(Fairy Mountain Farms at the Ridgecrest Farmer's Market)
The reception for our new goat milk lotions and soaps has been so exciting for us!
It is such a pleasure to have already heard directly from many of you that the exceptional milk from our goats is allowing us to create remarkable lotion and soaps. One of the most important things that we have already learned is that we really need your feedback and suggestions so that we can make products that you would most enjoy.
We've very busy creating lotion and soap, preparing for our 2016 schedule of Farmer's Markets and events. We look forward to seeing you there and also hope that you will find our online store here to be a convenient alternative.
(Fairy Mountain Farms at the Owens Valley Growers Co-Op Market)
If you have purchased our goat milk lotions or soaps, we would greatly appreciate it if you would comment on this post and give us your feedback.
Also, we encourage anyone that has visited with us at a venue or on our website to please do the same for any suggestions for new lotions or soaps, or other goat milk skin care products.
We are really looking forward to hearing your feedback!
In the Spring of 2013 we moved back to the farm fulltime, and we added 16 chickens (egg layers, not for meat) to the farm and began selling fresh farm eggs to local customers. At that time, the farm was still primarily an orchard that we were planning to expand by adding aquaponics - to produce fresh off-season fruits and vegetables in our greenhouse and raise fish (for meat sales). Our intention in moving back to the farm fulltime was to focus our efforts on local farm-to-table production.
Debbie had been wanting to have chickens for years, but I wasn't on-board. Once we did add the chickens, I was quite surprised ... they were interesting, low maintenance, and extremely reliable ... every day, right on schedule, they all layed eggs ...
These 16 chickens are pretty good little employees. Without direct supervision, they do exactly what they are supposed to do every day.
This small venture peaked my interest in animals as producers, because it was immediately obvious to me that there was no comparison in 'return-on-investment' (time, effort, expenses, and loss risks) when compared with fruits and vegetables. One had to spend a lot of time and labor in raising vegetables just to equal the net from selling farm fresh eggs from 16 chickens that are on autopilot laying eggs every day.
So, the stage was set for a transformation ... about a year later ...
In the Fall of 2014, after I had watched a documentary about the groundswell of farmstead markets around the country - in particular the successes of micro breweries, vineyards, and dairies - we began discussing how converting the farm and retail store building to a goat creamery and store could be an excellent fit for both our family and the local market.
Again, much like the chickens, Debbie had been wanting to have dairy goats for years and I wasn't on-board. But, as I learned about the goat creamery business and it seemed that it could be a really good fit for our family and the farm that we already owned, the discussions about starting a goat creamery slowly changed from noodling to actual business planning.
Still, this was all something of an abstraction for me ... until the lightbulb moment ... our visit to the LaClare Family Farm! That was a seminal moment for us, where it became crystal clear what we wanted to do.
In March, 2015 Debbie and I were in Milwaukee for a conference, and we decided to take an afternoon to tour Southern Wisconsin farm country - which Debbie had never seen (California girl).
Knowing that Wisconsin is the largest producer of goat cheese, on a lark we decided to find a goat creamery to visit. Fortunately for us, when you search that in Google, La Clare Farms is high on the first page. We discovered that we would get there just in time to view a milking.
Since this was an unplanned trip, we had not done any background research on La Clare Farms and we had no expectations. As a result, it was a wonderful surprise to find that this was a model goat creamery and store - which gave us a first-hand look at how it can done at the highest level of quality in all respects. The viewing area for the milk parlor, the store, and the cafe were all superlative.
If you have never watched large scale goat milking, this alone is worth the trip. As I was to later learn first-hand, goats are smart, quirky, opinionated, and routine-oriented. As a result, large scale milking is part routine and part chaos. As I look back on this now, I can't begin to imagine dealing with this many goats milking at once! We were both very impressed by the impact that having a viewing area and arranging a schedule for customers to be able to watch milking could have on understanding exactly what goes into making the food that you eat.
After viewing the milking, we went to the cafe for lunch. We started with a sampler cheese board, and then had sandwiches.
This cheese board was the first time that we realized that it was possible for goat cheese to actually be superior to cow cheese. We decided during this lunch that this was a goal for our new creamery, we were going to make goat cheese that not only didn't taste 'goaty', but was truly exceptional ... like they make there at La Clare.
Then, the lunch was just as good. It was served by their Cordon Bleu trained chef, who explained the source of each ingredient in our lunch in detail (all local, farm-to-table). The cafe was large enough to accomodate large gatherings, and it is tastefully simple - and, like all things dairy - almost obsessively clean. While we enjoyed their cafe immensely, that is a whole business unto itself and not part of our plan.
Then, we went into the retail store to stock up on some cheeses to take with us.
Knowing now what it takes to consistently produce a single cheese, the breadth of products in their retail store is mind-boggling to me.
They have a wide array of fresh and aged cheeses, fresh milk, gift baskets, pairings, candy, soaps, and probably lots of other cool stuff that I just didn't notice.
This retail store is a great model for us, minus the milk ... since our plans don't include selling milk.
Since this trip, we've visited other goat dairies here in California - which are also very impressive (more to come later on those trips). But, this visit to La Care Farms was certainly formative for us. On the drive back, and on the flight home, and over the many ensuing months - their creamery and store is a constant reference for our planning and inspiration in general.
If you have an opportunity to visit, take the time - you won't be disappointed.