Artisanal Water Buffalo Cheeses and Meats in Rowan County… Absolutely!
Imagine if you will a nice quiet night at home, perhaps sipping a glass of wine and scrolling the channels when you fall onto “Carolina Weekends” and decide to watch this show to see what’s going on in North Carolina. Then low and behold they begin talking about something in Rowan County. This something was new to me and I definitely decided it is worth looking into further. That something is Fading D Farm in Salisbury and little did I know how much I was going to learn and enjoy.
I called Fading D Farm from their Facebook page and left a message. A return call came and I scheduled a late afternoon time to come out to the farm. I drove down Highway 601 just outside of Catawba College and turned into the Bennett Heights neighborhood. After taking a few more turns in the neighborhood I found myself at 295 Fading Farm Road in Salisbury where I was greeted by a big sign for the farm. I traveled down a long gravel drive, which was beautiful, in the North Rowan area of our county, and at the end of the drive to your left is the creamery where all the magic happens!
As I sat there for a few minutes waiting for one of the owners at the gate I made note of a few things while there. “No Animals” is posted on the gate. I understand other pets may agitate the livestock and we don’t want to upset them. I also noted some baby cows in an enclosure to my left. They were adorable!! There was a large barn in front of me and the creamery building to the left.
In my rearview mirror, I caught some movement and realized one of the owners was approaching her dog, Gus. The gate was opened and I drove in to meet some beautiful, huge water buffaloes and to learn all about what goes on at the Fading D Farm.
The owners Faythe DiLoreto and her husband, David DiLoreto … also known as Dr. DiLoreto, had previously gone on a trip to Italy where they ate the most wonderful food and one of the best things was the “mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk” according to Faythe. When they came back to the States they realized they couldn’t find it here and thus the adventure to raise water buffaloes in Rowan County began. The farm has been featured in Our State Magazine as well as our own local Salisbury Magazine.
Originally from out of state, I asked them what brought them to Rowan County and Faythe said they moved for “David to work with Rowan Family Physicians”. He was and is still called “Dr. D.” I then inquired how they came up with the name “Fading D” Farm. Faythe said “my initials were F.A.D. It was supposed to be FAD and D, but when you said it fast it sounded like “Fading D”. Honestly, I said it fast a couple of times and I totally get what they are talking about! You try it!
Originating in Southeast Asia, the water buffalo have become quite popular in the arena of Italian cheeses even though it’s not clear how they got to Europe. What is clear is that they have been there since the 15th Century and now because there are so many in the country they can produce large amounts of mozzarella di bufala!
There is two breeds of water buffalos. The “river” buffalo and the “swamp” buffalo. Faythe shared, “Water Buffalo in the U.S. is a mix of river and swamp. The river is better milkers whereas the swamp has more muscle for meat or pulling wagons”.
The DiLoretos artificially breed their cows and have bull semen shipped to them from Italy. The cows are bred to specifically have cow calves. Which means there are no bulls on the property. “We are breeding with semen from Italy to get better genetics and more “river” into our water buffalo.” River buffalo yield more milk than swamp buffalo. While water buffalo are still hard to find in North America the popularity is growing.
The day that I visited I was able to watch the cows being fed. They definitely have a personality of their own and being close to them can be quite intimidating. These are very large animals with horns that spread up to 5 feet and their hooves fan out for being in muddy water. There is one named Lucy clocking in at around 1,900 pounds. They were curious about having a stranger there that day and Faythe even commented on Houdini. She has anxiety around strangers… stranger danger if you will. However, that day she was not scared or bothered by me at all. More about Houdini later!
Milking a Water Buffalo
Faythe took me through the milking room where the cows are hooked up 4 at a time to an automated milking machine. While the cows are being milked they are being fed at the same time. Unlike normal dairy cows, water buffalo produce a much smaller amount of milk at a time. The great thing is that what they do produce is liquid gold! The milk is low in cholesterol, has more calcium, and has more protein. What makes this pure white milk taste so amazing is the high calcium and protein content. It also is very high in fat. You’ll find 8-11% butterfat in water buffalo milk whereas in Holstein cows there is only 3% and in Jersey cows only 4%. Water buffalo milk is also rich in iron, phosphorus, and Vitamin A.
