Tucked away about 50 miles north of San Francisco is the goat farm and creamery of Redwood Hill Farm – the first goat dairy in the US to be Certified Humane Raised and Handled. This family-run operation has been at it since 1968, when the Bice family moved to Sonoma County and the children were given goats as pets. They started selling raw goat’s milk as 4H’ers. Forty-five years later, there are now 62 employees at Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery (one of whom is their very first employee whose been there for 32 years!)
Jennifer took over the family farm in the late 1970’s and five of the ten siblings have a hand in the daily operation (sales, graphic design, farm, etc.). The current location of Redwood Hill was purchased in 2002 and is a beautiful 10-acre property (plus a newly purchased 10 aditional neighboring acres full of apple orchards, olive trees and more) where the family goats are cared for and milked. Jennifer currently shares the farm with approximately 300 Nubian, French Alpine, LaMancha, and Saanen Does that come and go as they please in the large yards and barns dotting the property. When older goats ‘retire’ from the milking line, they live out their days lazing around the farm.
My family visited over the summer and my daughter fell in love with all the goats and they with her! They were so friendly and adorable, we wanted to take one home. Of course 300 goats are not enough to fulfill the amazing growth of Redwood Hill Farms products, so there are an additional 5-6 local farms that contribute their goat’s milk, all of which have also been Certified Humane. For detailed information on their organic and natural approach to farming, visit here.
The goats are all milked on site twice a day and the milk stored in the milking room until the trucks come to take it to the creamery. This barn (photo below) is next to the milking room, so it’s just a short walk for the goats, who are all known by name to Jennifer, her brother Scott (who is the farm manager and also lives on the property), and the staff.
What impressed me almost as much as the care of the goats was learning that, with 2,548 panels, the farm and creamery are 100% solar! This just made me love and want to support this farm even more. Between the stewardship of their animals, their environmental practices, the employees that are like extended family… and that they are running this company successfully should be a wake up call that a sustainable business model can still be profitable.
I’m sorry, but I think this little gal could have easily fit in my camera bag to take home…
Just down the road three miles is the creamery…
I was pretty excited about this tour for a few reasons. My daughter has a sensitivity to lactose and goat’s milk is naturally low in it. And the other reason is that I love goat’s cheese. Jennifer was kind enough to give us a tour herself and, the day we visited, they were just starting a batch of Chèvre. I also got to see Camellia and Cameo at different stages of production.
Here, enzymes are being added to the milk, which helps the proteins bind together to form a curd. We were too early in the process that day to see the final curds and whey, but it was still fascinating to see as much as we did. As a side note (and yet another ‘this company is awesome!’ moment), the whey is siphoned out and given to a local farmer who uses it to feed his pigs. The container in the picture on the right has 900 gallons of goat’s milk run through it May to September and is used for Chèvre.
After the curd is molded and drained of whey, it is brined and then the cheeses are brought to the drying room for 1-3 days. Next, it’s on to the aging room for approximately two weeks. It’s here where the fuzzy mold starts forming on the surface after six days. And at the two week mark, this Camellia is packed and held until shipped.
Here, their Cameo (a Camembert-style cheese) is topped with fresh lemon verbena and peppercorns (and rosemary in the winter). This would make a lovely hostess gift (but I would probably eat it before it got that far.)
Redwood Hill Farm isn’t just about cheese, by the way. They have a great line up of goat yogurt and kefir products. Here the kefir and yogurt are coming off the line were they’re placed in the fermentation room.
The line of artisan goat’s milk products also includes delicious aged and smoked chedders. You can see and order all of their products here as well as their line of organic lactose free cow’s milk (Green Valley Organics). Or better yet, find a store near you.
One of my favorite, easy treats… the Bucheret drizzled with honey.
A few more recipes:
- Apricot and Fig Tapenade on Goat Cheese Crostini (My all time favorite appetizers with Chèvre)
- Veggie and hummus pita with feta
I also noticed that they have wine and beer pairings on their website!
Big thanks to Jennifer and sister Shelley for taking their time to show us around Redwood Hill Farm. Tours are available in the spring if you want to visit the happiest and most adorable goats ever for yourselves. Subscribe to their newsletter to get info on dates as soon as they’re posted.