Over the past few months we’ve been so busy planning our own adventure that we haven’t had the time to sneak away for any farm visits. Fortunately, last Saturday we had the opportunity to visit Dan and Talitha at Edgwick Farm about an hour north of NYC. Dan and Talitha worked through the farm start-up process for the past five years and are now producing some fantastic goat’s milk cheeses out of a beautiful new micro-creamery. We were lucky enough to join them for a full day of milking, feeding and cheesemaking.
When I say “full day” I literally mean full day. It was a 21 hour day for us at the end of it, but we were so excited by all the learning and new ideas that came from the trip I think we could’ve kept right on going. We woke at 3:30am, headed to the Zipcar lot and drove out of the city around 4:30am. We arrived at Edgwick around 6am, just in time for bottle feeding the goat kids. Over the past year we’ve visited a number of dairy goat operations, but this was our first experience in the middle of kidding season. We missed witnessing a birth by a day, but we were still able to bottle-feed the kids and partake in their cuteness. When let out of their sheltered area, they raced each other up and down the hill, jumping and flipping their tiny legs out to the side! It was also good to see how the does acted after kidding and what the recovery was like. We preg-checked the does and Talitha explained her approach to caring for the ladies before and after kidding.
Across the course of the day we participated in the morning milking and cleaning, draining fresh cheese, molding and packaging their delicious Marinated Canterbury chevre, and visiting with customers during the farms opening hours. At the end of the day we fed and milked again and finished with a final clean-up. Through every step Dan and Talitha graciously walked us through the motions, letting us try our hand at just about everything. One of the most helpful parts for us was going through two milkings with a bucket milker. We’d never used one before, let alone taken one apart to clean, and after squinting at pictures of them in books and blog posts, it was a great feeling get in there for some real hands-on learning! We’re still debating whether a bucket system or a pipeline system is best for us, so having used both we’re now much better able to visualize the pros and cons of each.
Another incredibly helpful part of our visit was having the chance to see and work in Edgwick’s goat housing. They use a “Moo-tel”, which is basically a glorified hoop-house. We are considering using a Moo-tel as well, so it was a fortunate coincidence to see one in action. It’s not easy to visualize that amount of space (26’ x 48’) and it’s even harder to think about what it will look like full of goats. Seeing the changes they had made to the design (adding extra ventilation, etc.) was also very helpful.
After we wrapped up the day we chatted a for a few hours about just what kind of mess we’re getting ourselves into. It was so nice to share some time with people as passionate and excited about farming and cheesemaking as Talitha and Dan before heading South to start our own venture in just two weeks. They were full of practical advice, encouragement, and hilarious stories - it was just what the doctor ordered to help calm our “standing on the edge of the cliff” jitters.
We’re sad that is was the last of our “farm hops” in the northeast, but it couldn’t have ended on a better note. Thanks Edgwick!