The Bleat Beat – Life on the Farm
Welcome to the Bleat Beat Blog! Here you’ll find a window into the daily life at Redwood Hill Farm.
Get to know the smart, affectionate animals that give us this wonderful milk we use to create healthful, nutritious products. Redwood Hill Farm is more than just a purveyor of goat milk products, and we’ll share all aspects of life on a family farm, including our organic fruit orchard and vegetables gardens, our commitment to sustainability and being good stewards to the land.
by David Bice
Redwood Hill Farm has been a family farm for over 45 years. It began in 1968 when our parents, Cynthia and Kenneth Bice (with then seven kids), moved from Los Angeles to Sonoma County and bought their very first goat named “Flopsy”. As a family and later under the leadership of oldest sister, Jennifer Bice, we have been making our cultured yogurt, kefir and artisan cheese for our goat milk loving customers since the early 1970’s. We invite you on a journey to follow our fresh goat milk as it travels from our Certified Humane® goat farm in Sebastopol, CA, to your neighborhood store.
The journey starts at dawn…
Scott Bice guides the Redwood Hill Farm herd head into the milking parlor where it all begins. Dairy goats are milked twice a day, at 6 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. An average milking goat will give 2,000 lbs. of milk in a year. Our top performing dairy goats, which are nationwide leaders in milk production, may give up to two tons of milk annually!
Our dairy does look forward to milking time. They are very social animals, and Farm Manager Scott Bice not only knows them by name but also is also quite aware of their different personalities. Aside from getting a pat from the herdsman, milking time is when the does enjoy their custom milled, protein-rich grain mix, which makes up about 25% of their diet; the remaining 75% consists of fresh forages, brush and hay.
We raise four different breeds of dairy goats on our farm, who in turn give us the best-tasting milk for our probiotic yogurt, kefir and artisan cheeses. Pictured here are Saanen dairy goats, a breed that originated in Switzerland. Compared to cow milk, goat milk contains higher levels of calcium, vitamin A, potassium and niacin.
Milking machines transport the fresh, raw goat milk through filters into our milk parlor’s holding tank, where it is immediately chilled and held at 38 to 40 degrees. Notice the “cream clouds” at the top. Goat milk, unlike cow milk, is “naturally homogenized,” which means that most of the fat globules are evenly dispersed throughout the milk.
Delivering the farm-fresh, raw goat milk to our creamery
Throughout the week, our fresh milk is transported to Redwood Hill Farm Creamery, located only four miles from the farm. Here, family member David Bice fills milk into the tanker for another load.
Enjoying the rural countryside of beautiful West Sonoma County is a perk for employees doing this farm chore.
In the receiving bay at our creamery, Alfredo Monter-Jacinto takes samples of the milk for quality testing. Because we make quite a bit of yogurt, kefir and cheese, we also receive milk from six additional Certified Humane® goat dairy farms.
Our passion: making specialty goat milk yogurt, kefir and cheese
In addition to yogurt and kefir, we make an assortment of handmade, artisan cheeses. We use raw goat milk to make Redwood Hill Farm’s gold medal-winning Raw Goat Milk Feta. Here, Owner and Cheesemaker, Jennifer Lynn Bice, and her cheese team stir the curds. Feta curds are then packed by hand into molds, brined in a natural sea salt solution, and aged from six months to a year—just as traditional feta has been made for centuries.
Depending on the style of cheese, our 3 to 5 ounce artisan rind-ripened or ‘soft-ripened’ cheeses are aged for about 14 days in cave-like, temperature- and humidity-controlled aging rooms. At just the right age, slightly before ripeness and flavor reach their optimum, the cheeses are wrapped and packed by hand and then sold to stores up and down the West Coast. By the time the cheese has made its journey and has reached our customers, the flavor should be fully developed.
By law in the United states, milk to make yogurt and kefir must be pasteurized, but there are different methods. We use the vat-pasteurization method, the gentlest for retaining a higher percentage of the milk’s natural enzymes. After pasteurization, specific cultures are added to the goat milk depending on whether we are making yogurt or kefir and depending on our production schedule for that day.
After the yogurt or kefir containers are filled with the warm cultured milk and sealed, they are stacked and delivered to our creamery’s hot room for fermentation. At this stage the liquid milk thickens or “sets” as the beneficial bacteria cultures rapidly multiply.
After 4-6 hours, and at just the right pH level, the yogurt or kefir is moved into the chilling room. This important step holds the pH at just the right level and stabilizes the delicate texture.
