Delicious strawberry ice cream in a bowl.Got milk? North Carolina has plenty of it. Across the state, creameries are producing ice cream, cheese and other dairy products using fresh, high-quality milk that’s often derived from their own cows. In addition, many of these farms and creameries offer tours and host special events, giving consumers an in-depth look at how their delicious products are created.

Clockwise from top left: Pregnant cows have their own special field to feed and graze near the dairy at Homeland Creamery; Paige Bowman Garland closes the top to a milk tank inside of the dairy; customers order scoops of ice cream from the store; employees load Homeland Creamery’s signature green crates of milk onto trucks.

Simply Natural Creamery

Located just outside of Greenville in Ayden, Simply Natural Creamery is a family-owned operation managed by brothers David and Neil Moye and their respective wives and children. The creamery officially opened in October 2014, but it began several years before when Neil purchased three Jersey cows with the goal of teaching his children about livestock and how to properly care for them.

“Neil and his family fell in love with Jersey cows, and they decided to start a dairy,” says Michael Fulcher, the creamery’s marketing director.

The Moye family began Simply Natural Creamery with 35 Jersey cows, and today, they have more than 400 on their farm, with approximately 180 of them milked on a regular basis. The Moyes exclusively use Jersey cow milk, which is one thing that makes their products – such as ice cream, milk, buttermilk and heavy cream – stand out.

Homeland Creamery“The Jersey cows give milk that’s 20 percent higher in protein, calcium and butter fat,” Fulcher says. “They create a creamier, richer and more flavorful product, and you really can taste the difference.”

Simply Natural Creamery’s on-site ice cream parlor serves up a wide variety of flavors, and its milks and creams are available in major retailers throughout eastern and southern North Carolina. Creamery and farm tours are offered Monday through Friday by appointment, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Customers order scoops of ice cream from the store at Homeland Creamery in Julian, NC.Bowman Dairy and Homeland Creamery

Home to a mixture of about 500 Holstein and Jersey cows, Bowman Dairy is owned and operated by sixth- and seventh-generation farmers who are part of the Bowman family. What started as a small dairy operation has grown into a large farm and creamery in Julian with a milking herd of approximately 200 cows.

“My great-grandfather started our dairy farm in the 1930s,” says Paige Bowman Garland, Homeland Creamery’s marketing director and tour guide. “My father and uncle decided they wanted to add a value- added component to the operation in the late 1990s. So in 2002, Homeland Creamery was opened, and we’ve been making products like ice cream and butter, along with bottling our own milk, ever since.”

A batch of cookies and cream ice cream is made at Homeland Creamery in Julian, NC.According to Garland, the family’s emphasis is first on producing healthy, happy cows, then on their products, which include 23 different flavors of ice cream, each one containing 14 percent butterfat; chocolate, whole, low-fat and skim milk; cultured whole buttermilk; butter; half-and-half; and heavy cream.

“We focus really heavily on cow care and comfort,” Garland says. “So much research has shown us that a cow that’s comfortable and relaxed will produce far more milk than one that’s nervous or stressed.”

Homeland Creamery’s products, along with items produced by local farmers, are available for purchase in their Creamery Store. Farm and milking parlor tours are Monday through Saturday by reservation.

Employees load the signature green crates of milk onto trucks at Homeland Creamery in Julian, NC.Chapel Hill Creamery

Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley, owners of Chapel Hill Creamery, began producing cheese in 2001 with a herd of nine Jersey cows. The pair has grown their operation to include more than 30 Jersey cows today, producing small batches of handcrafted farmhouse cheese in both aged and fresh varieties.

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Although some of Chapel Hill Creamery’s cheeses go through months of preparation before they’re ready for consumption, they are worth the wait. Many of the cheeses are award-winning, receiving recognition at the North Carolina State Fair International Cheese Competition, World Jersey Cheese Awards and North American Jersey Cheese Awards.

Chapel Hill Creamery’s cheeses are available for purchase at farmers markets in the Triangle area, as well as in retail stores across the state.

north carolina dairy creameries [INFOGRAPHIC]