Faythe got me dressed out to go into the production room and I have to tell you they run a top-notch operation. This room is very sterile and they make sure that everything stays that way. I was very impressed with the attention to detail and care that they take to make the wonderful products that they sell at the farm.
On Wednesdays, they make the mozzarella cheese and both Faythe and David are there for the pulling of the mozzarella cheese. The recipe for their cheese has to be precise and they have gone to great lengths to ensure that the final product is perfect.
Faythe not too long ago was not happy with the product she was producing so she got in touch with someone in Italy that looked at her recipe and tweaked it to perfection. Faythe is extremely happy with the finished product now each time. I have to say as someone that has tasted the finished product it is magnifico! It is creamy and almost melts in your mouth! You definitely can not get any that is any fresher than what they are selling!
I have a few friends that live in Italy and I reached out to them for their opinion on water buffalo mozzarella and here’s what they had to share!
I asked the cookbook author of ‘Cheese, Wine, and Bread”, Katie Quinn if she had ever had water buffalo mozzarella compared to regular cow’s milk mozzarella,” Yes I have- I think the water buffalo mozz is more flavorful!” I also went to another author in Italy, Sophie Minchilli who wrote ‘The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.” Sophie also does food tours in Italy and she told me “It’s the best! So good! In Italy we never refrigerate it and it stays outside of the fridge”. I’m guessing that is because it is eaten so fast there is no need to refrigerate it! It truly is a creamy and delightful cheese.
More Than Just Cheese
Now while I have gone on and on about the mozzarella I could not end this blog without telling you about the best gelato I have ever eaten. I myself have had gelato in Italy and I have to say I believe the gelato at Fading D Farm is even better.
They make the gelato there on the property as well. The flavors are Stracciatella, Strawberry, Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Sweet Cream, Hazelnut Chip, Peach, and Blueberry. My favorite, and if you know me you already know the answer, is the chocolate! Holy Cow (no pun intended) it is amazing!! So delicious, creamy, and oh such a deep chocolate flavor!
They also sell water buffalo meat. When the cows have given their all or maybe haven’t given at all it’s time for them to attend “freezer camp”. Nothing and I mean nothing will go to waste here on this farm. We are talking farm to the table here. Bone marrow, tongue, ground buffalo meat, sausage, short ribs, bone broth… you name it and they probably have it in their freezer. I grabbed a package of ground meat and one of the recipes for buffalo chili that they have there at the counter. They even sell fresh eggs from other local farmers in their shop.
As mentioned previously Houdini, who has stranger anxiety, but seemed to like me that day, had a calf not too long ago and she was named “Abra” and when Houdini has another calf it will be called “Cadabra”. Houdini apparently earned her name for being somewhat of an escape artist. I can tell you this the calves live a great life there and they are precious!! The calves get taken into individual stalls where they are hand-fed bottles. Now you may be wondering why they aren’t with their mothers because I did as well. Water buffalo cows, unlike others, didn’t get the nurturing gene. As soon as the calves are born they are taken and cared for by the helpers on the farm. One of their helpers is Autumn. She makes sure that the cows are milked and helps take care of the calves. Then there is Jose and according to Faythe “everyone needs a Jose”. He is treasured by the DiLoretos and helps them run the farm. The day I was on the farm Jose was out planting seed before the rain came in! The water buffalo love to roam the fields.
The DiLoretos have lived out in North Rowan for 29 years. Their children use to have horses on the farm and when they grew up the farm was converted to a place suitable for the water buffalo. If you aren’t familiar with this wonderful hidden gem in Rowan County I encourage you to take to their Facebook page to familiarize yourselves. It was thrilling for me to be able to do research and to have such an interesting conversation with Faythe where I asked so many questions about the ins and outs of cheese making. However, bottom line was that it was even more thrilling to enjoy the mozzarella di bufala and gelato! Delizioso!!
The Fading D Farm can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.fadingdfarm.com for more information about their products and how to make online purchases. Or feel free to call them at (980)330-8189.
Author Katie Quinn can be found on Instagram under the name of qkatie
Author Sophie Minchilli can also be found on Instagram under the name of sminchilli
Spring is in the air in Rowan County which means the kids are going to want to do a lot of fun things. There are parks to visit like Dan Nicholas with their splash pad, museums like The N.C. Transportation Museum with their Easter Egg Hunt coming up, Tiger World has lots of cool animals to see, and Patterson Farms always has tours and fresh fruits and vegetables galore.