a business profile written by Christine Hong
Whether it’s soy, organic, added calcium or with Omega 3, most milk brands try to sell the rich and creamy quality of their product. Instead, their additives alter the milk to taste sweet and flavored.
So, what really makes milk great? How do you know you’re getting exactly what you want and expect? Where is it being produced? These questions swirl in consumers’ minds as they choose products for their family. Luckily, Sparkman’s Cream Valley milk takes the guesswork out of choosing. For the past forty-five years across Georgia, Florida and now South Carolina, their customers know exactly what they are getting. Labeled clearly, “No Artificial Hormones. All Jersey Cows.”
In the city of Moultrie, GA Ross Sparkman created his company, Sparkman’s Cream Valley, in 1967. His infamous product has been approved by milk aficionados, labeling it “heavenly.” Today, both the milk and the response remain the same. Now, that’s a classic product. When I first tasted Sparkman’s Cream Valley 2%, I was instantly transported to my school yard cafeteria in San Diego, CA.. Our pint sized whole milk was a private, unknown local brand and was unlike any other school milk I had tasted. It had a medium consistency full of indiscernible flavor, neither creamy nor sweet. The aftertaste was so milky I just knew cows had to be lined up in the cafeteria kitchen. Sparkman’s Cream Valley milk is exactly that, milk that tastes like it just came from the farm.
Ross Sparkman’s two sons Ricky and Terry spurred the growth of the dairy farm in the past two and a half decades. Terry and Ricky attribute the quality and success of the milk to their ‘All Jersey’ cows and the proprietary supplemental feed they are fed. Without disclosing all the secrets of this successful local dairy farm, it is safe to report this much. All Jersey cows are slightly smaller and have a medium dark brown hide. They’re known for their milk cream production of 42%. Their popular white and black spotted friends create 38% milk cream. The milking herd receives a proprietary grub of sorghum (a widely cultivated slightly sweet grain feed), millet based silage (grass or green fodder), natural minerals and a citrus pulp base.
Sparkman’s method of pasteurization is the common flash or HTST (Higher Temperature Shorter Time) pasteurization of 168ºF for approximately 20 seconds and rapidly cooled at 33ºF. Their above average 450 milking herd of 900 cows in total deliver 50,000 pounds of milk a week.
If you were to visit Sparkman’s Dairy Farm in Moultrie on any week day, you would meet a steadfast salt-of-the-earth group working seamlessly together. Sparkman’s involvement spans over five generations. The matriarch, Nana, at the spritely age of 74 generously cooks a famous country breakfast and lunch for workers. In between the work day starting at 6am and ending at 4:30pm, Ryan and Dustin, Ricky Sparkman’s two sons, prep and maintain the farm grounds and the parlor for the herd. Matt, Ricky’s other son, checks in at the plant facility while Terry gathers and feeds the cows. Steve Hargrove pours over the sales for the week and assists on the grounds as well. His aunt also coordinates and carries the production as the General Manager. Their farm is truly a family affair.
“At the time we were doing 60 customers and wanted to do another 60 but decided to concentrate back into more local markets,” Steven explains. “Instead of route trucks to bigger end customers, we wanted to focus on catering to those closer to us.”
When you pick up a gallon or half gallon of Sparkman’s Cream Valley milk, there’s a real sense of Georgia pride. A quality assurance that you’re about to drink naturally delicious milk from a farm in Moultrie, GA.
For the listing of the farmers markets and stores which carry Sparkman products, visit http://www.sparkmanscreamvalley.com/