Valley Bounty: Mapleline Farm
Have you ever tasted the wonder that is whipped cream homemade from Jersey cow cream? You’d remember the silky layer of sweetness coating a pumpkin pie or other baked good – practically a meal in itself. Rich, flavorful Jersey milk is a treat you can find year-round throughout the Valley courtesy of Mapleline Farm.
Mapleline sits on three hundred acres across Hadley and Amherst and is home to nearly that same number of registered Jersey cows. Now fully a dairy farm, Mapleline has a long history, explains fifth generation farmer Jessica Dizek, who co-owns the family operation with her sister Jennifer Zina. “When it first started in 1904, it was like many of the farms in the area, growing tobacco, potatoes, onions, and often keeping a small herd of cows. When my father, John, was a teenager he wanted to buy a Jersey cow as a 4H project and reintroduce cows. Ever since then we’ve been a Jersey farm.”
Mapleline is also unusual among local dairies in that they bottle and sell their milk themselves. Many area dairy farms belong to dairy co-ops, which buy milk from farmers at a pre-determined price, process it, and distribute it throughout the region. Mapleline broke from that model when they opened their in-house bottling operation in 1995. Jessica acknowledges that making this switch would be tough for many cash-strapped dairy farms, but it has worked for Mapleline, in part because of their strong community relationships and the distinctiveness of their milk.
“From day one, we’ve marketed our milk as different,” says Jessica. What makes it different? “Jerseys are known as the little brown cow. They’re a small animal, but their milk has a higher nutritional value. They produce milk that has 15-20% more protein, 15-18% more calcium, and higher levels of other vitamins. It also has a higher fat content.”
Jerseys also produce what’s called A2 milk (a designation based on the type of proteins present), which Jessica said is sometimes easier to digest for people normally sensitive to dairy. “If nothing else, people prefer the richer, creamier taste. Even the skim milk and 1% (whose fat content is identical to any other milk labeled as such) has a full-bodied flavor. That’s what makes it unique.”
This flavor shines through in all of Mapleline’s products, from full- and low-fat to flavored milks. They produce chocolate, strawberry, and coffee-flavored milk year-round, and as Jessica joyfully explains, “this time of year is eggnog season, of course. We’ve been doing eggnog for many years, and it’s always a huge hit. It becomes a tradition for folks, something to look forward to. The smell of it, the taste of it – it’s a reminder of the season.”
Their cream lends itself well to culinary adventure far beyond whipped cream. As Jessica shares, “people love it for chowders and for stews, for baked goods this time of year, for pies. If you spend a little more time whipping it up, you get butter pretty fast. That’s kind of a nice treat too.”
For Mapleline, on-farm processing and local sales mean a fresh product. “There’s very little time between when the cows are milked to when it lands on the store shelf,” she explains. Cows are milked twice daily, and within twenty-four hours the milk is processed, with cream being skimmed off and everything pasteurized, homogenized, and bottled. “Today we’re bottling, and it’s getting loaded onto delivery trucks as soon as its cooled.”
Mapleline sells their milk through a growing number of retailers and home delivery services throughout the Valley and across the state. A town-by-town list of where you can find it is located on their website (www.maplelinefarm.com/findastore). They also sell to many local restaurants and colleges, though COVID-19 shutdowns have suppressed that market.
With sales down, Jessica is heartened by the tradition of mutual support she sees among local businesses. “A lot of these customers we’ve had since day one of selling our own milk, so we’re all rooting for each other,” she says. “Whether it’s a retailer or a restaurant, if they run out of supply, or it’s the weekend and they had a huge rush of customers, they can call us a know that we’ll be there to support them. During COVID-19 when it’s been really tough, a lot of food service businesses are checking in on each other.”
“We’re in this together. It takes a village, you know?”
Jacob Nelson is Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn where you can find local food and support local businesses this holiday season, visit CISA’s searchable online guide at www.buylocalfood.org/farmguide