Local Spotlight: Sparkman’s Cream Valley
By Bridget Kamke
In 1967, Ross Sparkman, originally from Missouri where he worked in a creamery, moved to Moultrie, Georgia and bought his own farm. Sparkman’s Cream Valley was born and has been the family business ever since. His son, Ricky, and Ricky’s three sons Matthew, Ryan and Dustin, continue to expand the farm with the help of family member Kelvin Spurlock. Together they continue Ross’ legacy of gentle farming—treating their cows and land with care.
The 500 jersey milking cows at Sparkman’s Cream Valley are living large, with the freedom to move about, a loafing barn with clean sawdust bedding, surrounding pasture, fans and misters, and available corn silage which Sparkman’s grows itself. According to General Manager Kelvin Spurlock, “These cows are extremely happy” and how could they not be? Though pasture is available, they tend to prefer the AC on hot southern days!
Since opening their own production facility on the farm in 2007, Sparkman’s now offers butter, ice cream, cheese and milk (chocolate, two percent, whole, skim and buttermilk), sold in bottles made from cornstarch. New Leaf Market carries all but the buttermilk. Spurlock describes the buttermilk as “outstanding” and likens the chocolate milk to “pouring a milkshake.”
Sparkman’s Cream Valley is the recipient of the 2008 Flavor of Georgia award in the dairy division for both their creamy chocolate milk and rich, flavorful butter. The key to their success is milk solids, not the fat content. Compared to the industry’s typical 8.25 percent milk solids, Sparkman’s milk contains 9.5 percent solids, which gives their products bold, rich flavor.
Sparkman’s Cream Valley is not certified organic, though they are members of Georgia Organics. Their farming practices, irrigation, and composting are generally sustainable and organic. Their cows are raised without the use of artificial hormones. According to Spurlock, once a year use of commercial fertilizer to add nitrogen to the soil for their corn crop prevents Sparkman’s from being certified organic.
Spurlock points out that their freshness and hygiene rise above many of the national organic brands. Since all of their milk comes from their own closed herd of milking jersey cows, Sparkman’s only needs to briefly pasteurize the milk, versus high pasteurization done on milk from commingled herds (which can contain more bacteria and needs the more intensive treatment). Their milk always passes state bacteria tests, with the lowest amount in the state. And the less intense pasteurization leaves you with fresher milk. “That’s what local is all about. That’s what sustainability is all about,” says Spurlock.
Speaking of fresh, when New Leaf Market gets Sparkman’s Cream Valley milk, it was in the cow less than 24 hours before.
The fresh milk leads to a longer shelf life, 21 days, the longest in the state of Georgia. The milk is so tasty you’ll probably finish it before the expiration date. The folks at Sparkman’s like to say, “If you want it any fresher, you’ll have to buy your own cow.”