My Chef Camp Experience

Chef Camp at Richlands Dairy & Creamery in Dinwiddie, Virginia, finally arrived! We donned our cow print face masks, made introductions, then toured the farm.

Owner and herd manager Brittany Jones explained the science behind dairy farming. All cows wear a “cow Fitbit” to track their health and milk output by computer. Cows work less than 2 hours daily, including milking five minutes twice daily. The rest of the time, they eat, sleep and hang out in the herd, plus enjoy a 2-month vacation!

Coley Drinkwater, owner and founder of the creamery, described how her family changed their business model in response to lower milk prices and decreased demand. They opened the onsite store selling their products directly to the public last year. They’ll have a corn maze this fall, and continue adding to their family-friendly activities.

Following lunch, the chefs discussed trials and solutions during COVID-19. Chefs Jason Arbusto and Miles Westgate of Lynchburg closed Shoemakers American Grille during the pandemic. They kept Waterstone Pizza open for delivery and eventually opened outdoor seating with a bar and games. Chef Morgan Botwinick of Whisk Bakery in Richmond remained open for takeout. 

All three chefs use Richlands Dairy products, but delivery was initially restricted during the pandemic. Richland Dairy donated the unexpected milk surplus to local daycare centers, as they already donate 1 gallon out of 10 to area food banks.

Chef Kisha Moore of Hummingbird Macrons, in Norfolk, described the session as a mini think tank for chefs. The camp is sponsored by The Dairy Alliance in partnership with Eat Y’all to connect farmers, chefs, and small businesses in promoting solutions and local, thoughtful food sourcing.

Camp ended with calcium-rich food tastings. Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery in North Carolina led the farmstead cheese tasting. The finale: tasting 17 flavors of deliciously creamy Richlands Dairy ice cream!

Mary-Jo Sawyer, RD is a registered dietitian with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System where she provides outpatient nutrition counseling. A former Richmond-Times Dispatch columnist, she wrote the popular “Practical Nutrition” column. She’s currently a freelance writer, most recently with Boomer Magazine in Richmond, VA.  Follow her on Facebook.

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