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Takeaway: Reedy Fork Organic Farm in Elon has been producing milk since the 1950s; in 2011 they also started offering organic feeds in bulk and bags. After going organic with dairy in 2007, their milk comes to your NC store shelves in the gallon jugs of Organic Valley milk.
The Teague family’s 600 idyllic rolling acres near Gibsonville/Elon provides a home to their families, their 200 or so Jersey-cross dairy cows, 500 recently added Highland Brown free-range chickens and their organic feed mill. With six generations of Teague farmers, they’ve come to know their land and their animals very well.
I visited their farm as a volunteer with the First Annual Triad Farm Tour this spring. The few hours I spent with them were great-nice people, beautiful land, and interesting visitors.
When I asked Ben, the next generation of Teague family farmers, if the costs associated with going organic in 2007 had been paid back yet he replied affirmatively and added that the biggest benefits haven’t been financial. Their cows are visibly healthier, easier to work with and produce for more years than they did when they operated as a conventional dairy. He and his family feel good knowing that their investment has improved their land and their animals.
The feed mill:
After switching to organic production in 2007, they began buying bulk organic feed inputs to supplement their cows’ diets. They soon learned there was a demand for organic feed in our area and currently produce about 100 tons of feed each month for chickens, cows, ducks, turkeys, pigs, goats, horses and sheep. Their feed mill was constructed in 2010 after receiving a Stoneyfield grant. They sell to other organic farms and farm supply stores in the areas, as well as to backyard and other hobby farmers.
The active milking herd has anywhere from 80 to 95 cows at one time out of their herd of 200. The others are either too young or are taking a couple of months off before giving birth. Organic Valley sends a truck every other day that collects approximately 2000 gallons of milk from Reedy Fork. The driver takes a sample of the milk along with measuring the amount; Reedy Fork gets paid by volume and by the amount of fat and protein in their milk. Since some cows produce more fat in their milk and some produce more volume, maintaining a balance in the herd is a bit of management art.
Interesting side note: The cows enter the milking barn, and step onto a very slowly moving circular platform for their milking. Milking equipment is attached to the teats by a worker and then the vacuum automatically ceases as the cow’s milk production slows. The speed of the platform is timed to the equipment release as they come to the end of a complete rotation on the platform. This decreases the time the cows have to wait for a milking as the platform is constantly moving. It’s essentially a milking carousel.
Where to find their products:
The farm has feed, eggs, and beef. Please be sure to call ahead!
7092 Sockwell Road
Elon, NC 27244
Durham Farmer’s Market-beef & eggs (Wednesday market only)
Western Wake Farmer’s Market-beef & eggs (Saturday market)
Deep Roots Market, Greensboro, NC
Company Shops Market, Burlington, NC
Other locations are too numerous to list-check their website!