A girl and her goats. Joy in its simplest incarnation. That’s the impression I had when I saw Massachusetts goat farmer and cheese maker Erin Bligh interact with her goats, while her trusty Great Pyrenees dog Adonis trailed behind her. My friend Kim, foodie and maker of some of the most gorgeous porcelain jewelry you will ever see, M. Cheesemonger, and I drove along the coast of Massachusetts to meet Erin and the goats of Dancing Goat Dairy on a Monday afternoon.
When we arrived, she was showing her new summer intern around the cheese making room. “Go see the baby goats, and I’ll be there in five minutes.” Who can ever say no to baby goats? Especially when they were as curious and playful as Erin’s?
A few minutes later, Erin emerged. We saw her milking parlor where she currently milks about fifteen goats before she asked us, “Do you want me to let them out?” And so we did! The goats all cried out for her like young children as she entered the barn. She opened the gates, and dozens of Nubian goats just poured out of their pens into the pasture. They were all so happy, and so curious. They especially loved following M. Cheesemonger. He ran to a pile of stones in the middle of the field, pursued by a dozen rollicking, happy goats. They climbed all over the stones, and nearly all over him, too!
Erin explained that after studying French literature in college (like me!), she went to work on a farm. The love was immediate. She soon found herself interning at Consider Bardwell Farm, learning about goat husbandry and cheese making. She knew this was what she wanted to do with her life. Homesickness soon brought her to her native Massachusetts, where she started keeping goats of her own. In 2013, she turned her passion into a business: Dancing Goats Dairy was born. The farm has grown steadily since then. She has added new goats to her herd every year, and she is experimenting with new cheeses to offer her customers.
As Erin was saying all of this, the babies constantly danced around her hands so that she would pet them. They nuzzled her, and she nuzzled back. The mutual love Erin and her goats have for each other was apparent in each moment of our visit to her farm.
Speaking of dancing goats, Erin explained that one particular memory from her time at Consider Bardwell inspired her dairy’s name. At Consider Bardwell, when the goats were let out to pasture from the barn, they had to descend a large slope. They were often so happy to be let out, they would leap and frolic down the slope, as if they were dancing. The sight so moved her, she has treasured it to this day.
Stepping into Erin’s pristine cheese making room, we got to see first hand what magic happens there. For now, Erin focuses her cheese making efforts on fresh chèvre, often infusing it with different flavors. Her “everything bagel” flavor makes my west coast belly rumble just thinking about it. We tried and loved the crisp flavors in her black pepper chèvre. Maybe most unusual, though, was her beer jelly chèvre. Erin makes the jelly from a Belgian white beer from neighboring Newburyport Brewing Company, and sells it with a layer of plain chèvre on top. The jelly’s fresh floral notes and the chèvre’s clean milky flavors combine beautifully! Erin also showed us jams from Doves and Figs, a local jam producer. The Blushing Tart (a marmalade made with cranberry, Meyer lemon, and rosemary) was a perfect complement to the black pepper chèvre.
Erin’s not stopping at fresh chèvre, though. We saw wheels of ricotta salata in her caves, covered with sundried tomato paste and chilis. There were wheels of an aged goat cheese coated in cocoa powder, port, and olive oil. We saw some of Erin’s washed rinds as well—a couple were washed in port, while most were washed with local cider. These haven’t hit the market yet, and Erin still has to name them, so if you have a name suggestion, LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
I felt so privileged to be able to meet Erin, and learn about her and her farm. When I returned from the east coast, I was overjoyed to learn that she was on the current cover of Edible Boston! When you love your work, and do it as well as Erin does, people certainly stand up and take notice. I look forward to hearing more about all of the great things Erin is doing in the years to come! Thank you, Dancing Goats Dairy, for letting us visit you!
See more photos below!
[Update on June 23, 2015, 10:45am PDT]: Folks have asked about what happens to the male goats on the farm. Erin sells them to folks who will use them to clear away brush and grass. Think of them almost as lawnmower goats.
If you’d like to contact Erin to learn more about her farm, and find out where to purchase her cheeses, visit the Dancing Goats Dairy Contact Page.
If you need to see more goat farm goodness with Kim, check out our visit to Redwood Hill Farm!