A few weeks ago, a friend invited us on a farm tour being sponsored by Slow Food Boston. The destination was Valley View Farm, a goat farm and producer of farmstead cheese in Topsfield, Massachusetts.
In the interest of cheese-making research and a purely incidental love of goat cheese, we accepted the invitation!
Peter and Elizabeth Mulholland fell into cheese-making rather accidentally, starting with a few pregnant goats and an abundance of milk. Ten years later, they still consider themselves cheese-making hobbyists--despite maintaining a herd of around 30 goats, converting half the barn into a creamery, and being the only cheese producer in Essex County.
Here's a look at the farming side of their set-up. We'll have a peek at the creamery in Part II!
Here we're descending into the barn's upper level, which stores hay and farm equipment. The barn is set right into the hillside with easy access to both the upper and lower levels.
This is peaking down at the goats, which are sheltered below the hay barn. This kind of split-level barn a typical set up for New England farms. It takes advantage of the hilly countryside and provides a naturally-insulated shelter for animals on the lower level.
In the lower-level milking area, goats are led onto platforms and secured for milking. They produce about a gallon of milk a day when lactating, and at Valley View, the goats are all hand-milked. The butterfat content of goat's milk is about equal to that of Jersey cows, but the milk tends to be sweeter.
Next up is processing the raw milk into cheese form. Stay tuned!
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)