In Maine, ahead of the herd
Q. Were you a fan of goat milk and cheese before you bought your first dairy goat or was it an acquired taste?
A. I was not a fan of goat milk but my husband was, and I quickly acquired the taste for it, and it’s delicious. Seven years ago [I got our first dairy goat] and now we have 20, which isn’t a huge herd. But we milk by hand, we make a lot of cheese, we sell goat milk, and I sell goat milk soap. [The first thing I made from the milk] was probably chevre, which is a soft goat cheese.
Q. Was it difficult to make?
A. I can remember my first batch was pretty soupy. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I did another batch and it came out good, and after that it’s just practice. You might have a batch that’s a little stiff or dry, and you’ve got to think back, OK, what did I do different from the batch that turned out good? It doesn’t take long. Three or four batches and you’ve got it.
Q. Being that your farm is located in central Maine, where goats are scarce, are people there unfamiliar with goat milk and cheese?
A. A lot of people have never heard of goat cheese here. At the farmers’ markets, I set out samples and I try to - I don’t want to say “coerce’’ - but I try to coerce people into trying it, and most people who try it are like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know it tasted this good.’’
Q. What’s your favorite recipe in the book?
A. My grandmother’s whoopie pie recipe. The filling and the chocolate part of it is made with goat buttermilk, and I have the recipe in [the book] to make goat buttermilk. Regular whoopie pies have a lot of shortening in the filling, and mine doesn’t. The richness comes from that buttermilk, and buttermilk has a bit of a tang to it. So it’s really good.
Q. It’s tough to raise goats in colder climates like that of New England, yet the Northeast is actually the largest consumer market for goat meat, according to the book. Are more people raising meat goats to meet the demand?
A. No, just because of the expense involved in raising them. In Boston, you probably could get a really good price for goat meat, but up here in Maine, you can only sell things for what the market will bear. What has happened to us is a lot of doctors up in our area are of different ethnicities and a doctor from India doesn’t think anything of saying to his heart patient, “You know, you need to eat goat because goat is very low on cholesterol and if you’re looking for a red meat, you can substitute goat in your diet.’’ So of course the person starts looking for goat and it’s impossible to find. But there’s less cholesterol in goat meat than there is in turkey.
Q. So what draws people to goat ownership?
A. Probably the goats’ personalities. Goats are inquisitive, intelligent, they’re a lot of fun to be around. They’re all a little bit different. They’re very smart, way smarter than what you think. You have to be careful that you’ve closed things behind you and double-latched and locked. They’re very nimble and can get doors open; they can unlock locks. They can turn light switches on and off. But they all know - for instance, we have dairy goats now - they all know which order they’re supposed to come into the milking room, which stand they get milked on. And of course, the babies are just as cute as all get-out.
Interview had been edited and condensed. Glenn Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.