So yesterday I headed north with my dad to pay a visit to a few of my favorite things, including my super spunky 95-year-old granny. As we crossed the Red River, we were both shocked and surprised to see the Red River deluged with ice, we stopped in the 10 degree weather to snap a few photos, while we both mused that we’d never in our lifetimes seen it full of ice.
Word of caution though, when traipsing about a large overpass, be wary of 18-wheelers as they can and will blow about 50 pounds of dirt and grit into your face. And it hurts. A lot.
As for the rest of the favorite things mentioned above, we paid a visit to Doug’s Peach Orchard for the Best Darn Catfish in the Universe. After that we headed back south to hit up the Diamond B Dairy for the most delicious milk you’ve ever tasted and the Fried Pie Shop for a box full of pineapple, apple, blackberry, coconut cream and peach fried pies.
Since October, my mom has been raving about a dairy some 20 minutes or so from where she lives in Sunset, Texas. Now, remember, this is the same mom who raves about that icky, metallic, leafy sweetner, Stevia. The mom that eats weird, slimy, ancient Mayan seeds soaked in water. The mom that owns and consumes more vitamin, homeopathic and herbal supplements in one day than your average health food store stocks in its lifetime. Frankly, the only thing that makes me NOT question her long Texas lineage is the mere fact that she has fried chicken for dinner every Sunday and will always cook me chicken fried rib eyes on demand along with fried okra, mashed potatoes, blackeyed peas and pan gravy, of course.
Last Saturday I found myself up on the farm at Sunset for some post-Thanksgiving family time. I wasn’t there 30 minutes when my mom started in about the milk again. “It’s the best milk ever. It’s raw, unpasteurized,” she said, “it’s so much healthier for you.” Harumph. But every good mom knows her child’s many weaknesses, so she continued, “There’s at least four inches of cream that floats on the top.” SOLD!!! She opened the fridge, violently shook the milk jug and poured me a cold glass. It was love at first sip. Cold, creamy, rich and so delicious I’d actually steal it from a baby. After a second glass, I demanded to meet the man behind the milk called Diamond B Cattle Company CREAMLINE.
After a pretty drive, rife with white tail and other critters, we pulled up to Clifford and Cheryl Buchanan’s Diamond B Cattle Company. I didn’t know what to fawn and squee over first: the young jersey calves, the coterie of kitties, or the simple, green beauty of gently sloped hills dotted with cattle. I didn’t have to choose, fortunately, for there was Clifford Buchanan, busting through the dairy’s door, calling out to my mother by name and quick with a smile, shaking my hand. Within 10 seconds I’d decided that Clifford, regardless of how damn good his milk was, was ‘good people.’
It was late in the day, near dusk and close to the day’s second milking, but Clifford was generous with his time and volunteered not only a tour of the dairy, but his story, too. In 1980, Clifford, a third generation farmer, found himself sick of his corporate job in Arlington, Texas. Longing for farming, he and wife Cheryl purchased a farm just outside of Decatur. The scrappy duo operated a small cattle farm and showed state and national champion Jersey cows, including Reserve Champions, Grand Champions and even a National Futurity winner. For 26 years it was a labor of love and their passion, but sadly external circumstances – the farm was losing $300 a day – forced Clifford and Cheryl into retirement and into auctioning off all but a handful of their most prized Jerseys. Both found themselves working “real jobs” once again. But early this year, 60-year-old Clifford Buchanan said to hell with it, bit the bullet, and, with the encouragement of a South Texas farming family, started up a tiny dairy simply because he wanted to. And though Clifford Buchanan only had two cows in the beginning of 2009, he set to work remodeling a barn on his property and turning it into the Diamond B Cattle Ranch CREAMLINE Dairy.
