This rustic recipe has been a favorite of mine since my long-time friend and goat cheese lover, Helen Jackson, gave it to me a few years ago. It makes a great vegetarian dinner or side dish and shows off how versatile cooking with fresh chèvre can be. Tip: do use a mandoline for slicing vegetables if you have one—this recipe is best when the vegetables are sliced very thin.
At Redwood Hill Farm, we’ve been farming gardens and orchards just as long as dairy farming—nearly 50 years.
It is typical in Sonoma County to experience an extended dry period each summer without rainfall for many months. We are therefore accustomed to using water wisely and have implemented different water conservation systems which include composting, drip irrigation, reclaiming and reusing water, and dry farming. The severe drought conditions of the last four years have challenged us to perfect these techniques as we make the most of the water we have, now more than ever.
One of the most effective water conservation programs we have in place at our Sonoma County farm near Sebastopol is composting. Composting enables us to use less water while enhancing the cultivation of some of our goat feed, growing our own food, and enriching our farmland overall. Composting is a natural process that turns vegetable matter or manure into a dark rich substance compost or humus.
We lovingly call our compost “black gold”: Straw and goat manure are gleaned from our loafing barns and are composted over time in large piles and then spread throughout our gardens, apple and olive orchards. Composting conserves water as it decreases evaporation of moisture from the soil and enables the soil to hold more water in. In addition, it reduces water runoff and topsoil erosion during the rainy season.
As rainwater is caught and filtered through the straw down into the soil, orchards and gardens are fed with the nutrients from the rotting compost. Over the winter and into the next spring, the straw and manure compost continues to break down. The bottom layers, with the help of worms and other composting insects, turn the compost slowly into rich, loamy topsoil.
In addition to mulching our food and flower garden boxes at the farm, we use drip irrigation systems throughout the farm for our young, olive orchard as well as for the raised garden beds, blueberry shrubs and other berries that we grow for food each year. Drip irrigation, also known as “trickle irrigation” is a simple, but very effective system that consists of a network of tubes and emitters to focus the water close to the plants and young trees. This allows the water to drip slowly in those areas. Compared to traditional, overhead watering this method is very efficient in reducing evaporation and delivering only the necessary amount of water directly to the base of the plant, just where it is needed.
In the dairy milking parlor we continue our water conservation efforts by reclaiming and reusing water from our equipment’s automatic wash cycle. After the wash cycle, the water is directed to a holding tank where any sediment settles. The grey water from that tank is siphoned, pumped and then used to wash the floors of the dairy barn each day.
Sonoma County has long been known for the delicious Gravenstein apple’s commercial production and growing apples has been a tradition from Redwood Hill Farm’s very beginning, almost five decades ago. We have over 15 different apple varieties in our abundant orchard, which is entirely dry farmed. Dry farming is a system of growing crops in low water or arid regions and means that no water or artificial irrigation are used on the trees except for the water they receive with the winter and spring rains. While the fruit size is typically smaller than an irrigated orchard, the yields are very good.
Healthy topsoil is critical to sustainable dry farming, and preserving the soil is considered an important long-term goal of our orchard’s dry farmed operation. We use no- or reduced tilling, and straw compost spreading throughout to protect and replenish the orchard’s valuable topsoil. Our free-range chickens as well as the rabbits, deer, turkeys and other wildlife that live in and around the farm appreciate our efforts as they enjoy the abundance of the land.
As we continue to harvest our apples and notice the leaves that begin to turn to their bright fall colors, we’re hopefully optimistic for more rainfall this winter. Meteorologists are predicting with a high certainty that an “El Niño” weather pattern is developing. This means winter and spring rainfall for the West Coast – and hopefully lots of it to soak the fields and gardens on our farm once again.
We’ve combined fresh-from-the-garden rhubarb with a yogurt-vanilla cake batter, for a new dessert recipe that is as pretty to look at as it is delicious to eat. Enjoy this seasonal, easy upside-down cake with a scoop of homemade goat milk ice-cream for easy living! This recipe was adapted from a favorite of ours published by the New York Times. It’s a classic.
We are thrilled to be in Issue 3 of Conscious Company Magazine as a handful of the nations top sustainable cheese producers! Redwood Hill Farm Owner and CEO Jennifer Bice was interviewed about her woman-owned company and her 45+ year commitment to sustainability and the environment.
You can pick up a copy at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other local retailers—you’ll be supporting sustainable businesses.
CLICK HERE to read the full article.
Part 1: Growing Our Own Drought Resilient Goat Feed – Tagasaste
Conserving precious water is on our minds as we are facing another year of severe drought in California. We’re resilient folks, and are constantly looking at ways in which we can do our part at the Farm as well as at the creamery. Redwood Hill Farm Manager Scott Bice’s most recent water-saving project on the farm is one we’re very excited about. We are now growing some of our goat’s feed, a drought-tolerant, leafy shrub called Tagasaste, right on the farm – and the goats love to eat it.
Right now, late spring, is the time for apricots here in Sonoma County—and locally grown just picked off the tree don’t stay around at fruit stands of farmer’s markets for very long. Savor them while you can still find them!
At the farm we’re lucky to have young tree that produces a little more fruit for us each season. We’re growing peaches and nectarines in our orchard as well, and all pair beautifully with goat cheese, especially Redwood Hill Farm Chèvre.
Here is a simple yet elegant recipe that celebrates this great flavor combination. This recipe actually uses a blend of chèvre and cream cheese (but you could use all Chèvre if you like). We prefer to use the cream cheese we make right here at our creamery; Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free cream cheese, but any good quality cream cheese will work. Experiment with your own favorite herbs, nuts and seeds, but remember to use a light hand so as not to overpower this classic fruit/cheese combo. Fast and easy to make for a crowd, too.
This recipe and variations were inspired by and reprinted with permission from the blog “In Erika’s Kitchen”.
Lavender is blooming at our farm and local blueberries are ripening around the county. I was recently inspired to try this very seasonal and simple appetizer recipe courtesy of Patty James Catering, of a lavender & blueberry jam on crostini spread with Plain or Three Peppercorn Chèvre goat cheese. It is fabulous! For a light summer supper, simply pair with a salad and a crisp, white wine or sparkling juice. Patty James is a nutritionist, chef and author whose blog and videos are simply wonderful. Click here to vist her blog “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives”.
This is the ultimate pumpkin cheesecake recipe! It has a unique gingersnap crust and rich, luscious swirls of cream cheese and chèvre cheesecake plus pumpkin. If you want something extra special for the holidays, you must try this recipe. This recipe was tested and then adapted from a favorite cheesecake recipe I’ve loved making at Taste of Home.
This bread was developed as a request from Jennifer Bice and Steven Schack of Redwood Hill Farm for the annual Goat Milk Producers Convention which was held in Santa Rosa in 1990 at the Landmark Winery. It first appeared in print in Brother Juniper’s Bread Book: Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor by Peter Reinhart. At that time we made a goat milk ricotta, or as we liked to call it “rigoatta”, and the original recipe was developed using that ricotta goat cheese.
A creamy, naturally sweet goat yogurt popsicle—with flavors of your favorite mango lassi yogurt drink. Fresh mango is paired with coconut milk and drained Redwood Hill Farm Goat Yogurt for a warm weather, low sugar and healthful treat that kids of all ages will love to make as well as eat.