By Laurie Paolicelli
In September, after 25 years in operation, the Maple View Farm and Milk Company closed its doors. Owners said the cows were going to a good North Carolina home and “will be missed immensely.” The Farm will be missed as well. Originating in Corinna, Maine, Maple View Farm existed at the same location from the time the first settlers homesteaded central Maine in the early 1800’s. The late Robert “Bob” Nutter was the fifth generation of his family to farm the land and made the move to North Carolina in 1963. The on-farm milk bottling operation began in 1996.
Most people are familiar with Maple View through Maple View Ice Cream and Country Store. They are connected but separate operations. The ice cream and the store are “here to stay,” according to the press release announcing the end of milk bottling. The only difference is that the milk will be delivered to Maple View from Simply Natural Creamery of Ayden, NC. Maple View will continue to make ice cream on-site in Hillsborough. Simply Natural also provides milk, butter and cream, which can be purchased at the Maple View Farm country store.
The closing of yet another dairy farm is lamentable, but not surprising. Since the turn of the century, the number of U.S. dairy farms has rapidly declined.
Martina Day is with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at Orange County Center. She notes this development in our own county.
“We have lost 13 of our 14 dairies over the last decade,” she says, “leaving us with just one dairy farm in Orange County, Chapel Hill Creamery, and they operate as a direct marketing dairy (where producers sell agricultural products directly to the final consumers, through farmers’ markets, CSA’s, etc.) This seems to be the trend across the state — our middle-size dairies are selling out, expanding, or adjusting their production practices to fit a niche market.”
Consumption of dairy foods is still strong. There’s an ever-increasing demand for cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream and as a result many farmers want to leverage the local food movement to provide economic sustainability to our remaining dairy farms in Orange and adjacent counties. “Dairy farms provide us with food security, open space, and land protection,” says Portia McKnight with Chapel Hill Creamery. Portia says a key question in today’s changing environment is whether there’s a potential model for providing our Orange County population with milk, butter, cheese and yogurt that is produced from local dairy farms.
Portia hopes to see a new model in the future. But what that will look like, and how it will allow dairy farms to prosper, is as of now unknown.
And yet let us count our blessings. The Maple View Ice Cream and Country Store is still open and is as good as it ever was. At the Country Store you will find not only quality ice cream and milk but local cheeses, eggs, local soap, North Carolina Pecans, local handcrafted crafts, delicious fudge and old-fashioned candies.
“We are committed to the vision of our founders Bob Nutter and Muffin Nutter Brosig,” says Allison Clapper McNichol, manager of Maple View Ice Cream. “And we’re grateful to the customers who we’ve had the joy of serving for over 20 years, including during these most challenging times of the pandemic. We invite you to come out for the holidays and enjoy the beauty of the farm and the taste of the ice cream.”
Maple View Ice Cream is inspired by tradition, heritage and a reverent respect for farming. If you haven’t been to the store, or haven’t been in some time, make it your own holiday tradition to do it. There you will not only find award-winning ice cream, but a place to relax and take in the breathtaking views overlooking the farm from the front porch. As the sun falls behind the rolling hills of our historic farmlands, and the burnt orange light spills across the weathered acres, we can be thankful once again to be who we are and where we are right now. Orange County, North Carolina. It doesn’t get much better than this.
For more information, visit The Maple View Ice Cream and Country Store website: https://mapleviewfarm.com
(Video shot before COVID-19 Pandemic)
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.