|A farm, by definition, is a departure from natureit is land taken from its wild state and turned to human ends. But it is possible for a farm to learn from natural systems, to work with mother nature and integrate her patterns. A good farmer creates a managed ecosystem, where the various parts all contribute to the health of the whole.
This is the soul of sustainable agriculture; it is also a practical way to produce high quality food while building soil and conserving the habitat and biodiversity that come with well-managed open land. No farm will ever approach the ecological sophistication of nature, because the balance of activity is focused on the needs of our one species. But that doesn't mean we can't take good careand a little better care every year, as we learn, and learn.
At Prodigal Farm, we are constantly improving our systems, so that they flow more directly from the examples we see in nature. We believe that nothing should be wastednot old buildings, not food trimmings, not manure. We are mildly obsessed with soil and the density of life within it. We select and develop technologies that respect natural systems and use energy efficiently. And we are amazed at how much better we can always do, how much we have to learn.
Everything we do centers around the health of our goats. Healthy, happy goats produce tastier milk in greater abundance. We adhere to the Animal Welfare Institute's detailed standards for dairy goat husbandry. As of March 2010, Prodigal Farm is Animal Welfare Approved.
Their principal source of nutrition is our pasture and woodlands; they are moved to a fresh patch every few days. In wintertime, we supplement this with alfalfa hay. We give them free access to mineral supplements and kelp, which is a nutritional powerhouse. We also supplement their feed year-round with a high quality grain mix to ensure that the big girls get enough nutrition during lactation, and that the little ones grow strong.
We vaccinate our goats against commonly occurring diseases. Our frequent pasture rotation helps to control worms and other parasites, but if a goat does need medication, we withhold their milk from human consumption for twice the recommended time. We never give our animals hormones, and we only treat animals with conventional medicines when they show symptoms of illness (which is infrequent).
We breed later than most dairies, so the pastures are green when the does give birth in April and May, and little goat babies won't get cold. Kids are fed pasteurized goat milk from birth until they are at least 2 months old. They grow strong and loving that waysince we're the ones with the bottles! We let them start nibbling pasture, hay and feed after the first week.
Would you believe that girl goats smell nice? Many people think of livestock and think manure (which is a great thing in the garden and on the fields, but you don't want to think about that smell when you think about cheese!). We love to hug our goats and breathe their nice clean hay smell. We clean their sheds once a week, though in warm weather, the girls like to sleep under the stars.
We are a licensed farmstead cheese dairy. We milk the goats twice a day in the milking parlor. Federal law requires the use of pasteurized milk for cheese that is aged less than 60 days. We pasteurize at a low temperature (145 degrees F) for thirty minutes, then quickly cool it down. This preserves the flavor and structure of the milkan essential component for exceptional cheese. Our aged cheeses are tended carefully as they age, checked and turned daily to ensure even ripening and rind development.