We're building a goat dairy!

While I'm sure you know that we operate a raw goat milk herdshare program, and we raise the young goats here on the farm to harvest for meat, it's not legal to sell milk or cheese unless you are a dairy licensed by the state.

We love the raw milk herdshare program, and we will continue to serve our herdshare customers fresh raw milk each week. However, with summer comes lots of extra milk, more than our herdshare members can possibly drink. We love to make goat cheese, or chevre, but in order to sell it, we need the dairy.

The state regulation sets a very high bar - there are guidelines for how the goats are housed and managed, how they are milked, how the milk is cooled and the equipment cleaned, what kinds of sinks we need, and on and on. I have spent the past two years reviewing, highlighting and taking notes on a 420 page federal regulation book called the 'Pasteurized Milk Ordinance', or PMO for short.

I visited 4 other dairies of various sizes to figure out how we wanted to run our operation, and we began construction over Thanksgiving week in 2018. So far, the barn and processing room structures have been completed, and the goats have moved in and are thrilled with their bigger, neater digs. We will be spending the next 6 months finishing the milking and processing rooms out to the state and federal specifications so that we can confidently produce cheese in a sanitary manner.

The floorplan for the goat dairy
dairy floorplan

Besides the goat housing, we are finishing up a new milking parlor - very efficient with the goats coming in one door and out another to control flow. Once the milk is collected, we take it to another room - the milkroom - to cool down and to wash all of the milking buckets and lines. Finally, to make cheese, the milk is transferred to the third room - the cheeseroom, where it will be pasteurized, innoculated with the bacteria needed to produce curds, hung to separate the curds and whey, and salted, flavored and packaged up.

As long as construction proceeds and meets our schedule, we will be selling our chevre starting in March or early April 2020! It will be available for our delivery route, in our farm store, the West Point and one more Farmer's Market (TBD), and at local stores and wineries.

As far as I have researched, Bees Knees will be the only goat dairy in operation east of I-95, as our two well-loved goat dairies, Lover's Retreat in Saluda, and Sullivan's Pond Farm in the Middle Peninsula both ceased operations at the end of 2018.

We're so very excited about this new venture, and being able to share our amazing cheese with our area! I will be sure to update you about our progress and share on social media in the future!

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