Maple View Farm’s Bob Nutter created a legacy for his family and community

A cone of ice cream from the front porch of Maple View Farm is one of the Triangle’s most cherished treats.

Bob Nutter, the man who built that dream and a five-decade-old dairy company on Orange County farmland, has died at the age of 90.

Roger Nutter, his son who runs Maple View Farm Milk Co., told The News & Observer Monday that his father suffered a stroke three years ago. Nutter’s death was announced by the company on its Facebook page Saturday night, saying that Farmer Bob, as he was known, had died peacefully at the farm on Friday, March 8.

Nutter’s legacy in agriculture lives on in both the products from Maple View Farm and in farming education; he was a key backer and champion of Maple View Agricultural Education Center.

Roger Nutter said his father cared deeply about current and future generations having first-hand knowledge of where their food comes from.

“He’s given a lot to the community and the community has given a lot to us,” Roger Nutter said.

Maple View takes its name from the family’s homestead in Maine, where a cluster of maple trees could be seen from the house, Roger Nutter said.

But the infamous Maine winters drove the Nutter family south to North Carolina, Roger Nutter said. In 1963 Bob Nutter moved his family and herd to Orange County, near Chapel Hill.

Bob Nutter was a fifth-generation farmer, a lifestyle that is much more than a job, his son said.

“It gets in your blood and it’s a drive to keep going,” Roger Nutter said. “He still had an active role in the farm until about three years ago.”

Maple View was a conventional dairy farm for more than 30 years, but in 1996, it started its own milk company, bottling and selling locally. A 2008 Tar Heel of the Week profile on Bob Nutter said Maple View was one of the first North Carolina dairies to launch direct-to-consumer bottling, a move that other dairies followed to stay afloat in a challenging economy. It was indicative of Nutter’s business savvy and affinity for innovation.

In 2001, Nutter started Maple View Farm Ice Cream with his daughter, the late Arlene Nutter Brosig.

The Tar Heel of the Week profile noted that the ice cream shop opened Jan. 1 — because Nutter liked doing things differently.

“Why? Because that’s when he got ready,” he told The News & Observer then.

Roger Nutter said it was popular from the start.

“From when we started the milk company, people would always ask us why we didn’t make ice cream,” Roger Nutter said.

Maple View’s ice cream inspires countless summer pilgrimages out on the backroads of Orange County, with a line out the door in the evenings as diners hope to grab a cone and look out on the fields as the sun sets. Nutter said his father had plenty of favorite flavors, but put strawberry chief among them.

For the last decade, a portion of the farm has operated as Maple View Agricultural and Educational Center.

According to his obituary, Nutter started a fund through the Triangle Community Foundation that buys books for students at Orange County schools. Among the many awards he and his farm received, he was named NC State’s Distinguished Dairy Farmer in 1999 in the Department of Animal Science.

Throughout his life, he sought to leave a legacy for his family if they chose to continue running the farm. He and his wife, Chris, secured conservation easements on half the farm, according to the Tar Heel of the Week story. That way they could make sure farming continued without development encroaching on the farm.

In several stories about Nutter, he seemed to continue to love working and working on a farm.

“I’ve had a good life and done what I wanted to do, and been able to make a living at the same time,” he told The News & Observer. “And hopefully, barring unforeseen things, my kids will be able to make a living.”

A celebration of Nutter’s life is scheduled April 6 at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill. Guests may arrive at 1:30 with the service starting at 3 p.m.

Donations can be made to to Hospice, 914 Chapel Hill Road, Burlington, NC 27215, or the Triangle Community Foundation, 800 Park Offices Drive, Suite 201, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.