Kidding Around Greenville contributor Kristina Hernandez visited Happy Cow Creamery and shared her experience with us. Read what she had to say right here and get busy planning your own trip! Photos by Kristina Hernandez.
It’s always interesting to know where our food comes from and we should know, really. At least on my better parenting days I feel that way. Milk is especially important. Kids start drinking it really young and continue into childhood and even as adults (is cereal a food group? Yes). Finding fresh, healthy milk for your family is key – luckily, the Greenville area hosts an amazing dairy farm and creamery, the Happy Cow Creamery.
There used to be 600 dairy farms in South Carolina but there are now just 60 and Happy Cow is the last one in Greenville and Pickens counties. A beautiful farm set on about one hundred acres, Happy Cow has around 90 dairy cows, an awesome little store with their products, an area for kids to play and “milk” a cow themselves, and a fantastic tour.
I had heard about Happy Cow and have seen their products around Greenville so honestly, I was probably more excited than my kids to go on this tour.
Happy Cow History
Farmer Tom Trantham used to own a grocery store in California but wasn’t terribly happy so he decided to sell the store and buy land in Pelzer to start a dairy farm in 1978. He was successful at first but soon became engulfed in debt and was in danger of losing the farm.
A new idea
The standard farming practice at the time was keeping cows in the barn all day long and bringing the grain and feed to them, which was truthfully an expensive endeavor. Legend has it that the cows sensed Farmer Tom’s dire situation, broke out of the barn and started eating the grass in the nearby pasture. That day, they produced more milk per cow than ever.
Hmm, maybe these cows were onto something. But when the cows grazed in the same pasture the next day, their milk production remained the same.
How it works
Cows eat by using their tongues to rip off the tops of the grass, which happen to be the most nutritious and contribute to healthy milk production. Farmer Tom figured this out because he was smart and began to move the cows from field to field so they could always graze on the most nutritious grass.
He came to plant different kinds of grass and seed all year round so that every day, in every season, the cows could get the best grass and hence produce the best milk.
So, Happy Cow Creamery is actually called 12 Aprils Dairy because Farmer Tom has managed to produce the best spring grass every single month, making every month an April. Which is why people travel from all over the region to purchase Happy Cow milk, cheese, and ice cream – it’s that good and good for you.
Happy Cow Tour
Tours at the dairy farm run March thru November and reservations have to be made in advance. There were about 50 people on our tour and we split up into two groups – one went to the barn first and the other on the farm trolley first and then we’d switch.
Learning about the farm and where their milk comes from was pretty neat. We got to see where the pregnant cows hang out (the “Happy Cow Maternity Ward”) for the last two months before they give birth. One tour participant told me how she got to see a calf being born on a previous tour!
I was excited to learn that Happy Cow has their own bee hives, which we could see in the distance. Honey collected from the hives are sold in the Happy Cow store.
The tour guides are so patient and are happy to answer any questions. We also got to see the milking cows, who were just chilling in the shade, happy as could be of course.
The milking barn
The tour guide showed us where the cows line up to get into the barn to be milked and joked that the question is usually asked “How do they line up to be milked voluntarily?” to which us nursing mamas in the crowd sighed knowingly – of course they line up voluntarily, they are uncomfortable and want to be milked!
Seeing the barn where the cows are milked was interesting. It takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes to milk a cow and there are four milking machines, which hook up to each cow and make it as natural and comfortable as possible. The milk travels through stainless steel pipes to a massive container where it is heated and bottled.
So when you buy Happy Cow milk, know that the farthest the milk had to travel between cow and bottle was merely 48 feet. Pretty cool.
Sampling and Milk Quality
At the end the tour, you get to sample both the whole milk and the chocolate milk, which is to die for. It’s so fresh and delicious. Happy Cow ice cream is also included in the tour price, which was amazing.
The kids get a chance to play while adults can peruse the store.
The science behind the milk
Happy Cow milk contains up to four times the CLA’s (Conjugated Linoleic Acids) than found in conventionally fed cows. CLAs – which are produced in higher amounts in cows that are non-stressed – are a cancer fighting agent that the human body does not make. It also contains a balanced level of omega 6 and 3 plus more natural vitamins A and D.
Happy Cow milk isn’t homogenized, which means that the cream floats to the top and the fat cells are not broken down, which can cause problems for us humans when we drink conventional milk. The milk is pasteurized at a low temperature which keeps natural, healthy enzymes in place.
The tour guide mentioned several stories of lactose-intolerant people who can drink Happy Cow milk with no issues.
Natural and sustainable
The cows are grass fed and are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics. The farm itself uses no chemicals or fertilizers and uses sustainable farming practices.
In short, Happy Cow milk and dairy products are super healthy and far above the quality of conventional milk.
Visiting Happy Cow Creamery
Tours have to be booked ahead of time. It’s $8 per person and children two and under are free. Tours can be booked by emailing [email protected] or calling 864-444-5127.
Need a cool birthday party idea? Happy Cow Creamery hosts unique birthday parties also! Visit their website for more information.
You don’t have to go on a tour to visit the Happy Cow store. They have local produce and a huge array of not only Happy Cow cheese, milk, honey, and ice cream, but also have tons of salsas, breads, chocolates, jams, fresh meat and sausage, maple syrups, and even pancake mixes.
Store hours are M-F 9 am – 7 pm, Sat 9 am – 5 pm and closed on Sundays.
Have you taken your kids to Happy Cow Creamery yet?
Check out our list of other farms where you can find locally sourced meats!