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
At Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, we have long been known for making healthful and delicious goat milk yogurt, kefir and artisan cheeses – but did you know we are also a mini solar power plant? We make all of our dairy in our solar-powered creamery, where the sum of all electricity needs is covered by renewable energy.
Quality and sustainability are guiding principles for Jennifer Bice, Founder and Managing Director of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery. So, it’s no surprise that she installed U.S. made solar panels at the Sebastopol creamery, which greatly reduce our carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. At Jennifer’s farm, only four miles away, 100% of all energy needs are met by a solar power system, which allows excess energy to flow back into the grid. Let the sun shine in!
At The Creamery
Completed in 2010, after going through a planning and permitting process and building a new roof for structural support, our 586 kw photovoltaic system now provides 85% of our electricity needs through two acres of solar panels on the roof. The remaining 15% come from renewable energy sources including wind and geothermal. This powers all areas of our certified organic creamery, including production, warehouses and all refrigeration. In addition, the system provides electricity for two electric car charging stations, allowing community electric car owners to “fill-up with the sun”.
As one of the largest solar installations in Sonoma County, California, it is the realization of Jennifer’s long-time vision for our company that treats the environment with as much respect as it does the animals that produce milk for Redwood Hill Farm’s specialty goat milk yogurt, kefir and artisan cheeses. “We try to operate for the good of the planet, people and animals, not just for profit”, she says.
At Redwood Hill Farm is where it all began, with its nationally recognized dairy goats that provide us, along with seven other family farms, with the freshest, best-tasting milk for all we make. Set amidst a field of lavender and California poppies, the farm’s solar panels are mounted on steel poles and are automated to move slowly throughout the day, following the arc of the sun for maximum efficiency. This system provides the necessary energy for the entire dairy operation, all of the barns, pumps for the wells, and power for two homes at the farm.
At our creamery, we’re using a total of 2,548 solar panels. With this system, 810,840 pounds of CO2 will be reduced annually; equal to 110 acres of trees saved, 54 cars off the road, or 76 homes powered. The system at Redwood Hill Farm provides an average of 110% of the farm’s needs annually, with excess flowing back into the grid, providing monthly credits from our utility company, which pays back for the energy generated.
This commitment to sustainability and protecting our environment has enabled Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery to receive certification and recognition as a Sonoma County Green Business: www.sonoma-county.org/sonomagreen. We are also members of the Center For Climate Protection, and are honored to support other environmental organizations to make a difference in our Sonoma County community.
From the farm to finished products, we are “milking the sun” to sustainably produce delicious goat milk dairy for all to enjoy.
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.
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.