Our carefully packed cheese, yogurt or kefir is picked up by our distributors and delivered to natural and specialty food stores, cooperatives, as well as many natural food sections of conventional grocery stores in your area.
Everything we make is crafted with 100% Grade A whole goat milk. Fresh milk is the key to making the best-tasting goat milk yogurt, kefir and cheese. Thank you for joining us on our milk’s journey from our farm to your fridge!
We’ve set our annual Farm Tour dates and hope to see you
Mark your calendars and please join us this year as we celebrate life on our goat farm. Our dates have been set, and we hope you will be able to join us in beautiful west Sonoma County, a truly magical place in springtime.
The winter “eating” holidays are all about sharing with family and friends. Entertaining, a house full of party guests or perhaps simply a few intimate friends. Perhaps enjoying a few extra days at home with family and friends, or garnering “oohs and aahs” when you bring a platter of your favorites to a holiday potluck.
Whether you’re serving cheese as an appetizer or as part of your dessert course, have fun by using Redwood Hill Farm’s unique, delicious artisan cheeses and along with a few simple suggestions we’ve discovered over our more than 25+ years of crafting goat milk cheeses in the farmstead tradition.
2014 Spring Farm Tour: lots of happy memories…
The first weekend of our annual Farm Tours are behind me with a head full of happy moments shared with family, employees and a farm full of new friends. We’re all on our second cups of coffee this morning as we laugh and share stories of a great weekend!
Redwood Hill Farm customers from near and far drove up beautiful Thomas Road in Sebastopol to arrive at the farm, park in the olive and apple orchard and walk Apple Blossom Lane to enjoy a taste of farm living.
As part of a fundraising event recently for The Ceres Project, we hosted a “Mystery Tour” of 25 people who crawled the back roads of Sonoma County to learn, taste, and enjoy some baby goat love at Redwood Hill Farm! Thanks to Lorelei for the lovely blog post and pictures from a simply wonderful afternoon for all.
We are honored to donate probiotic kefir and yogurt to the meals program each week applaud founder Cathryn Couch, founder, for caring so deeply about local community.
Note: this blog post ran for the first time last fall. The farm was so beautiful, and this pumpkin pie recipe is so special, I’m sharing again for this Thanksgiving. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving feast with you and yours.
Thanksgiving is upon us…
and right on cue are blustery days, intense fall colors, and a sprinkling of rain showers to green up the fields on the farm. Recently on an extraordinarily fine day, I spent the afternoon with Jennifer and we made pie. Jennifer and I share a passion for cooking, along with Scott, David, Shelley and a few other siblings! As a large family growing up together on Redwood Hill Farm, cooking with fresh goat milk and seasonal produce from the garden each year became a natural part of our life. Now, some 45 years later, we all have favorite recipes when it comes to gathering for holiday meals and this pie is very special.
How we control the flies on our organic farm including complete plans for “Mother Nature’s Fly Trap”
We are totally committed to protecting our environment and the health/safety of our employees and goats. Therefore, we have a policy of zero tolerance for synthetic chemical pesticides. Cleanliness and sanitation are the first line of defense against such pests as common flies. Their larvae need a moist, nitrogen rich area in which to incubate and hatch. In so far as possible, such habitats are minimized in our management. However, certain areas are always problematic on a working farm, such as around and underneath platforms supporting water tanks. Insect predators are routinely distributed to such areas to feed on the fly larvae.
Congratulations to our incredible Farm Team!
It was a wonderful Sonoma County Fair goat show for Redwood Hill Farm. We were honored to receive many awards, including the coveted Supreme Best Doe in Show award as SGCH Rima (pictured) won it against some amazing competition. Winning this award at our prestigious State and County Fair in the same year, is another great accomplishment in this Doe’s storied career.
Who brought in those luscious brownies to work today? I can smell them from my desk, All chocolatey, chewy goodness! And chocolate, coupled with February means that Valentines Day is near. Naturally, sweet treats come to mind. But very special doesn’t have to be about sweet. Luscious, savory recipes with goat cheese with unique flavor, aromas, and texture, can be very special offerings for your favorite someone.
Our vanilla goat milk yogurt is a wonderful ingredient in the Valentines Day cake here, and can be used in nearly any recipe calling for milk, buttermilk, or sour cream. Yogurt or kefir will lend a delicious, tender crumb to your baked goods and delicious, mild tang to cream pies and puddings. And possibly best of all? You will be able to enjoy a sweet treat with your loved ones that is truly of the “heart”: heart healthy!