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.
Young Emma Bello Brings Dairy Goats and Cheese Making to the Islands
Shared by David Bice
When we sample our goat milk cheeses at events or stores, people often say, “I wish I had goats!” or “My dream is to have goats one day and make cheese”. For most, it remains a dream. For Hawaii’s Emma Bello, it’s a dream come true.
Born and raised on the island of Oahu, Emma is raising goats, crafting artisan cheeses – and doing a very good job of it. Her degree in culinary arts, as well as her training while being an intern at Redwood Hill Farm from January through August, 2012. has played a crucial part in making her dream a reality. A young woman in her mid-twenties with a love of goats, farming, and a great passion for good food, Emma has turned former sugarcane and pineapple land in Central Oahu into a successful dairy goat operation, aptly named ‘Sweet Land’ Farm.
Emma’s dream began several years ago, while working at Maui’s Surfing Goat Dairy, where she helped with cheesemaking. Wanting to learn more, Emma researched opportunities, preferably at a farm with decades of experience and known throughout the country for its goat milk products, she contacted Scott Bice, our farm manager at Redwood Hill. We constantly receive applications from students and job seekers looking to intern and work at Redwood Hill, and we did need a farmhand at the time.
Interning and learning at the farm takes serious commitment and effort. With determination, Emma and her father flew from Hawaii to meet with Scott and farm owner Jennifer Bice. Jennifer and Scott were impressed with her enthusiasm and willingness to learn the “Redwood Hill Farm way”. Her dream of eventually beginning her own goat dairy and making cheese was something they both wanted to support. So, Emma packed her bags and left Hawaii to pursue that dream, living and working at Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery for nearly a year.
From milking goats, feeding and caring for goat kids, to helping deliver goat babies, Emma immersed herself in all facets of our farm to learn more about goat husbandry. She also spent two days per week in the cheese rooms at our creamery, learning the myriad details in the craft of cheese making, alongside Jennifer Lynn Bice and our cheese crew. For Emma, it was advantageous to monitor the small layout of Surfing Goat Dairy, and the larger operation of Redwood Hill, as it enabled her to choose methods that suited her best for her own farm.
With entrepreneurial spirit, Emma took her knowledge home to Hawaii, rolled up her sleeves and began building her dairy and small cheese plant. The main goat barn and pasture fencing she constructed first, and with the purchase of seventeen goat kids from Redwood Hill Farm, her dream was becoming reality. A special, custom-built container was built to fly the goat kids, the foundation of her herd, safely and comfortably in the cargo hold of a jet used exclusively to fly livestock. Building on this foundation, her herd has grown in recent years and she still has those original Redwood Hill goats. Her current Sweet Land Farm logo actually features a Redwood Hill Alpine doe.
When I visited Emma and the goats, I could see that they had adapted very well! Trade winds bring daily showers for lush greenery year around, and the goats happily browse many acres, within view of nearby mountains and frequent rainbows. As we have always said at Redwood Hill, happy goats give the best milk, and Hawaii turned out to be a paradise for descendants of our herd.
The goat milk is carefully and lovingly made into goat cheese by Emma, using methods learned in our cheese rooms as well as experimenting with what works best in her specific climate. Climate and the animals’ diet are contributing factors to the flavor and “terroir” of any cheese. The varieties of goat cheese she makes are getting rave reviews from chefs and restaurants, only an hour away in bustling Honolulu, home to many creative restaurants that like to feature local ingredients in their pacific rim style cuisine. Alan Wong, one of the most famous and well-respected chefs in the islands, proudly displays Sweet Land Farm cheeses on his menus and showcases her cheeses at public events.
Currently, Sweet Land Farm makes fresh chèvre, the soft & spreadable goat cheese, in six flavors, while also producing goat milk Tomme and feta. Emma offers her cheeses at the Mililani Farmers Market each week, where market goers can “try before you buy”. Emma has her regular customers and sees it as an opportunity to educate the public about dairy goats. She is often asked about goat milk, and it’s her goal to eventually bottle fresh milk for sale.
Farming and making cheese means hard work and long hours, but Emma truly enjoys being involved with all of it, from raising baby goats to meeting her customers. She has five employees, including family members. Her brother has an agricultural engineering degree, and her parents share the workload.
When asked what her favorite part of it all is, Emma says “helping does deliver their babies is the best.” As with our farm at Redwood Hill, it all begins with love for these intelligent animals and their individual personalities. Indeed, their irresistible personality is why Emma fell in love with goats to begin with. For Emma, living and farming in the paradise of Hawaii where she grew up completes the dream – and it is coming true at Hawaii’s Sweet Land Farm.
Not all goat milk is the same – there are variations in volume, components, water content and butterfat depending on the time of year and on the type of goat breed. Of all breeds, Alpine and Saanen dairy goats are the top producers by volume. Milk from the Nubian dairy goat breed on the other hand, tends to be a bit higher in butterfat. To make our yogurt, kefir and cheeses consistent and delicious in flavor, we combine goat milk from Redwood Hill Farm and seven other family farms, sourcing milk from La Mancha, Nubian, Alpine, Oberhasli, and Saanen goats.
Sebastopol, CA, December 1, 2015
My dear friends,
I have important news to share with you. Yesterday, on November 30th, I agreed to sell my business, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, to Emmi, a dairy and cheese company from Switzerland. Please allow me to tell you about my journey towards this decision. I want you to know why I chose Emmi – a company which is, to this day, majority owned by a cooperative of small-scale dairy farmers. I will describe how this change will benefit our community, and how it will allow me to deepen my relationship with my animals and the land that sustains us all.
Our Zimba passed away at the old goat age of 12 years with friends, herdmates, and sister Zoe by her side
Born in the Spring of 2002 in a kidding that produced twin does, Zimba (SG Redwood Hills Ransom Zimba) is the daughter of the sweet doe Grand Champion Redwood Hills Samurai Zariba and her sire, the wild and reckless buck Willow Run Atlas Ransom.
In Italy there are many festivals in November to celebrate the olive harvest, when family and friends gather to harvest the plump green and purple fruit by hand.
It was a cold but sunny morning three years ago, when we started our own family tradition: picking the fruit of our young trees by hand to make “green gold”—the buttery, peppery, and delicious olive oil.
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.
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.
How much do you know about goat kids? At Redwood Hill Farm we’ve been raising dairy goat kids since the mid 1960’s, and over the years have learned much about these intelligent, cute and cuddly young animals. Here’s our ‘top ten’ of fun facts about goat kids.
Humans and goats have enjoyed a close relationship for thousands of years. Nicole Bice, pictured left, and her brother Colton, below, are the next generation of human kids growing up with goat kids on our Certified Humane® farm—kids playing with kids, living and learning together on the farm.
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.
“Goat people” love to collect all kinds of goaty items. Enjoy this collection of some of Jennifer’s favorite art pieces collected over her 45+ years of owning and loving dairy goats.