LINCOLNTON, N.C. — A small dairy farm in North Carolina is using its fresh milk to create homemade ice cream.
Working on his family’s dairy farm in Lincolnton was always what James Pearson had in mind.
“When I was young… I saw my dad working, and I saw the hard work that he did and the enjoyment that he got out of it,” Pearson said. “And that instilled in me that one day I want to come back and do this.”
Now a husband and father, Pearson helps tend to hundreds of jersey cows at his family’s farm, Piedmont Jerseys. The farm makes about 1,300 gallons a day.
“I want to keep something that my family started four generations ago that we can hopefully pass onto many generations down the road,” Pearson said.
Passing down the family business to his kids seemed almost out of sight less than a year ago. Milk prices continue to decline, and hundreds of smaller farms are shutting down across North Carolina.
“We were at the point to where it’s either milk more cows or look for alternate situations,” Pearson said. “Where we could find niche markets or possibly get out of the dairy industry altogether.”
That’s why Pearson and his family are trying something new. About six months ago, they built a new facility to make ice cream.
“We knew ice cream is where we’re going to make our most money from, so we want to be sure to have a top-notch product so when people come they’re more apt to come back,” Pearson said.
An idea that was two years in the making became a reality when he and his family opened Riverbend Creamery last September.
“The first opening weekend we had around 1,500 people come out,” Pearson said.
Ice cream sales now account for nearly 50% of their earnings, according to Pearson.
The family also distributes their fresh milk to grocery stores, including five nearby Food Lions and smaller stores like Buffalo Shoals in Newton.
“It’s a big deal to me,” Pearson said. “It makes me happy that we’re providing for the local community and giving them a wholesome product.”
Pearson never thought in a “million years” that he would see his family’s milk on store shelves.
“My sister and I talked about it when we were younger, about doing it,” Pearson said. “Now that it’s happening it’s kind of surreal.”
Pearson now thinks about his family’s optimistic future, one where he finally sees passing down his family’s legacy to his kids.
“My parents have instilled hard work in me, and I hope that one day this opportunity is here for them,” Pearson said. “To keep on being part of agriculture, whether they want to or not, it’s kind of the reason that I’m doing it.”
Pearson says he hopes to expand their milk and ice cream distribution to stores in the Charlotte area.