Of all the wonderful things there are to love about cheese, goats are among my favorites. Luckily, Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol, CA, is nearby so I can visit them and their adorably joyous goats! Not only that, my dear friend Kim Huestis, owner of Boston-area-based Porcelain & Stone, crafter of gorgeous porcelain jewelry, and great lover of goats, was able to join me.
We were greeted by David Bice, one of the 4 Bice siblings to be working at Redwood Hill Farm (There are 10 total; Jennifer Bice, the oldest, is the owner here.). He took us to see the adolescents, the milking goats, and billy goat area; the Bices have about 350 goats in all. Redwood Hill keeps four types of goats—floppy-eared Nubians, all-white Saanens, tiny-eared La Manchas, and hearty French Alpines. As we approached the adolescent goat pen fences, they bounded over to nibble, nip, and explore the newcomers. I really shouldn’t have worn a white shirt! As soon as I would remove myself from one curious set of nibblers, another would pop up. The goats were all so friendly, disarmingly so! Kim, although she has long loved Nubian goats, had never met one before, and so here was her chance! “They’re like dogs,” she observed. David confirmed, saying they can learn all sorts of things. They try to open gates after watching humans work them. They learn schedules. They are always exploring the world around them. Their humor also is a product of the environment around them. Mistreated, unhappy goats will turn into mean toward humans in the long run, but well-treated ones will stay friendly. The ones at Redwood Hill Farm are definitely on the friendly side!
Talking with David about goats is almost like talking about extended family members. Their goat operation isn’t certified humane for nothing. The Bices all grew up surrounded by goats, drinking goat milk and showing goats at 4-H fairs. They keep their milking goats after they have run dry to repay them for giving Redwood Hill Farm their milking years. They’re also heavily involved in the goat show and breeding world, with countless award winning show goats. To get to that level, a lot of care goes into the wellbeing of their herd. That also means they can send out their genetically prime males to join other herds more often than other goat farms.
“You guys ready to get closer?” David asked us as we approached the milking goat barn. “You didn’t think you’d walk away clean, did you?” Actually, I think I did, but Kim and I went in anyway. Goats everywhere. They seriously LOVE human attention. I lowered myself so I could see them eye to eye, and then, the nuzzling started. So much goat cuddling. They kept pressing against me, the big, lovable animals they are. I had to make sure they didn’t step on my feet (Only one mishap!). David pointed out one sleeping goat, a Nubian, who was making the most adorable sleepy face. He said that Nubians are the only ones in the herd that make what sounds like snoring. This one, which Kim nicknamed “Simon” (even though it’s a girl) was definitely snoring away.
We visited the billy goats as well—they were pretty calm, and no, we didn’t touch them! Outside, we got a glimpse of the farm dog, Bear, trotting purposefully past the farm’s solar panels (did you know the farm is completely solar-powered?) and across the Gravenstein apple orchards. I could almost here him making plans. Our last stop on our visit was the milking parlor, where the goats are milked twice a day. They’re so used to the routine, some goats even have favorite milking stalls. While the cheese isn’t made here (the creamery is a few miles away), the milk is transported to the creamery every day.
David sent us on our way with some cheeses, including Cameo, Crottin, and Camellia, their fresh chèvre (natural, roasted chili, and garlic chive), and some of their goat milk yogurt. I think I’m going to have to save those for another post! They deserve it.
I am always so happy to share stories of the cheese makers I support and love. Thank you, David and Redwood Hill Farm, for letting Kim and me invade for a morning, and thank you, readers for following! You can find Redwood Hill Farm’s kefir and yogurt products all over the country at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Wegmans. Their cheeses are a little harder to find, but check with your specialty cheese shop.
If you want to see A LOT more cute goat photos from this visit, you can visit the album on my Facebook page!
And if you want to visit Redwood Hill Farm, they have open farm days a couple times during the spring. Visit their website for details when.
Here are just a few more images for your viewing pleasure on this lovely Monday!