If you like cheese and haven’t tried
goat cheese – you are in for a treat.
What would make a classically, French-trained master chef leave a lucrative profession to get up before daylight and milk a herd of dairy goats?
"Simply the love of the land, a return to my farming heritage and a job I can spend more time with my family," answered Aric Adams of AA Farms Creamery.
Adams and his wife, Donna, actually got into the goat dairy business by accident.
"We bought some acreage that had basically just grown up in weeds and underbrush. I bought a few brush goats and was amazed at what a good job they did cleaning up the land. I then began thinking how I could make a living off of my place. I didn’t think I had enough land to make a living raising meat goats, nor did the idea of running a slaughterhouse and selling goat meat appeal to me. That’s when I hit on the idea of starting a goat cheese operation," Adams recalled.
"Since I was a trained chef and knew the advantages of goat cheese in preparing delicious dishes, I just incorporated my knowledge of cooking with goat cheeses into the goat creamery business."
Many of the favorite French cheeses used in cooking are goat milk cheeses. According to Adams, goat milk is easier on the digestive system than cow’s milk, has a few more trace minerals and a little less cholesterol than cow’s milk. It also appeals to a lot of people who are looking for a gourmet-type cheese. Goat cheese has a slightly fuller flavor, also.
Demand of goat cheese has forced Adams to increase his herd.
"You don’t just run out and buy a quality milk goat. We are saving some doelings for milkers and plan to expand our herd to around 30 goats. We selected the Toggenburg breed for our operation. This breed is a Swiss dairy breed from the Toggenburg Valley in Switzerland. Toggenburgs are known for their hardiness. They are similar to the Brahma cow breed when it comes to being a hardy survivor and they yield excellent quality milk," Adams said.
Maintaining a healthy herd of milk goats has its challenges just as with raising any other animals. Parasites are sometimes a problem in dairy goats, but, with good management and sanitation, they can be held to a minimum.
"When we have to, we treat for parasites; but the key is prevention. Predation from foxes, coyotes, dogs and even large hawks or owls can be a problem with newborn kids. We have a large Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd-cross guard dog named Rocky who stays with our goats. It just doesn’t pay to try to bother one of the goats he is guarding," Adams laughed.
Proper feeding is another requisite for producing quality goat cheese.
"They are all grass fed. Our milk goats graze on Bermuda, Bahia and mixed grasses. Clover is grazed in the spring and alfalfa pellets are fed in the milking room. No corn is fed to the goats. We buy our seed and fertilizer and other supplies at Elmore County Exchange in Wetumpka," Adams said.
Like any business, Adams has had a few bumps in the road. Goat cheese demand is not the greatest in Elmore County.
"We have found a lot of people who have lived in areas where goat cheese is popular seek us out. There is just an inherent reluctance to try goat cheese, but, once someone does, I usually have a repeat customer. We have a lot of customers in the military who have been stationed in countries where goat cheese is a delicacy. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they were glad to find somewhere they can once again buy fresh goat cheese. I go to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa twice a week and sell all the cheese I have at the local farmers market.
"The Alabama Farmers Market Authority runs these markets. The products sold at these markets must be produced by the seller," Adams said.
According to Adams, many of his customers use goat cheese almost exclusively.
"Many like it on their salads, bagels in the morning, pasta dishes or stuff it into a chicken breast before grilling. Goat cheese also enhances the taste of venison tenderloin when it is stuffed into the tenderloin and wrapped in bacon. One can do anything with goat cheese you can do with cow cheese and many prefer the goat cheese," Adams explained.
Like any dairyman, Adams is up early in the morning milking and milks again late in the evening. Donna and son Auguste help with the milking, feeding, fence repair and other chores when time permits. Milking is done with a converted dairy cow milker that milks two goats at a time. At present, AA Farm Creamery concentrates on producing goat cheese, but has plans to expand into producing goat yogurt and maybe bottled goat milk.
"We are permitted by the State Health Department and are inspected regularly," Adams said.
AA Farm Creamery produces several varieties of goat cheese.
"Our fresh cheeses are extremely soft and creamy with a spreadable consistency. The fresh-aged cheeses tend to be a little drier with a slightly sharper flavor. We do a surface-mold ripening where a natural mold forms a wrapper, or natural rind around the cheese contributing to the flavor of the cheese," Adams remarked.
A tour through the Adams’ AA Farm Creamery gives one the feeling you are living in a simpler time when a family made their living off the land and their livestock. While the milking and pasteurization machines may be modern, other aspects of Adams’ operation is much the same as one would find on a dairy farm decades ago. A lot of soap, water and elbow grease keep the dairy sanitary, and a lot of love for the goats, the land and a simpler way of life keeps the Adams family happy.
Contact AA Farm Creamery at (334) 730-3471 or www.aafarm.webs.com to try some of their delicious goat cheese products.
Ben Norman is a writer from Highland Home.