The dairy, with the help of a small Decatur newspaper advertisement, opened to the public on September of this year. Little did Clifford and Cheryl know that there’s been growing interest in slow food, urban farming, and more importantly the Buy Local, Eat Local movement. They just wanted to, “sell a quality product at an affordable price.” They wanted to sell 75 to 100 gallons of their grass fed Jersey, Grade A, unpasteurized, raw milk. But they didn’t. They sold 362 gallons. Within their first 30 days of business, they wondered, was this a fluke? October saw people driving in from McKinney, Fort Worth and beyond and sales increased that month over 50% – 570 gallons to be exact. Clifford was going to need some more cows, so he added 13 more. It was a wise investment. Last month, November 2009, saw Diamond B Cattle Company CREAMLINE sales skyrocket to a whopping 990 gallons of milk. Word of mouth traveled fast. Clifford says of his customers, “The most surprising thing about all of this isn’t the milk’s popularity. I know the milk’s good. It’s the attitude of the customers. They are the most appreciative, gracious, thankful people I’ve ever met.”
The Jerseys – or The Girls as I like to call them – are some of the happiest, healthiest cows I’ve ever laid eyes on. Opting for numbered collars, the girls are unbranded, spending their days grazing, lowing, chewing cud in the evening and being highly affectionate and curious about cameras.
They’re milked twice a day and the milk, which comes out at 102 degrees, is put directly into a large bulk tank which makes very quick work of chilling the butter fat rich milk down to 37 degrees. Within the tank is an agitator which runs intermittently and ensures that, when the milk is placed in either quart or gallon containers, there’s an even distribution of cream within the milk. A sticker gets slapped on the containers and they go straight into the fridge. And folks, that’s the entire process for raw milk and it’s a far cry from what happens to the milk you find on your grocer’s shelves.
Buchanan says other reactions to the milk that have surprised him are the life changing stories he’s hearing from local doctors and customers. “I’m not saying my milk works miracles, but it’s helping people. There was one woman who hadn’t been able to drink milk for decades, and now she comes once a week from McKinney. There’s another young family from Saginaw that buys ten gallons a week. I have another lady that buys it for religious reasons. It’s astounding. I’m amazed.” Raw milk enthusiasts will tell you modern day pasteurization, homogenization and standardization practices can hide dirty milk, kills the beneficial vitamins, proteins, enzymes and bacteria found in milk. Meanwhile, doctors on the pro-raw milk wagon – including 6 doctors and a couple of nutritionists in the area – actually prescribe raw milk for myriad health issues, from behavioral issues, cardiac and skeletal problems, skin disorders, obesity and even those with lactose intolerance. Yup, people that are lactose intolerant can actually and quite easily digest raw milk. It’s also a pretty political issue, too. It is illegal to buy raw milk in 24 states and only ten states allow for its retail sale. And while that’s all well and good, I like raw milk because it – and I’m repeating myself – is so creamy, so rich and so delicious, I’d actually steal it from a baby.
I’ve gone through two trips and two gallons and three quarts of Clifford’s CREAMLINE milk in six days. It’s that good. And if you want some from yourself, I’ll tell you that this milk is worth the two hours round trip drive I have to make from Dallas. Wanna know what to expect, here’s the lowdown:
Open 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Walk through the front door of the dairy and open the refrigerator door. A gallon is five bucks, a quart three. If you need more than ten gallons, some of Clifford’s customers buy 20 to 40 gallons, you need to call ahead and make arrangements with him first. As Clifford puts it, “My local customers come first. They need the milk and I’ve got to make sure I have it for them.”
The directions, as best as I can give them to you, are as follows: Head to Decatur on 287, go west on 380 towards Bridgeport for a piece. Turn left at Seven Wires and go down the road until the stop sign. Go right at the stop sign. Right after you pass a young pecan orchard, veer to the left and the dairy is at the second house on the right. They were simple enough to follow for this semi-country girl and I was able to find the Diamond B Cattle Company with ease, but if you’re more of a city person, I suggest you call Clifford for a little help if you get lost.
And for the record, when you meet Clifford Buchanan for the first time, he’ll shake your hand, but be prepared for a hug when you leave. For as grateful as his customers are for his milk, Clifford’s just as thankful for them.
Diamond B Cattle Company Dairy