For about two years I've been tossing around the idea of a sheep and goat dairy. As someone who cannot tolerate cow's milk (I have a casein allergy) goat's milk is the only way I get to enjoy dairy products. Every time we go into a grocery store I'm completely shocked at the lack of goat and sheep milk options. Gizmo is now eating solid foods and I'd love to be able to buy yogurt for her in a pinch but it's all so laden with sugars I'm not comfortable giving it to her. There is a void in our market. On top of that, it seems like our pork customers are always asking us if they can buy goat milk (we've always maintained a small herd for our personal use).
And of course, selfishly, we love goats.
Like, LOVE GOATS.
So slowly we've been working towards the goal of starting a dairy, with a plan to open in about two years. We bought two sweet bucklings with the thought that one day they would be our dairy bucks. I started researching the application process with the state of Washington. We decided that we'd start small, as a raw milk dairy and then later, expand to fluid milk and drinkable yogurt. We are usually so close lipped about projects until they're just about to happen...I have a big fear of jinxing things. But I posted a few pictures on Facebook and actually typed the words "dairy" out loud.
And then something happened. Fairview Farm Goat Dairy in Dallas, Oregon put out word that they were retiring. and selling everything. They emailed us their price sheet and we opened it.
And then we closed it.
We were in complete and total sticker shock. We knew that starting a dairy was going to be expensive (shoot, that's why we had given ourselves two years to make ours happen) but we just didn't know they were THAT expensive.
Then I wrote my best farm friend Jenna, at Bee Tree Farm, who incidentally, is living a parallel life to me. She and her husband are also staring a dairy in Austin, Texas. In fact, they're breaking ground this month. I forwarded the email to Jenna and she snapped me right out of my sticker shock. Here's what she said:
i am looking for 2 of the 3 things in that email
you are so effing lucky
i hate you, also, just to be clear
And that's when we knew. SHIT. If we're going to do this. We need to do this.
We've been saving for awhile to make some big improvements on the farm. It was a good chunk of change, one that we talked about using almost on a daily basis. And yet we could never really spend it.
Thank goodness we didn't.
Because four days after receiving the email with the price list of dairy equipment I picked up a cashier's check from my bank with a very large number on it (my hands were literally shaking), handed it to a wonderfully patient (we had a lot of questions) 70 year old (now) retired dairy farmer (who doesn't look a day over 50), and traded for some very shiny equipment and a herd of goats.
Poof! Instant Dairy.
Of course, this is just the beginning.
Owning all the equipment is one thing. Getting licensed as a Grade A Dairy to sell fluid milk, drinkable yogurt and cheese, that's another.
Our Dairy Inspector is coming out this Thursday to review our dairy plans and then shortly thereafter we're breaking ground.
Until then, we're going to have A LOT of milk for our personal use. Like 30 gallons a day. You know what that means right? Happy happy piggies. This fall's pork harvest will be EXCEPTIONALLY moist.
And I'm going to get really really good at making cheese.