By: Matthew Chilton, Honors College Freshman
On October 25th, I traveled with members of the Honors College on a Living-Learning Experience (LLE) called Simply Delicious. These LLEs are opportunities for students to explore outside the University and are a chance to build relationships with donors, business leaders, and fellow students. This trip was focused on agricultural business in Greenville and the surrounding cities.
Students eagerly loaded onto the bus at 2:30 p.m. at Minges Coliseum. The first half took place at the Starlight Farm on the outskirts of Greenville. The farm, owned by the Boutilier family, is used to supply their restaurant Starlight Café here in Greenville. The Boutiliers pride themselves in their all organic, low-impact farming. Mr. and Mrs. Boutilier guided us through planted mounds and pecan trees. The field was a little less than a quarter acre, which was a surprise to me to see that only a small plot of land is needed to stock a restaurant. (They do, however, use products from other local farms for their restaurant as well.) The Boutiliers explained various farming techniques that they employ in order to produce a high yield.
The modern farming industry, they pointed out, has an array of technologies that allow a single individual to operate a vast amount of land while using less labor. Tractors allow for plowing, combines are great for harvesting, and pesticides ensure that plants are bug free; however, the Boutiliers have adopted farming techniques that have been around since the Middle Ages. The goal of this is to grow crops for quality rather than quantity, which saves the owners money on supplies and land. Tactics like drip irrigation waters plants directly at the basal root and saves an exponential amount of water compared to a sprinkler. Also, caring for plants by hand allows them to inspect the crops for disease, something that mega farms can rarely do.
The Starlight farm grows an array of crops: beats, turnips, artichokes, tomatoes; and an array of herbs like basil, mint, and rosemary, to name a few. They also have a number of animals on their land, such as cows, sheep, chickens, apiaries filled with bees, and some friendly farm cats. They explained how to care for each animal and their significance to the farm; for instance, the sheep that they care for are an endangered breed that the major farming industry has discarded because of its wool properties. It seems that everything on the farm is carefully thought out in order to have a positive ecological impact. The Boutiliers recognize that it is a lot of work for two people, but they take immense pride in their work because they can produce something that can be shared with the community of Greenville.
After saying our goodbyes, we loaded back into the bus to go to Ayden where the Simply Natural Creamery is located. We were greeted with the smell that let us know we were certainly in the right place. Simply Natural Creamery is a brand new creamery owned by the Moye family. The creamery utilizes the family-owned dairy farm comprised totally of Jersey Cows, a fact they proudly display on their products.
The tour started with a video presentation of the milking process. The creamery has state-of-the-art technology that ensures that the milk is pasteurized and filtered properly, then separated to make certain dairy products. We then proceeded on a tractor ride throughout the facility and were shown the various feed types that the cows eat depending on the stage of the cow’s development. All of the feed is grown and separated on site, lending to the “Simply Natural” name.
The next stop was my favorite: “Calftown USA” is what the Moyes call it. Since the type of milk can be affected by the cow’s health, the Moyes ensure the health of all their cows by raising them from birth on site. Calftown is a plot of land that is sectioned off in order to provide a safe place for the calves to develop in their first few weeks. Each calf is placed in a dog house and given a square meter of outside space fenced off. We were allowed to go up to the calves and pet them. They were very docile and loved to be rubbed on their heads and necks. They acted like dogs in that they licked anyone nearby. The guide explained to us how they assist the mother cows giving birth. We then proceeded to the birth pen, where a one-hour-old calf was standing and gathering its bearings.
After leaving Calftown, we went to the holding and milking parlor and watched the milking process in-person. The parlor smelled sweet with the aroma of milk. The cows appeared calm and looked like they were enjoying the process. We learned that a single cow can deliver over five gallons of milk a session and that they have two milking sessions a day. Given that they have over 180 cows milked a day, the average day can yield anywhere from 1,800 to 2,000 gallons of milk, which can be sold the same day in a carton on the shelf of their store.
The final task on our agenda was to enjoy some complementary ice cream. Simply Natural Creamery has an assortment of flavors from Reese’s Peanut Butter to cherry vanilla. I enjoyed their cupcake-flavored ice cream, which was noticeably sweeter and lighter than store brand. It was the perfect end to an afternoon on the farms.
I am certainly thankful to have the opportunity to go on Living-Learning Experiences like this one. It is not possible to have such a great time off-campus without the support of the donors of the Honors College. I would like to express my gratitude toward those who put forth the time and effort in order for these programs to exist. Without their support, a unique educational experience such as this and countless others would not be possible. I am excited to hear about the next Honors College outing and will be sure to reserve a spot!