as free-range chicken and duck eggs. Customers also can visit the Murphys’ Jersey cows, lambs, ducks and chickens.

“The community’s been really awesome and supportive,” Makayla Murphy said. “We basically sell out every day or every other day.”

The self-serve store accepts cash or checks and is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, visit the farm’s Facebook page.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com or 603-727-3268.