When it comes to eating local, most people will assume you’re talking about fruits, vegetables, or herbs. However, we’re not here to gab about produce. We’re dedicating some time to showcasing the art of farmstead cheese-making and where you can find it locally.
Situated a short drive north from Charlotte is Fading D Farm, North Carolina’s only working water buffalo homestead in Salisbury that specializes in crafting a variety of fresh and aged cheeses made with 100 percent buffalo milk. I checked it out during a farm tour with North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
After falling in love with Mozzarella di Bufala (the original mozzarella) during a vacation in Italy, Faythe and David DiLoreto decided to switch career paths and turn 64 acres in Rowan County into a vibrant sanctuary that houses roughly 40 water buffalos along with a diverse population of alpacas, sheep, chickens and cows.
Fresh buffalo milk is a luxury in the United States, as there are only a small handful of buffalo creameries throughout the country. Due to climate and lack of high-rainfall zones, water buffalos have not thrived in this nation. Originating from Asia, water buffalos have made their way across India, North Africa and Italy as meat and dairy animals.
Nutritionally, their milk is higher in calcium, magnesium, and protein in comparison to cows’ milk. It contains 100 percent more fat and creates a creamy, rich cheese unlike no other. Overseas, water buffalo milk is primarily used to make mozzarella, paneer, yogurt, butter and ghee.
Faythe and David hand-raise each buffalo at Fading D Farm, naming the girl calves after a variety of cheeses (examples: Havarti, Monterey Jackie and Gouda) and the boy calves after cuts of meat (examples: T-bone, Tartar and Sirloin). These animals tend to be extremely shy with strangers, so it’s very important to form a close bond with the babies when they’re young. According to the DiLoretos, once calves grow into fully grown milking buffalos, this relationship helps with milk production and collection.
Currently, Fading D Farm offers five types of cheese seasonally:
Mozzarella (early spring): a fresh milk cheese that is most commonly used on pizza or in caprese salad.
Bel Bufala (year-round): an aged variety that is mild, yet buttery and creamy.
Roco (year-round): an aged, firmer cheese that is sharp, full bodied, and shreds well.
Sapore (year-round): an aged, semi-soft cheese that is sharp and salty.
Ricotta (limited availability, contact for details): A sweet, creamy spread that is most commonly used in Italian dishes like lasagna, ravioli, or tortellini.
Visitors are welcome to tour the facilities and see their beautiful farmlands on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 3-6 p.m. during the months of April-September. They also offer private tours of their cheese room, temperature-controlled aging cellar, and farm by appointment only.
Fading D Farm: 295 Fading D Farm Road, Salisbury, NC.
Photos: Jessica Bentley