If you've been following along here with Frugal Foodie, you know I am really struggling with eating anything from factory farm, big AG or an unknown source. Call me crazy but I just don't want to support or eat stuff that is riddled with dangerous chemicals, narcotics, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, suffering, stress and pain. It's wrong for food to be produced that way.
So, I'm going the extra mile to KNOW MY FARMER.
Of course, since I'm not growing my own food and live in a big city, it's difficult to do this with every single thing I put in my mouth. But, I am trying for as much as I can. And, again, I do NOT beat myself up on the occasions when I can't accomplish this but strive to be aware of as much as possible. Which is one of the main reasons I cook most of my own food.
ANYHOO. My dairy debate. I'd like only clean, kind. So, my cheese intake has dropped.
Latte Da Dairy sells cheese at the White Rock Local Market and I had chatted up the vendor.
Sue told me the goats are very loved. And that milking goats don't have to be repeatedly inseminated and continually give birth to keep their milk production going. They just keeping producing milk. That's not completely true but close.
I contacted the owner of the farm, Anne, who was nice enough to let me come out for a visit to see how things are done. "We usually milk them at 5:30am but Friday I am doing it at 7am. Come then!"
(Whew - thank god it wasn't 5:30am, their farm is an hour away from me...)
Arriving at 7am, the sun was just starting to rise. Anne's husband, Johnny, greeted me at the gate after giving one of the goat guard dogs a treat. There are two gentle, devoted, sweet guard dogs on the property that hang out with the goats day and night. The dogs keep the goats safe from predators such as coyotes and bobcats. When coyotes howl, the dogs howl back. Anne told me when there is a nearby threat, the goats all gather behind a dog knowing they are safe with the pup between them and the predator.
The farm is pristine with a big, beautiful, yellow house complete an ideal wrap around porch + picket fence.
The goats are extremely friendly - Anne has raised them all from birth so they have no fear of humans. If you look or coo in their direction, all run to the fence for love and chit chat. I was warned the males were currently spraying themselves with their own urine to attract some of the females in heat. "Beware when petting them." But oh! those big eyes and begging for attention, I coudn't help it. THOSE DUDES WERE SUPER STINKY. Nothing a little soap + water couldn't take care of, though.
Anne was just beginning the milking process when I walked into the barn. She started her farm with hand milking. Eventually, that was too physically taxing (carpal tunnel!) and there were too many goats so she had a milking system built in the barn. When I arrived she was putting together valves and connectors which are thoroughly cleaned every day. Then the system is flushed.
The goats that are currently milking all hang out in one area together. She calls in 6 of them and they gather in a holding area. Then another gate is opened and, impressively, one by one they walk right up a little ramp and go to the furthest open slot with a feedbag in front (Ah! Breakfast motivation!). Encouragement is barely needed. They've got the routine down.
While they munch, Anne wipes down each's very full udder with an antibacterial solution then attaches tubes to udders - there are 3 tube sets so she goes down the line. Wipe, attach. First one done, next guy in line, etc. The goats completely trusted, never flinched and showed absolutely no sign of discomfort or unwillingness - they need to be milked. When an udder was deflated, Anne pulled off the suction tubes, did the last few squirts by hand then moved on to the next. When all 6 in a batch were done - the goats just marched right back down the ramp.
There is a whole system of tubes set up that feed into a big milk vat in the other room. Some of the milk is fed to the baby goats and the adults.
The rest is pasteruized (at a low level) in a pasteurization machine right there in the barn. Later, Anne gets to making her cheese with it.
Anne loves making cheese. She got into the craft because...she is super into artisan cheeses!
This is one smart and accomplished woman. She was a veterinarian then worked in corporate big pharma as a Director of Research and Development (she has an MBA). Now she and her husband own, breed and show goats and sell Anne's award-winning cheeses. Pretty great life.
They love and care for these animals at such a high level - I don't know how it could be improved upon. The goats are all exceedingly happy and healthy. Anne breeds them every two or three years because she doesn't want to wear on the animals. "Some people think heartier and more milk is produced if you breed them constantly but I don't think that's best for the animals."
She knows where each of her bred goats goes and doesn't like to send them alone, ideally, so they have a buddy they know with them. Every goat has a name (and the goats know their names!) and is treated with respect and love. A favorite moment was as I was hanging out at the babies yard and one particular young goat was standing up on the fence facing away from the others, very clearly bleating to Johnny who was pushing a cart in the distance. "Bleat! Bleat! Bleat! Hi! How's it going?! Bleat!" He put down his cart and came over to pet her and the goat...the goat was happy.
This is the kind of food I want to eat.
The cheese is delicious and I can feel good knowing the source standard is devotion, safety and health.
LATTE DA DAIRY.
Setting the Standard.