#EscapeWithNCAg is a year-long series that will focus on agritourism across North Carolina. Many farms, wineries and other agricultural businesses in our state offer events such as tours, yoga, educational classes, pick-your-own events and festivals, to entertain the public and teach them about our state’s number one industry. Each Thursday, we will feature a new site for you to visit with friends or family. Stay tuned and learn how to escape the stresses of life by diving into agriculture!
** This Farm is a Got to Be NC member **
Educating and exciting the next generation of agricultural workers is the mission of Homeland Creamery and the driving force behind a majority of the agritourism events that they host throughout the year. Although it was not always a dairy farm, the farmland at Homeland Creamery has been in agricultural use by the family for nearly seven generations. Like many kids growing up, Paige Garland, whose family owns and operates Homeland Creamery, didn’t realize the full potential and worth of the family farm until later in life. “I grew up on this farm, bottle feeding the calves and helping my parents with chores,” she said, “but I never understood the excitement around it and honestly took it for granted in a way until after college.” Upon graduating from Western Carolina University, Paige packed up her new family and returned to the farm. “I had an epiphany one day that the farm life I had growing up is exactly what I wanted for my kids,” she said. “So, in 2013 we packed it all up and moved back home to help run the farm.” Located in Julian, the farm is now home to a variety of cattle, including Jerseys and Holsteins.
The location of Homeland Creamery always offered a unique experience for Paige and her friends growing up because it was right behind the schoolhouse. “My grandma started unofficially hosting tours on the farm when I started grade school because my friends and I would always walk over afterward and she would take us around the farm,” Paige said. “However, the official tours weren’t started until I was away at college and have blossomed from there into what they are today.” Homeland Creamery tours are an hour and a half long and reservations can be made on their website. Tours typically consist of a 20 minute wagon ride around the farm to discuss the cows, process and products as well as a thirty-minute exploration in the dairy education center and end with a sample of their homemade ice cream. “Our tours are perfect for everyone. I’ve had a two-week-old baby on this tour as well as a 102-year-old lady and everything in between,” Paige said. “We tailor each tour to the interests of the group and allow them to ask as many questions as they like throughout the event.”
The Dairy Education Center is the most recent addition to the tour and came into existence for educational and safety reasons. “We work with Wright Farms in Franklinville, their family now milks and cares for the cows, while our family pasteurizes, bottles and delivers the milk straight to the customers. Allowing people to tour the milking parlor involves too much liability, not to mention really stressed the cows,” Paige said. “So, we created an interactive video that plays in our dairy education center that still allows people to see the process and how work happens in the milking parlor without putting them at a safety risk.” The Dairy Education Center also includes games and hands-on activities for kids to enjoy, including how to milk a cow. “People don’t realize how much technology is here on the farm and how much science goes into the process,” Paige said. “These tours are eye-opening to people because they help them understand the dairy side of farming and what farmers go through to achieve the dairy products that they love.” Tours cost $10 per person ages 3 and up, and include a sample of ice cream at the end.
In addition to farm tours, Homeland Creamery also offers two community markets throughout the year. They are also looking into some more unique opportunities to incorporate later this year, including yoga with (or beside) the cows.
The spring and fall markets at Homeland Creamery truly bring the community together in a fun and lighthearted way. Not only do they showcase a variety of local vendors and products, but also food trucks, musicians, and dancers. “Hosting community events like these are a lot of fun for the whole family and generate support of other families within the community who have products to sell,” Paige said. The onsite farm store is also a great place to stock up on local products, including Phillips Brothers sausage and ham, Wards Farm eggs, Cottle Creek Farm Jellies and Peanut Butter and Sweet Water Valley Cheese.
Perhaps the most popular product to be found in the Homeland Creamery farm store is their homemade ice cream! Not only do they have over twenty popular flavors available year-round, but also seasonal flavors like chocolate covered cherry, peppermint, and pumpkin. “Our ice cream is 14% butterfat, or cream, giving it a very rich flavor that melts on the tongue,” Paige said. “All of our milk products are also high in butterfat, giving them a creamery texture and bold taste.” Ice cream can be enjoyed at the picnic tables directly beside the farm store!
By visiting Homeland Creamery, people can learn where their milk comes from, how it is made, the challenges that farmers face and the pride that they feel in a final product. “Visiting our farm is an unforgettable experience,” Paige said. “How much people learn here is dependent on how involved they get, but we make sure everyone leaves understanding how blessed we truly are to have high-quality, local products across our state.”
If you spend five minutes talking with Paige, you can hear the pride and feel the joy that she feels in her family’s farming legacy and the work that is done through the farm today. Although she loves many aspects of her life in agriculture, her favorite thing is seeing others who visit the farm getting invested, asking questions, and showing interest in the industry. “This farm is not only my life but it’s my biggest passion,” she said. “So, when it fuels other people and get’s them excited, that’s the most rewarding feeling in the world.” Start planning your trip to visit Homeland Creamery this summer to learn about their unique pasteurization process, try their ice cream and spend time learning about our state’s dairy industry. We are proud to have them blazing the way forward for NC Agriculture!