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The Path to being a Grade A Goat Dairy

The Path to being a Grade A Goat Dairy

I’d been making cheeses for several years in my home kitchen when I decided to go to some actual cheese making classes.  Our local land grant college, Washington State University (WSU) offered a cheese making class taught by the venerable Marc Bates. I signed up for that in March of 2004.  It was a 4 day intensive course where I learned about syneresis, titrating, pressing, waxing cheese, and more.  While still ruminating over that, another workshop was offered with a different focus.


The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) offered a course in getting a dairy license for a micro dairy. Regional Food Safety supervisors from each of the regions of Washington State were present and each had a piece of the agenda in which to discuss topics such as milk producer licensing and farm bio-security, cheese processing facility regulations, food security and recalls, and cheese processing equipment. A networking lunch was provided by the host agency, which gave the attendees and presenters an informal opportunity to talk about related topics and get to know a bit about each others’ operations.


After lunch the theme changed focus to presentations on business planning, marketing specialty cheese, and negotiating skills.  The group got to hear from Kurt Beecher Dammeier of Beecher’s Cheese located at the Pike Place Market in Seattle and hear first hand his story of developing his business.  Another featured speaker, Alison Leber, brought samples of different cheese packagings and discussed care and nurturing of customers and consumer relations. Negotiating skills featured an exercise in small groups where participants got to role play a potential retailer and prioritize his/her concerns when faced with whether or not to carry a new product.  Breaking into small groups and brainstorming again provided a chance to get to know each other.


Lists of attendees were distributed to those who attended and many people made networking connections as well as learned from others’ situations in addition to the wealth of information that the seminar provided. The overall mood of the seminar was upbeat and positive with the regional food safety supervisors encouraging potential specialty cheese producers to contact them early in their planning so they could work together.  Power point presentations included numerous pictures of small facilities with examples of different ways of meeting the regulations.


I attended that in April of 2004 in Yakima and came home inspired to seriously evaluate our set-up and see if we could actually put a micro dairy together that would pass the regional food safety inspection.


We had begun what we thought would be a solarium. That changed when I realized that the 10 x 30 foot room had a cement floor with a drain – something that is needed for the cheese room or milk house. I said that, if we tiled the floor, we’d be that much further ahead whether we eventually used the space for a cheese room or a solarium.  And thus began our “feasibility study”; by that I mean that we decided to fix up the small space and the other infrastructure needed (milking parlor for four goats at a time and aging cabinet for the cheese) and see how the process evolved. By June of 2006 we had gone through the various steps, including the application packet with flow charts and floor plans as well as several inspections from the regional food safety officer, and had received our license.  As stated above when I described the Licensing Workshop, be sure to work early on with your regional food safety officer.  Both the relationship and the knowledge that the individual has about the regulations are invaluable for the smooth progression of moving towards the license.


See part one here.


Thank you for joining me on this recounting of my adventures in goats, and I look forward to any questions you might have. You can email me at or our FaceBook page at Pine Stump Farms or our website . – Carey

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