I pulled into Traderspoint Creamery on a hot Thursday afternoon, and it was bustling with activity. Steven directed me to a couple of possible tent sites, and I set off to explore the grounds.
TPC occupies a total of over 240 acres on both sides of Eagle Creek, where the farm and creamery buildings are located as well as the pastures for the milking herd. (Another 200 acres is leased to grow organic hay.) Like at Kilgus, the herd is grazed rotationally, depending on grass conditions, weather, and herd characteristics.
Bordering the public part of TPC is Eagle Creek – a nice path skirts under the trees, and I started my wanderings here. Eagle Creek is also a major Indianapolis watershed, which adds additional importance to TPC’s dedication to its cleanliness and organic runoff from the farm. I turned off the creek path and headed toward the cows, who were grazing in the far corner of the most distant pasture.
That’s where I found them again on Friday morning, just as dawn was breaking. Mark, Michael, Will, and I found each other in the darkness at 6:00, and by 7:00 the herd had made it up to the milking parlor.
TPC’s milking herd is made up of about 60 Brown Swiss cows, and they’re milked once a day. Cows at Kilgus and La Chevalerie (where I worked in France) were milked twice daily, for the cows’ comfort, but Michael said the calves stay with their mothers at TPC for so long and drink too much milk from their mothers to milk twice a day. TPC raises Brown Swiss cows, some crossed with Jerseys, because of their high butterfat content (third behind Guernsey and Jerseys) and their suitability as both dairy and beef cattle. They’re pretty, too, and they dance while they’re milked.
It took about 2 hours to milk all 60 cows. They’re fed molasses while being milked, because they love it and because it gives them good sugars, and feeding them even a small portion of grain during milking would contribute to a significant drop in essential CLAs, “conjugated linoleic acids” or “good fat.” I my opinion, the embrace of good fats is one of the greatest contributions of the organic movement to changing the way we think of healthy foods.
Traderspoint had the most thorough milking process of any dairy I have seen. Each cow’s teat is cleaned with a pre-dip of hydrogen peroxide and water, then “stripped,” which means the teat is milked briefly by hand to test for mastitis, a very contagious infection of the udder. If an udder is mastitic, the milk is clotted and yellow, and it really smells awful. According to Amy Rhodes, my tour guide and fantastic later morning hostess, 70% of confined, grain-fed dairy cows are mastitic. In TPC’s herd of 60, only 2 that I saw this morning had teats infected with mastitis. After they’re milked, each teat is dipped again in iodine to prevent infection.
The milk is cooled in the holding tank from body temperature of 105°F to 35°F until it is pasteurized and processed into bottled milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream. Like Kilgus, Traderspoint pasteurizes their milk using the High Temperature Short Time (HTST) method of keeping the milk at 163°F for 20 seconds. Neither dairy homogenizes their milk, either, a characteristic much more important to me when drinking milk or making yogurt, because homogenization breaks apart the milkfat molecules and reduces the product’s creamy taste and nutritional balance.
Traderspoint Creamery processes 150-200 gallons of milk every day. A herd of 60 milking cows does not product that much milk, so two other organic, grass-fed farms bring their milk to TPC in a co-op arrangement to meet demand. The demand is real. I sat on the front porch of the Creamery Barn after my tour and setting up for Amy’s tasting, shoveling the generous remains of blackberry ice cream into my mouth from a quickly-melting carton. Norm, the farm gardener and beekeeper, described mouthwatering ways to prepare omelettes and pasta sauce with TPC’s three flavors of creamy “fromage blanc.” And their two aged cheeses, Fleur de la Terre and a new raw milk aged Gouda, have been winning awards from organizations like the American Cheese Society since Fleur de la Terre was awarded Best Farmstead Cheese in 2007.
The demand is real because the food really is good. I ate a delicious dinner and lunch at the farm’s Loft Restaurant, splurging for non-fried food since I was oh so tired of eating fried on-the-road food all week. In addition to the cows, TPC keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red and White Rock chickens, which are pasture raised year-round, and whose eggs exclusively supply the Loft’s popular Sunday brunch.
Before I left, I spent some timing scooping ice cream and fromage blanc for a big event tasting, and I rewarded myself by taking a dip in the picturesque pond hidden right in the middle of the farm, then had a lunch of grilled cheese with a side of cottage cheese before biking into Indianapolis.