June 7th, 2006
Name: Goat Lady Dairy
Owners: Ginnie, Steve, Lee and Norma Tate
Location: Climax, North Carolina
Animals: Approximately 75 goats; Nubians, Saanens, and French-Alpine
Cheeses/Products: Spreadable Fromage (in nine flavors), Chevre Logs, Feta, Smokey Mountain Round, Marinated Chevre, Chevre Camembert, Crottin, Sandy Creek, Providence, Gray’s Chapel, Goat Lady Gouda. Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles (only during Holidays)
More info: www.goatladydairy.com
Holistic. This is the word that comes to mind when I think about Goat Lady Dairy. The farm came together organically, beginning with Ginnie Tate’s move to Climax, North Carolina. She bought an abandoned tobacco farm that had a dilapitated log home on it and began the process of restoring it to prime condition. Along the way she took on a couple goats and earned the nickname “the goat lady” with locals in town, some of whom she hired to help restore her home. The other members of the Tate family came later on; Steve Tate and his family enjoyed the visits they made to Climax in the summer months but it wasn’t until years later that they thought about moving there and developing the farm with Ginnie. Steve and his wife Lee were living in Minnesota when they became involved in a CSA (community supported agriculture). As they became more actively involved in their CSA, they began to do work for local groups focused on farmland preservation.
Years into this it occured to Steve and Lee that maybe the best thing they could do in addition to preserving farmland would be to create an active farm themselves. They began to discuss the possibility with Ginnie originally thinking they would grow organic vegetables and create a CSA themselves. The three of them considered many business plans and thought about their respective interests and talents before settling on a plan that diversified their income streams. Organic vegetables, cheese, and hospitality were the areas they decided to start with and they figured they would see which ones were more successful. Little did they know that those three areas would work so beautifully together largely due to their wonderful creation called Dinner at the Dairy. People pay a fixed price to come to the dairy for a five course meal composed of foods from their farm, other local farms and of course some of their acclaimed hand made cheeses. Guests also get a tour of the farm and can watch the goats being milk through a window in the side of the milking parlor. The dinners sell out minutes after the schedule is posted on the Goat Lady website.
Roles have shifted over the years and Ginnie and Steve’s mother Norma has joined them but their overall mission to create a sustainable farm committed to education has only grown stronger.
The day that we visited Goat Lady Dairy there was a lot going on…even more than usual. A class of fourth graders from the local elementary school was being taken on tour by Ginnie while Steve and his partner in cheesemaking, Carrie, were making more cheese than they have ever made in one day. Steve had attended a Slow Food event the day prior so he had to do a bit of catch up and make three batches of cheese instead of the usual two. Regardless of the extra activity, Steve greeted us, suited us up in hair nets and booties and invited us into the cheese room. By the time we arrived at the dairy they had already made a batch of fresh chevre and molded chevre from a previous day into logs. Carrie was working on various flavors of spreadable fromage, largely preparing stock for the farmers’ markets they would attend that week.
Steve and his niece Jessie, who is doing a year-long internship on the farm, were focused on a batch of goat milk Gouda. As he pressed the cut and cooked curds together the fourth graders huddled up around the viewing window along the side of the cheese room. Once the curds were cut into blocks and loaded into the hoops, Steve and Jessie put the wall-mounted press together and set the freshly packed Goudas in position under the press. Just in time to begin scooping the soft curd that had been cultured, set and cut by Carrie in the vat pasteurizer. The curd was scooped into small molds and left to drain for a couple hours. This soft curd would become a crottin size cheese called Sandy Creek with a line of ash through the center.
At this point the lunch “whistle” blew and everyone migrated into the large square table in the dairy kitchen for lunch. Of course lunch was made from foods on the farm. During lunch we got to meet Brian Farlow, the most recent addition to the farm. He grew up on a farm in Climax and after a few years working after graduating college he wanted to return to farming . He now works as the farm manager, assisting with all aspects of the farm: the garden, the pigs that they raise, support for Lee who manages the herd, and maintenance of farm equipment.
Once the cheesemaking obligations were near finished, Steve gave us the full tour of the farm. We walked out to one of their pastures to bring the goats in for milking. The herd is gorgeous- they are milking approximately 60 does- Saanens, Nubians, and French-Alpines. Lee is the herd manager; she does everything from milking to hoof trimming. Michael and I hung out with the goats in the “waiting room”, the pen where they wait for their turn in the milking parlor. We stayed in until they began to get a little…friendly with us and then Steve walked us down to see the pigs they are raising (whey fed, of course). Last but not least we strolled through the garden which is absolutely stunning. It is tended daily by Norma, Steve and Ginnie’s mother, and gets a bit of additional care from some volunteers who work the garden in exchange for an education about organic farming.
Steve sent us off with a wide variety of their cheeses…YUM…and we drove away crossing our fingers that we will be quick enough online to get into a Dinner at the Dairy in 2007!
(the black is ash)