By the summer of 2002 we had pretty much decided that we enjoyed our dairy goats so much that we wanted to keep more of them around then was strictly necessary for our own personal consumption needs. As a matter of fact, with just 3 does in-milk we were fast approaching our consumption capacity, despite some rather creative outlets we'd come up with. While we found ourselves having plenty of fluid milk for all our needs, the majority of it was already going into making cheeses. (David had found that he really loved cheese-making. Even his earliest experiments with Chèvre, Feta, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gouda, Ricotta, Monterey Jack and even a variety of Blue-veined cheeses - all made with goat milk, had turned out very, very well indeed).
So, we wanted more goats around and the major question, naturally, became "How are we going to justify keeping more goats (possibly quite a few more goats) around? How can we get them to help support their presence here?"
Dozens of possibilities were discussed but these, after all, were very fine dairy goats we were discussing and it seemed nothing short of plain silly to ignore their true calling in making our decision. "A DAIRY? Do you have any idea what it would take to start a dairy? Are you NUTS?" Perhaps, but with David and Kathryn's staggering combined food service experience and inclinations as a promising place to start and with David's recently discovered new passion for cheese-making it seemed like a reasonable possibility to pursue.
We continued to toy with the idea on multiple levels. As it turned out we actually did not have any idea what it took to start a dairy so some research was definitely in order. We decided to go straight to the source and contacted the AZ Dept of Agriculture. There we were put in touch with Dan, the dairy inspector for our region. In a series of emails and phone conversations Kathryn and he discussed the opening volley of questions we had come up with. He was always supportive and frank and I'm sure it quickly became apparent to him we had no idea what was required, that we were starting from scratch with the concept.
Dan was extremely patient with us and as it turned out he was going to be in our neck of the woods in the near future, inspecting a good-sized cow dairy in the next town over. He agreed to come out to the ranch, look over our set-up and discuss what we might need to do to become a certified dairy.
This, we thought, would put a swift and complete end to our dairy aspirations which, by this point, we had begun viewing with a mix of excitement and shear trepidation (what are we even THINKING about?!) There were SO many obstacles to over come. SO much very expensive equipment necessary. Furthermore we had received and reviewed the AZ State Dairy Standards and many of the requirements (most geared toward large bovine operations) were well out of our reach to consider accomplishing here. Regardless, we set up an appointment with Dan and waited.
On the appointed day and at the appointed time Dan arrived. It was great finally meeting him in person even though we fully expected it to be a short and fruitless relationship. He was friendly but brisk - a very busy man, and quite business like. He had brought a sheaf of more papers for us to look at regarding dairy regulations, including a sheet, written by him, specifically on goat dairies.
We took him on a quick tour of our current, limited facilities. Then we braved the potential future dairy building with him. This shell of a building was basically a 2-story disaster area. Solid as a rock and built from concrete block it had been exposed to the elements and nature in all her glory for over 10 years. Still filled with tons of detritus (pack rat and human) we were pretty sure he would take one step inside, quiver, and backing out the door tell us something like "No, no this place will NEVER be suitable for a dairy". To his credit and our great surprise he wandered along with us, stepping over the piles of ??? as we explained our vision of what it could be. He nodded, made appropriate comments and some excellent, improving suggestions and ended with "Just send me a set of plans for what you want to do, I'll look at them and we'll go from there." Wow, score one for the dairy, but that was the easiest of our basic concerns for the project.
All the while we had been showing him the property we had tossed a series of thoughtfully prepared questions at him on the run. Each question was, a "go/no-go" point for us. Each was an apparently insurmountably difficulty we had uncovered in the regulations we had been studying along with a "What if we..." alternative that we might have been able to work with IF acceptable to him. Each question we asked - each obstacle we presented he appeared to give serious (if brief) thought to. To each and every one he was able accept our alternative or come up with a better one! We were stunned. Our huge list of make-or-break problems had been thoroughly addressed and put to rest in less time than it takes to pasteurize a batch of milk.
As Dan left with words of encouragement and support for our plans we waved and turned together, "Oh my, I think we might be really going to do this." our eyes spoke to each other. We headed back inside to make plans and do more research but, in the end, the decision had effectively been reached already. We were going into the goat dairy business!
The process was hard and is on-going. There is a lot more to it than simple (or even complex) construction projects and spending a lot of money on equipment. Business plans, marketing strategies, product development, packaging and sales considerations, herd building, etc. etc. were all vital components of the whole. Here, now, I'll just show you some photos of the physical plant development and leave the rest for another time.
1. A couple of "before" views of the Dairy building interior AFTER several rounds of cleaning.
2. Demo work in progress.
3. Some plumbing goes in.
4. More materials arrive (maybe a bit premature on the stainless steel fixtures?)
5. A new French door for the "Reception Area". ("Cayenne" helps me remove concrete blocks.)
6. Work on the lower level goes well: framing, dry-wall work, and painting shown.
7. As spring weather approached we moved to outdoor work: Main deck footings in progress here.
8. By early May of 2003 the Main Deck was pretty much done.
9. Next we blew some holes through the walls and installed some new doors.
10. Finally, by the end of May we're doing dry-walling and painting in the milking parlor and kitchen...
11. AND laying the ceramic tile in the cheese kitchen and packaging areas.
12. By mid-June we were laying the special flooring in the milking parlor and installing the sink there.
13. By June 30th the kitchen was looking fine and K was starting to milk the girls in their new parlor.
14. By the first week of August we'd gotten our new pasteurizer installed and milking machine delivered.
15. The (almost) finished project!
16. Several years later (photo on the right was taken during an Open House.)
Back to Home Page Back to Main Projects Page