MOUNT IDA – Montgomery County Master Gardeners got a chance to hear how a Mount Ida couple’s desire to garden more organically has led to a life-changing obsession with all things goat.
Tommy and Penny Walden, the owners of Evergreen Acres Farm, demonstrated how to make cheese at home using fresh raw goat’s milk and a couple household items.
Evergreen Farms is proof positive that one doesn’t need a massive amount of land to have a successful farm. They house around 28 Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, some chickens and a garden on around an acre and a half.
Penny stated that their journey to goat farming began with a desire to keep their garden and property as organic as possible. They decided to purchase a couple goats to keep the grass in their yard trimmed. Their plan was to keep the goats long enough for them to clear the grass and then sell them.
She added that their mistake was underestimating how fast the goats could clear their property. After a month they were left with a clean yard and two goats that have become a part of their family.
They decided to purchase more goats. They chose Nigerian Dwarf Goats because of their size. Penny admitted that they don’t produce as much milk as larger goats with it taking around five milkings to fill a half gallon container.
Evergreen Acres provides a wide variety of goat’s milk products. Fresh milk is an obvious choice, but they are best known in the area for their line of soaps and skin care products.
She stated that they aren’t legally allowed to sell cheese, but they do host cheese making classes. In the class you do get to make your own cheese which you get to take home with you.
They typically make two kinds of cheeses. For the demonstration they made ricotta cheese, but they also make a chevre cheese.
Ricotta is a simple cheese to make. The recipe they demonstrated requires a half gallon of fresh goat’s milk, one-third cup of apple cider vinegar and a half teaspoon of cheese salt.
Penny explained that you can use store bought milk to make the recipe, but she advised you use cows milk if it is coming from the store. She stated that to her cheese made from pasteurized goats milk didn’t taste right.
They also stated that you can use non-iodized salt, or pickling salt in place of the cheese salt.
They began by heating the milk slowly to 200 degrees. After reaching the desired temperature they added the apple cider vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Next you strain the cheese through a cheese cloth and let it drip for 10 minutes. Tommy suggested using a deep pan. He explained that as the curd hangs in the pan the cloth will sag. The deeper pan prevents the curd from sitting in the whey that has dripped into the pan.
After it has strained properly you take the curd and separate it and add the salt. This gives you a delicious fresh ricotta cheese.
The cheese does freeze well, making it easier to store and use.
You can add fresh herbs to your cheese, but they suggested that if you are going to freeze your cheese to wait until you use it to add the herbs.
They can be seen at various local farmer’s markets and festivals. Oftentimes they will bring one of their baby goats with them.
Farmer’s markets have been an important part of the Walden’s lives for years. They began by selling eggs at the Farmer’s Market in Hot Springs. From there they moved to gardening.
Their first soap was made by a friend. By the third batch she told them she was going to teach them how to make it. They have been making their own soap ever since. They have continued this tradition of passing on the soap making craft through lessons at Evergreen Acres.
When you see the Waldens with their goats it is obvious the goats are more than just farm animals to them. They share the love the goats can share through goat yoga classes held in the Spring.
Their Nigerian Dwarf Goats are ADGA registered and they do sell goats from time to time.
For more information on Evergreen Acres, their products, or any of their classes, visit evergreenacresminifarm.com
For more information on the Montgomery County Master Gardeners contact the Montgomery County Extension Office at (870) 867-2311. You can also find them on Facebook at facebook.com/montgomerycountymastergardeners.