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cheesy goats.

June 5, 2011

 

so this post was supposed to go up awhile ago…and i failed on getting it put up.  but in the meantime a video has come about so, that kind of worked out well.  so here’s the deal…we’ve posted a few times about good ol expedition club and the global community project and how rad it is…and not only is the program rad but also the people.  everyone i’ve traveled to thailand with is doing really interesting things, i think.  and one of those people is a gal named paige and i’m not going to tell you her last name in case she doesn’t want you to know it.  but she’s cool and she’s been working on a goat dairy, and last month was supposed to be food and i was just really interested in the goat dairy she was working at, and i thought to myself, “hey, probably a few other people would be interested too.”  so, i interviewed her…sort of…my half-ass questions can be found in bold, followed by her responses.  so watch the video above, and read the words below and go to their website, edumucate yourself on goat dairies and the awesomeness that they provide and then go to the store and get goat stuff (i’m a big goat cheese and goat kefir fan myself…but they make other excellent stuff too) and if you’re in the salem/portland area pick up some of their stuff!  and for the record…there’s quite a few pictures of baby goats on their website…which makes it worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in goat dairies.

 

so where are you…what is this dairy all about?

I am in Dallas, Oregon, about 30 minutes west of Salem, somewhere in between I-5 and the ocean. I work at Fairview Farm Goat Dairy, an Oregon Tilth Certified Organic grass-fed, pastured, etc. goat dairy just outside of Dallas.

 

how did you end up hanging out with goats??? 

I went to school in Portland. My degree was called “Community Development”, which the school says is a program which focuses on the “process in which people act together to promote the social, economic, political, and physical well-being of their communities.” That sounds about right.

I’ve always been interested in food. After we’d both finished our degrees, the guy I’m going to marry and I decided to move from Portland to Dallas, population approximately 15,000 to see how small-town life suited us (answer: not well; we’re moving to Seattle in mid-July). I didn’t know what I would do for a job, so I got to Googling and found that there was a little goat dairy less than a mile from my house that I could ride my bike to. I’d never spent any time with goats, but they seemed cute, and I like animals in general, and this seemed to fit with my local/organic/slow/real food interests, so I emailed the owners (Laurie and Terry Carlson, a retired history professor and author of a bajillion books, and a retired truck driver, respectively) and asked for a job. They said yes!

 

is it just goats?

This year it’s just goats, chickens, and pigs (and two fat rat-fed farm cats, Eleanor and Franklin). There are two bucks, Louie and Zorro, and 35 dairy goats, of which 33 are currently being milked (a couple of the first-time mothers didn’t get pregnant this year; better luck next year!). There are also currently 19 baby girls on the farm. The owners are planning on growing their herd of milkers to 48 next year, so they’re keeping lots of babies. They are a mix of Alpines (pointy-uppy ears), Nubians (floppy ears), and crosses of the two (ears that stick straight out like airplane wings). The Alpines tend to be really hardy and produce a good amount of milk. The nubians have more sensitive udders but their milk is fattier, so they’re worth the extra fuss. In theory, crossing them gives you a goat with a healthier udder and higher fat milk.

Then there are about 50 hens which eat leftover cheese and whey and pick through the manure for fly larvae. Their eggs are sold by the dozen at the farm and at farmers’ markets.

They have also just picked up two piglets which will be raised in part on whey left over from the cheese-making processes and butchered in the fall.

 

what products are you guys turning out??

Until this season, the dairy produced only raw milk cheeses. By law, these have to be aged at least 60 days, so that limited the types they could make. They made several pressed natural rind cheeses as well as feta, which is aged in a saltwater brine. But over the winter they got a fancy new pasteurizing vat so now they’re also making chevre, yogurt cheese (drained yogurt), frozen yogurt, and some other pressed cheeses that don’t age as long. They’re having fun experimenting with all of these new cheeses that don’t take as long to make. They started the farm thinking they’d be going after an upscale gourmet market, but they’ve found that people are most excited about local, handmade, organic versions of products they already recognize and use.

 

what’s your favorite product??

I like the Cynthian cheese the best. It’s one of the raw milk cheeses, a small little round, and it’s got herbs mixed in, which isn’t usually something that appeals to me. But it’s DELICIOUS.

 

what’s a “typical” day look like for you? 

The goats are milked twice a day, at about 6 am and 4 pm. After morning milking and before evening milking, we distribute about 150 pounds of organic alfalfa hay to the goats and they munch. They also have a “goat mountain” to play on, access to a gigantic pasture at all times (though they really mostly like to go down there when a human accompanies them), and a big roof to hang out under in the rain (they HATE rain).

This season, I’m doing morning milkings Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, while the farm owners sell their products at various farmers’ markets. I’ll also likely start doing some work in the cheese kitchen a bit later in the season, helping with packaging and other tasks.

Work starts with sanitizing all of the milking equipment. The milking stand fits 8 goats, and we use two buckets which each have two sets of the things that suck the milk out, which are called inflations. Each goat is assigned to a group. They get some grain a little snack, pellets made of peas, goat nutritional yeast, vitamins and minerals in their bucket. When they’re all settled in, their teats are washed with a spray bottle filled with water, soap and tea tree oil, dried with a fresh paper towel, and then we squeeze a few squirts of milk out into the paper towel, because that’s where a lot of bacteria and dried milk can be, so it’s best to dispose it. You can also sometimes catch problems going on in their udders because something other than regular white milk will come out. After cleaning, they’re milked, then their teats are sprayed with an iodine solution to prevent mastitis and other udder problems, and they’re led out so that the next group can come in. In between each group, the milk is dumped from the buckets through a giant strainer in case any tiny bits of dirt or pieces of hair found their way into the milk, into the big chill tank. After milking, we wash and re-sanitize all of the equipment and put it up to dry.

 

we all know that goat products are the best, but in your  vast professional experience why would you say they’re the best?

Because goat’s milk is easier for some people to digest than cow’s milk, things made with it are delicious and it’s Food with Personality! It’s that last one that I like the best. I wanted to work at this farm because of words like “local” and “organic” and “grass-fed” and all that, but the most enjoyable part is getting to know the goofy little beasts that make it happen. They each have their own personalities, and their dynamics within the herd are insane.

 

best/worst parts of your job?

Best: Getting to hang out with goats all of the time, being encouraged to pet them as much as I can, and getting paid for it. Also, having front row access to baby goats in the spring makes me squeal with joy.

Worst: The washing! The whole process of cheesemaking, from goat to packaging requires lots and lots of washing, and constant awareness of when the last time you sanitized your hands was, whether there’s any manure on your feet, and on and on.

 

shameless plug of course…where might one be able to procure some of your goods?

Products are available on the farm in Dallas, at the Salem Wednesday, Beaverton Saturday, Montavilla (Portland) Sunday markets, at some Roth’s, some New Seasons, and a few other places. Probably easier just to look here: fairviewfarmdairy.com

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