Loco locavore

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I wanted to jump over the moon when the Simply Natural Creamery delivery truck, with its Jersey cow painted on the side, pulled up to our bed and breakfast yesterday morning.

When we opened our inn, one of my goals was to be a “locavore” bed and breakfast. Not necessarily organic, locavores are committed to buying a significant amount of locally produced food and other consumables. I had no idea just how difficult and time-consuming it would be.

Whispering Willow in Lincolnton, while not quite local, supplies our all-natural soap, shampoo and body oil. We found local sources for eggs, pecans, breakfast meat, preserves and some fruit. We joined the CSA (Community-supported Agriculture) at Petals and Produce in Pinetown, where we also purchase homemade wheat bread every week. This year, we planted a vegetable garden, growing spinach, squash, tomatoes and herbs that often appear in our breakfast frittatas. We’re growing melon, too. We accomplished a lot in Year 1, but there was something missing in our locavore chain. Dairy. Breakfast ingredient staples like milk, cream, buttermilk and butter. Before I would confidently wave the locavore flag, I wanted to find a reliable local source for these perishables.

About 10 months ago, Jane Lassiter Boahn at Raised in a Barn Farm in Chocowinity, introduced me to Michael Fulcher of Simply Natural Creamery in Ayden, about 55 miles west of Belhaven. We emailed. We spoke by phone. We met at the dairy. Michael told me that he had to rustle up some customers before he could add a new delivery route. In rural, eastern Carolina, I understood it could take a while – until the cow’s come home. I imagined that it would be equivalent to herding cows – described as part art, part science and part psychology – three elements that, coincidentally, make the Simply Natural cream rise to the top.

Originally from the Channel Island of the same name, Jersey cows produce what is called the “Cadillac” of all milk. Here’s why: A glass of Jersey milk has greater nutritional value than milk from other breeds, specifically 13 percent more protein and 16 percent more calcium. Jersey milk also contains A2 beta-casein proteins that allegedly have more health benefits than A1 varieties, making it easier to digest. It also contains 20 percent more butterfat than other bovine milk, which quite simply tastes better. The cows at the family-owned creamery are pasture-raised, with plenty of room to roam. They are not treated with rBST or artificial growth hormones to increase milk production. They produce a lesser quantity, but higher-caliber milk. They also command a premium price, but it is so worth it.

Simply Natural Creamery welcomes visitors, often by the busload, to learn about their operation and to try out what is arguably their very best product: ice cream. They serve up about two-dozen flavors (including an assortment of toppings and homemade waffle cones) at their on-site ice cream parlor. If you haven’t tried this simply delicious brand of ice cream, you haven’t really screamed.

Lucky for Belhaven-area residents and visitors, entrepreneur Lindsay Clark just opened a Simply Natural Creamery ice cream shop at Attic Life at the Landing on Main Street. Attic Life carries about 18 flavors, and I am on a mission to try them all.

Now you know why I am jumping (and screaming) at 8:15 a.m. when Tim and Michael walk up to my doorstep with a small crate of dairy items. Not exactly like winning the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstake, but a significant milestone in this locavore’s journey.

In the U.S., food travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to consumer. Buying local equates to lower emissions. Most states have adopted policies and programs to promote local agriculture. North Carolina’s 10% campaign is helping to build the state’s local food economy by encouraging consumers to spend 10 percent of their existing food dollars with local producers. It’s fresher. It’s healthier. It’s sustainable.

It’s a challenge, but you can do it. One crate, one basket or one scoop at a time.

Gail Fowler is the owner of Between Water & Main Bed and Breakfast in Belhaven and also runs her own yoga studio, YoGail.