Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Country Critters in Winchester, New Hampshire

Making cow's and goat's milk cheese in southern New Hampshire 

Son, Jared, Mike and Julie Thibodeau  (This photo comes from their Facebook page because Julie was the only one home when we came for the interview.  Mike works a day job and Jared is still in school)

It all started with a 4H project!  Julie and Mike Thibodeau bought a farm 9 years ago when their 3 kids were relatively young.  Their oldest daughter, 14, had projects going with rabbits.  Then, she got into cows and with the help of a Rural Youth Loan, she acquired 11 milkers!  She was selling raw milk before anybody around there had even thought of it.

Their 12 year old daughter had sheep and alpacas.  She sold wool and freezer lambs.  At age 12, she was very talented working with wool!  Their son, Jared, had a niche business raising poultry for milk and eggs.  One year, there were 300 broilers and 50 turkeys raised on pasture!

Now, their oldest daughter (23) has 3 sons, their second daughter (21) has a girl and their youngest son, Jared (17) is still living at home.  The alpacas, sheep, poultry and oxen are gone, but Mike, Julie and Jared have a new project going with cows and goats - they are making cheese.

The farm has 53 acres and everywhere we looked, there seemed to be another barn:

The farm store is attached to their house.

The building on the right is a portable milking parlor.

This is the barn for the goats, but they spend most of their time on the pastures.

Julie took us out to the fields to see the goats

The number of goats fluctuates because, Julie said, she is always selling the kids, but, the day we were there, she had 26 full grown Alpine Nubians and 26 kids.  She is currently milking 21.  She also has a Holstein cow, a heifer calf and a Jersey bull.

These kids are 1 1/2 months old.

These are the 1 1/2 month old bucks.

The Jersey bull

Their milker and her heifer

The heifer decided to go outside.

Rabbit meat is a big seller for the farm.  Like everything else, it started as a 4H project, but now it's part of the business.

They are just getting started with their cheese business.  They are currently making Feta, Robiola, and several flavors of chevre from their goat's milk.  In the winter, they make Robiola with cow's milk.  (They're hoping to be able to rotate the birthing times so they can have fresh goat's milk cheese all year round.

They are selling their cheese in restaurants, co-ops and farmer's markets, as well as in their farm store.  Julie mentioned that marketing will be easier when they can offer their goat's milk cheeses year round.  (When there's a break in the winter, they have to start over contacting all their customers again in the spring.)

Julie and Mike have been working from "dawn til dusk" and there still isn't enough time to do everything they need to do for the cheese business.  So, they're currently looking for a part time milker (See classified ads).

Their Van Riit vat holds 53 gallons, but Julie typically makes cheese with 30 gallons at a time.

Their Robiola molds (and all their other supplies) come from - where else?- New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.

This bulk tank came from Bob White Systems in Vermont

The self-help farm store may have goat's milk cream, raw goat's milk, raw cow's milk, rabbit meat, grass fed beef and goat's meat, and various cheeses including Feta and Robiola.  (Your best bet is to call first to be sure they have what you need.)

Payment is by the honor system

Country Critters Farm
240 Forest Lake Rd.
Winchester, New Hampshire 03470


Josie said...

Hello from Arizona!. Very nice article.

Josie said...

Hello from Arizona!. Very nice article.