Chapel Hill Creamery

Chapel Hill Creamery uses an old-fashioned, small-scale approach to handling its dairy cows.

| May/June 2020

Chapel Hill Creamery
Photo by Kathleen Walls

Say “cattle raising,” and the average person probably thinks of a rugged guy on horseback twirling a lasso to round up beef cattle. Such is not the case at Chapel Hill Creamery. 

Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley established Chapel Hill Creamery in 2001. Together, they run this dairy and cheese-making operation in North Carolina’s Piedmont region. They’re a hands-on team, and do much of the milking and cheese making themselves. In 2015, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association awarded the pair “Farmer of the Year.” 

McKnight and Hawley also work closely with Allison Sturgill, their herd manager. Every day, the trio works with 60 cows, a few pigs, and one talented ox. And when I visited Chapel Hill, I got to watch these hardworking farmers in action. McKnight demonstrated their cheese-making process by making some cheese right on the table in front of us. “Cutting the curd” took on a whole new meaning as I watched that cheese coagulate right before my eyes.

Affectionate Athena

As soon as McKnight finished her cheese demonstration, Michael and David, two helpers, led Athena over. Athena is a beautiful Jersey, as are all the cows at Chapel Hill Creamery. When asked why they chose Jerseys, McKnight first mentioned their beautiful eyes, before explaining that “Jerseys produce rich, creamy milk and can handle the hot North Carolina summers.”

Chapel Hill Creamery
Photo by Kathleen Walls

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