Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers, including young farmers just starting out in the industry. Ashley McMurry with Guernsey Girl Creamery in Shelby is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
At eight years old, Ashley McMurry knew that she wanted to spend her life milking cattle. As the current owner of Guernsey Girl Creamery in Shelby, Ashley grew up on her family’s dairy farm and was given a lot of responsibility at a young age when a farming accident put her father in the hospital. “I had to grow up a lot at the age of thirteen because there was work around the farm that had to be done in the absence of my father and grandfather,” she said, “but in that time period I learned a lot that has helped me in my career today.”
After graduating from N.C. State University in 2008, where she worked all four years at the N.C. State University Dairy Unit, Ashley worked for a large farm operation in Wisconsin before returning home to start Guernsey Girl Creamery on her father’s land and with a few of his cattle. “My father sold out in 2010 but I kept a few of the cows for myself and applied for a grant through RAFI that allowed me to start Guernsey Girl Creamery in 2011,” she said, “people had no idea how bad I wanted it but I have fought for this lifestyle every step of the way.”
Not only has Ashely fought for her farm life, but so has her husband, who grew produce in his childhood and continues to do so on the farm today. “We always love to tell our love story because on one of our very first dates you saw how passionate we both were about farming,” Ashley said, “literally, in the middle of one of our first dates we both got a call that we had received a RAFI grant to keep our farming dreams alive. We’ve been enjoying our life together in agriculture every since.”
Guernsey Girl Creamery started with three cattle and is today home to 20 Guernsey cattle, 50 beef cattle and a few hogs. All their milk and cheese products are 100% made from Guernsey Cattle, making the farm extremely unique to our state. In fact, their farm is the only one in North Carolina that works off a pure-bred herd of Guernsey cattle. “Guernsey’s are really known for the beta-carotene content in their milk,” Ashley said, “that and the fact that they are fully A2-A2 cows are our biggest selling points. Both of these elements combined makes their milk nutritious and easier to digest than other milk.” Ashley and her husband also grow most of the ingredients for their cattle feed, including barley, hay, millets and oats. In addition to their livestock operation, the Bridges grow a variety of produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, watermelon and cantaloupe.
A typical day on the farm starts at 6 a.m. with Ashley in the barn pasteurizing the first batch of milk for the day. “I have to process multiple batches of milk each day based on demand and varieties needed,” she said. Once the batch is started, Ashley spends her next two hours milking cattle in the barns, which happens to be her favorite part of the day. “Some people go to therapy, I go to the barn,” she said, “the cows are our family and I love spending time with them.” After milking is done, Ashley spends the rest of the day making cheese curds, their best seller, and other products needed that week.
Products from Guernsey Girl Creamery can be found at their farm store on-site as well as Oras Super Market in Shelby and Carolina Beach Market in Wilmington. You can also enjoy their products at New Grass Brewery!
“For as long as I can remember, my family has eaten local and drank local because we know where it comes from,” Ashley said, “but it’s more than knowing where the food comes from. It is all about making the connection with the person who made the product. Not only are you supporting the farm but you are supporting that person’s family.”
In the future, Ashley hopes to double the size of her herd and hopefully implement robotic milking on the farm. During the day, you can find Ashley singing along to her musical mantra, New Day of Work by Dirty Grass Soul.