Driving busy U.S. Route 129 between Clermont and Cleveland in northeast Georgia, it’s difficult to miss the bright red barn of Mountain Fresh Creamery, with its silver silo and 10-foot tall cow statue overlooking the highway.
Inside the creamery, windows overlook the bottling operation; there are coolers filled with whole milk, chocolate milk, lowfat milk and buttermilk; and freezers hold pints, quarts and half gallons of 12 to 15 flavors of ice cream for sale.
Outside, at the silver silo, there often is a line of people wanting milkshakes and cones, which can be enjoyed at the picnic tables that overlook the heifers in the creamery pastures.
Not long after fourth-generation dairy farmer Scott Glover and his wife Jen started Glo-Crest Dairy in 2000, they recognized that if they wanted to stay in the dairy business, they had to do more than just sell milk. So, they started Mountain Fresh Creamery.
“I wanted to get back to my roots in the dairy business, a business my family had been in since my great grandfather, Britt Gailey, started dairy farming in the late 1940s,” Scott Glover said. “We had no plans to build a creamery. We were milking cows and selling our milk to a co-op, but as we saw the dairy business becoming more and more consolidated, we decided that, to stay where we are, at the size that we are, we needed to build a creamery and try bottling milk and selling it direct to the public.”
“Our milk tastes completely different from conventional milk,” Jen Glover added, noting that it’s non-homogenized and low-temp pasteurized. “It’s also easier to digest, so even those who are lactose-intolerant can drink it,” she said.
The creamery originally was just going to produce milk. However, the couple recognized the number of people who drink milk regularly is declining, so they needed another reason for people to stop at the creamery. That’s when they began making premium ice cream with recipes developed by Jen.
“It’s the most popular thing we do, which we didn’t expect,” Scott said.
The creamery keeps a regular stock of flavors, including vanilla and salted caramel, and augments those with a weekly special flavor, such as cherry vanilla or banana split. At Christmas, peppermint is a big seller.
The creamery is located just a few miles from the family’s farm, where they keep about 90 cows. The farm buildings were designed with the cows’ well-being as the foremost consideration. “It all starts with the cows,” Scott said.
In the summer, the cows spend their days in a barn fitted with misters and water beds, where they can keep cool, and they are turned out to pasture in the cooler evening hours. In colder weather, the process is reversed.
In the milking barn, the cows stand patiently on rubber mats as 16 of them are milked at a time. It takes three to four hours to milk all of the dairy’s cows.
The Glovers wanted to offer farm tours, so they built a large space adjacent to the milking barn with exhibits on the type of cows they raise, how the cows are cared for and how the milk is processed. Visitors also can see the young cows in the calf barn. Tours are available by reservation only.
Dairy farming is demanding work, with no days off. Cows have to be milked twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. “When we started milking cows here, there were 360 dairy farms in Georgia,” Scott said. “Now, there are only 85.”
“When I was growing up,” he said, “I would spend just about every moment I had at the farm with my grandfather, uncle and dad. I loved it. I loved the cows. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
But, he said, it has “gotten a lot tougher to be in this business. Without the creamery, we would not be milking cows today.”
Mountain Fresh Creamery. 6615 Cleveland Highway, Clermont. 770-983-1666, mountainfreshcreamery.com
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