by Sally Colby
Bob Nutter started out in Maine as a fifth generation dairy farmer, but a better milk market and a climate that would accommodate double cropping drew him to North Carolina. In 1963, after selling his milking herd and bred heifers, Nutter relocated his family, farm equipment and calves to an Orange County, North Carolina farm owned by his father.
Although Nutter is now semi-retired, he’s still active in the farm operation. Mike Strowd, who grew up in the state and has been involved in the dairy business throughout the south, is co-owner and manager of Maple View Farm. Nutter’s son Roger is the plant manager, overseeing the on-farm bottling operation and ice cream production.
The freestall barn that houses most of the herd is open and airy, with fans and misters to keep cows comfortable in hot weather. Stalls are bedded with fresh shavings several times a week. A bedded pack barn houses fresh and special needs cows.
Before updating to a double six herringbone parlor in 1982, cows were milked in a three-on-a-side parlor constructed in 1935. The 130 cows in the Maple View milking herd are milked three times a day and a maintain a rolling herd average of 26,000 pounds. The farm has maintained continual best management conservation practices since the early 1930s.
Crops include barley and wheat, which are planted in fall for spring harvest, followed by corn for corn silage. Barley and wheat go into trench silos in spring, then corn silage is harvested and ensiled in fall. Cotton seed and soybean meal round out the balanced ration.
Dry cows are kept in lush pastures across the road; easily visible to passersby. This group receives a dry cow ration until they’re ready to calve, and within two weeks of calving, they come back to the main barn.
Maple View Farm might seem like most other dairy farms, but several aspects set it apart. One is the on-site bottling operation. “When we started bottling, we drew a 50-mile circle around the farm,” said Nutter. “We sell all of our milk within that 50-mile radius.” Maple View milk and other dairy products, including their own ice cream, are available in retail stores throughout the Chapel Hill/Raleigh area. Although Maple View doesn’t offer home delivery, another company purchases milk and delivers it to area homes.
The other unique aspect of Maple View is the strong educational component that includes a dedicated building with classrooms for teaching children about agriculture. “The education center was built about four years ago,” said Nutter. “There’s a need for kids to learn more about where their food comes from. That was our goal.” Nutter recalls a tour he hosted during which a child learned that milk was a liquid. “All he ever had was dry powdered milk.”
Groups that visit the farm come to the education center first for age-appropriate learning activities. Nutter says that the program is designed to cover everything involved in the farm process. Allison Nichols-Clapper, who grew up on a farm and has a master’s degree in education, coordinates educational programs at the center.
Class trips and birthday parties both focus on education. Spring/summer programs include two classroom programs, a narrated hayride, a barnyard tour, and use of the playground and picnic area. Classroom programs are held in four fully-equipped, themed classrooms filled with hands-on items. For example, the dairy classroom has a milking unit claw, dairy products and feed samples along with bulletin boards that illustrate proper milking procedure and what cows eat.
Fall sessions include learning about pumpkins — how they grow, what they’re used for, how much pumpkins weigh. “We try to cut a pumpkin open for every class,” said Nichols-Clapper. “We do a lot of math — estimating how much the pumpkin will weigh and how many seeds a pumpkin has. We also incorporate social studies, geography and history, and show pictures of the largest pumpkins from different areas.”
The energy room shows how the farm’s solar panels help cut energy costs. The system at Maple View, which is a program through Duke Energy, includes 784 panels that were installed in summer of 2010. For the learning center, Duke Energy dedicated a solar energy classroom that includes a learning kiosk that shows energy output from the panels. Nutter believes that the energy component of the education at the center is important to teach young people the value of renewable resources.
The ice cream store, which is standing room only in summer, is the result of having excess cream. “Skim milk was always a best seller,” said Nutter. “We were selling the cream for ice cream, so we decided to keep the cream and make our own ice cream.” After Nutter and his daughter attended Penn State University’s Ice Cream Short Course, Nutter asked a friend to draw up plans for a building; one that would be suitable for the volume of visitors Nutter expected. He says they’ve surpassed that number.
“This is a destination,” said Nutter, noting that people like to linger on rocking chairs on the porch, watching the sun set as they’re enjoying ice cream. “A few nights ago I delivered five ice cream cakes to a wedding reception — they got engaged sitting on our porch out here.”
In addition to a variety of popular ice flavors and special flavors, frozen yogurt is now available. Nichols-Clapper, who also works in the ice cream store, explained that the building is set up for easy flow of customers. Maple View Farm ice cream is also available at several retail outlets.
“Our goal in whatever we do is to do it right,” said Nutter. “I think we’ve done pretty well at that. We’re an asset to the community.”
Visit Maple View Farm online at www.mapleviewfarm.com and on Facebook.
by Sally Colby