SALISBURY – Making fresh mozzarella is an energy-intensive process.
David and Faythe DiLoreto of Fading D Farm know this from experience.
The couple started making mozzarella several years ago on their 64-acre farm just north of Salisbury. And they do it the traditional way: using water buffalo milk.
The practice of turning water buffalo milk into a creamy, soft cheese is centuries old and dates back to the Campania region in southern Italy. It was during a trip to Italy in 2011 where David and Faythe fell in love with the taste of Mozzarella di Bufala.
When they returned to Rowan County, they realized they couldn’t find the authentic cheese anywhere. “Fior di Latte,” which is mozzarella made from cow’s milk, is commonly found in grocery stores or on pizza in the United States.
The couple acquired a small herd of water buffalo and now have 35 of the large creatures living on their farm. David and Faythe make and sell mozzarella, ice cream, and other buffalo milk products at an on-site store. A handful of nearby restaurants and retailers also carry their products. They also sell water buffalo meat.
Fading D is one of half a dozen operations that make mozzarella the traditional way across the country.
Caring for buffaloes and making products from their milk is hard work, and it also requires a significant amount of energy.
This is why the couple decided to install solar panels on the roof of their milking parlor and dairy last year. They were excited to learn in the spring that they had received a $ 13,000 grant to help fund the US Department of Agriculture project through its Rural Energy for America program.
USDA in September announced $ 53 million in investments to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure across North Carolina.
Fading D was not the only local farm to benefit from the subsidies. Triple S Farms will use a $ 13,000 grant to purchase and install a grain dryer. The dryer will produce 21,000 kilowatt-hours per year and save $ 4,000 per year.
USDA Continues to Prioritize Climate Smart Infrastructure to Help Rural America Rebuild better, stronger and fairer than ever before, ”USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps expand economic development and employment opportunities for residents of American towns and rural communities.
Fading D installed 29 signs on his dairy and parlor in the fall of 2020 after applying for the USDA grant. The panels now help power the cheese-making process, which requires both extreme heating and cooling.
Fading D uses 180 degree water to disinfect equipment used in the milking parlor to extract fresh milk from female water buffaloes, which produce about as much milk as a goat despite their size. . Then the equipment must be cooled by refrigeration.
The extracted milk must be cooled, but it is reheated again when it is processed.
“You have to heat the milk to 145 degrees and again you have 100 to 120 gallons of milk to heat, which takes a lot of energy,” David said.
More heat is used when David or Faythe uses boiling water to stretch the mozzarella. The mozzarella curd, as well as the ice cream, are cooled quickly and stored in what are called “compressed air freezers” which prevent the formation of crystals.
The panels, David said, helped cut the farm’s energy bill in half. The USDA grant also paid off the initial solar investment faster than it otherwise would have.
“Without any incentive, it was a 15-year payback where the amount of energy you would save would cover the cost of the system,” David said.
But after receiving the USDA grant, in addition to other incentives from state and federal governments, David said the farm’s investment would start to pay off much sooner.
“That’s a payback of about six or seven years,” David said.
The panels installed with the help of the USDA grant will allow the farm to produce fresh mozzarella for years to come.
You can find more information about Fading D at fadingdfarm.com.