By: Ashlyn Harmon
June is National Dairy Month! To celebrate, we talked to three unique, local dairy farms right here in South Carolina to learn more about the different benefits and services they each offer.
Split Creek Farm, LLC
3806 Centerville Road
Anderson, SC 29625
Starting close to home, you can find the beautiful Split Creek Farm right here in Anderson. Split Creek Farm, LLC, is a Grade A goat dairy farm and small-scale cheese operation run by Jessica Bell and Sandra Coffman since 1985. As well as being the primary manager of operations with over 30 years of experience, Bell is also a full-time veterinary technician, which she credits to her education as a Clemson Animal Sciences graduate. Coffman, meanwhile, is the Director of the American Dairy Goat Association and also works extensively on community outreach.
Each day they start caring for the goats bright and early, starting at 6:00 am or earlier. The Farm Store opens daily at 10 am, serving award-winning products to regulars and new customers alike. Additionally, they offer self-guided tours each Friday and Saturday for families to spend the day meeting the goats, eating delicious goat dairy, and learning about life on the farm.
On top of all of their regular duties, certain seasons make them even busier! Spring is busy for Split Creek, mainly due to the kidding season, when visitors flood in to see baby goats. They are also kept busy through show season, market season, and cheese competitions. Bell describes Spring and Fall show seasons in the dairy goat world as “more akin to a beauty/talent contest.” During a show season, they take their goats to competition in hopes of being best in show and winning Grand Champion! During market season, they prepare cheese and set up a booth every Saturday from May to September to sell goat cheese in markets and to get feedback from customers and other vendors.
In 2022, Split Creek Farm, LLC went to the World Championship Cheese Contest, held in Wisconsin every other year, where their cheese competed against farms and companies from all over the globe. Split Creek Farm’s feta marinated in olive oil won 1st in America and 3rd overall, scoring 99.25 points!
Split Creek credits their love for their goats as the reason for their quality artisan products. With hundreds of goats on the farm, each has a unique name and receives special attention. “Visitors often ask about a line of goats in the pasture and are amazed when we can rattle off generations of names without missing a beat,” says Bell. “We even point out some of our goats who respond to hearing their name when called!”
Stop by their shop when you visit Split Creek Farm or order through their website at www.splitcreek.com
Milky Way Farm
220 Hidden Hills Road
Starr, SC 29684
Anderson County is also home to the aptly named Milky Way Farm, in Starr, South Carolina. Milky Way Farm is a family dairy farm started in 1987 by L.D. Peeler, Jr., and now runs with the help of his children, Davis Peeler and Iris Peeler Barham. Milky Way Farm is currently the only farm in South Carolina selling raw A2 milk.
Life on Milky Way Farm is unpredictable but always busy. With 120 grass-fed Jersey cows on their pasture, each day involves cow care, health, and wellbeing checks, as well as regular maintenance on the machines, farm, and cows. The cows milk themselves robotically about 2.7 times a day, so the Peelers usually spend 4 days a week jugging milk, and 5 days a week delivering milk. Despite how busy the days may get, the 3rd and 4th generation farmers in the Peeler family have more than enough experience to handle the work!
Milky Way Farm offers two different types of A2 milk: raw milk and pasteurized milk. Their raw milks include milk, buttermilk, and cream. Their low-temperature, vat-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk includes whole milk and flavors, offering chocolate, strawberry, and 9 rotating flavors that are offered seasonally.
Milky Way Farm wants to highlight the “A2 Difference”. They shared that A2 milk is more digestible and that they have heard many stories from customers who were lactose intolerant, yet were able to digest A2 milk with no problem. You can visit their website to learn more about the science and benefits of raw milk and A2 milk at https://scmilkywayfarm.com/a2-difference.
According to Iris Peeler Barham, supporting local dairy is necessary all year round, not just during National Dairy Month. “If COVID taught us anything,” she says, “It’s that the food system is fragile”. She explained that South Carolina is a milk deficit state, which is why many shoppers found milk hard to come by when the pandemic began. Despite this shortage, Milky Way Farm was still able to supply milk to local stores, as their production was not affected by the same issues as national suppliers. Buying locally ensures that there will still be accessible products if national services fail. She says it is important to support local farms all the time, not just during a shortage, to ensure that these necessary local food sources can remain in business.
Milk from Milky Way Farm can be found at several local retailers in Anderson and across South Carolina or can be ordered for pickup at https://scmilkywayfarm.com.
Hickory Hill Milk
7 Hickory Hill Lane
Edgefield, SC 29824
Outside of Anderson, South Carolina has many other beautiful farms that are worth the drive! Hickory Hill is a family-owned dairy farm run by the Dorn family. While the Dorn family has had a long history, settling in the area to farm in 1764, the history of their family’s dairy began in 1952 with Watson Dorn’s grandparents. Today, Watson Dorn, his wife Lisa, and their children run the farm, making Hickory Hill a fourth-generation family dairy. Hickory Hill is also South Carolina’s first privately owned robotic milking facility.
Watson Dorn describes living on Hickory Hill as “constantly mastering the art of problem solving,” as each day brings new challenges. While life as a farmer may be busy, life for the Holstein cows at Hickory Hill seems comfortable and leisurely. “We moo-ved our herd into their new barn designed and built for extreme cow comfort,” Dorn says. “The cows eat here, sleep here, get milked here, vet checked, hair done, everything! Our son nicknamed it the Taj Moo Hal since the cows are treated like queens on continuous spa days.”
The milk from Hickory Hill is high-quality, low-temperature pasteurized, creamline milk, sold in whole milk, chocolate milk, or buttercream varieties. Their milk is sold in stores across South Carolina, and you can find store locations on their website. For the best experience, however, they recommend traveling over and visiting their farm for a tour.
Hickory Hill is passionate about educating the public and gives “Calf to Cup” tours to schools and families. Hickory Hill offers full, two-hour guided tours on Spring and Fall weekends that give an educational, behind-the-scenes experience for all ages. Plan a day trip with your family to Hickory Hills this Fall, but be warned– spots can fill up quickly!
Book a tour, find a store, or learn more on their website https://hickoryhillmilk.com/home.
Through talking to each farm, they each highlighted the importance of supporting local farms. “Everyone always says ‘know where your food comes from’ but not everyone fully understands until they visit places like ours and get a full view of the process and struggle that goes into it,” Bell says.
Supporting local farmers is the best way to support the local community, learn about where your food comes from, make fresh products more accessible, talk directly to the farmers, and enjoy delicious, farm-fresh products. So, this month (and the rest of the year as well!) celebrate National Dairy Month by visiting one of the many beautiful dairy farms in Anderson and across South Carolina!