PFI CONFERENCE RECAP: Goat Dairy, Creamery & Farm-to-Table
Are you interested in goats? goat milk? goat cheese? goat gelato??? At the PFI annual conference in January, long-time PFI members and Illinois farmers Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell presented about their farm, which includes a goat dairy and creamery, as well as an orchard. They pioneered the business of artisanal, on-farm cheese-making in Illinois. At the time they started in 2005, they were the first licensed “farmstead cheeserie” in the state. And they are goat experts (not to mention former soil science professors).
They gave three different presentations, each of which is packed with practical information on how to learn from their successes (and mistakes). A link to a PDF of each presentation, as well as the audio is available below.
Presentation 1, part 1:
Presentation 1, part 2:
They explain in detail how they did research on goats, regulations, and markets; how they designed and constructed their dairy/creamery; and how they combined (and continue to combine) all that information to make it into a business. They even share lots of information on their costs and returns, some really useful information for a beginning farmer interested in goat dairying.
They decided that their proximity to Champaign (and perhaps more importantly to Chicago) combined with a plethora of very cute baby goats made it a no-brainer to get people out to their farm. They’ve done some cool things: like hosted the founder of the Slow Foods movement, employed a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, and served a “100 Yard Dinner” (everything on the plate came from a hundred yards of the table). But it hasn’t been all peaches and creme fraiche. Becoming more like a restaurant came with its downsides, and they talk about those, too.
Leslie and Wes have test many different marketing techniques — in-person and online — and and conclude that you need to think about your potential customers, and target accordingly. Here are some links to their online presence:
•Documentary film about their farm “A Farmer’s Road” (now showing at private screenings and film festivals): http://afarmersroad.com/
And finally, they doled out their pride and joy: truly world-class cheeses.