Grade A Goat Dairy Farm Walk: From Pasture to Product
On a hot, sunny day 38 people gathered at the base of Tower Mountain, just south of suburban Spokane, to listen to Lorie Arnold tell the story of Heron Pond Farm. She described how she and her partners got started on the 20 acres they operate: the land that is home to them and the goats and pigs she raises. A Cultivating Success course taught by Pat Munts of Spokane Extension and the WSU Small Farms Team was pivotal in her and her partner Shannon’s zeroing in on goats and hogs as the most feasible agricultural endeavor. They ultimately obtained their Dairy license in 2010. During the Cultivating Success class, Lorie met Jennifer Hall, then manager of the Main Market in Spokane, who became an advocate and connector for them to get into stores, restaurants, and meet chefs to advance sales of the cheeses that Lorie makes.
Lorie shared her philosophy about caring for the goats, which starts at birth when she begins feeding them right away. Her goal is get the kids comfortable with her early on since she’ll be handling them all their lives. When all the babies are born in a short timeframe Lorie will be busy with feeding cycles and care. This is part of the reason why she permitted the Dairy for 16 goats, since she can handle that size operation by herself.
The goat care discussion continued in the milking room where Lorie explained her preparation procedures for the goats before milking. We learned about her handling procedures for the milk before cheese making, including her cooling and pasteurization methods. The farm walk also included the cheese room and cheese aging area. Outside, we viewed the hog pen and the large area where the goats spend the majority of their time. The group enjoyed seeing the floppy eared goats and young kids, though the herd preferred to keep cool in the shade of the barn when we weren’t nearby.
Pat Munts discussed pasture management and soil analysis, encouraging growers to take a soil test before doing any restoration or other work. She explained that pasture health is a combination of factors, starting with the soil, and affected by rainfall and moisture content. Jim Reiha, the WSDA regional food safety officer, shared information about safety requirements and paperwork. Jennifer Hall spoke about making connections with restaurants, and focused on building relationships that are mutually beneficial. There were several chefs in attendance and they spoke about their relationship with Lorie and how they use her cheese in their products.
In the shade of the barn we feasted upon a variety of Lorie’s delicious cheeses, tasting several varieties of both soft and aged cheeses including Gouda, beer soaked cheddar, Tower, and flavored chevre. The beautiful array of cheese pyramids was very impressive.
Farm Walk Booklet: HERE