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Goat Dairy Farm Seeks Home (article)

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Posted by GoatWorld on June 09, 2002 at 17:13:59:

Goat dairy farm seeks home
Jim Schott asks commissioners for expansion help

By Justin George, Camera Staff Writer
June 5, 2002

NIWOT — Dairy farming in Boulder County could become history if a goat-cheese maker's growing business can't expand.

Jim Schott owns Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy — the last operating dairy in the county — where he raises about 100 brown Nubian and white tuft-bearded Saanen goats that produce more than 50,000 pounds of Chevre and feta cheese a year.

Business is booming, and the demand for cheese and other dairy products is pressing Schott to find a larger farm or split his operation. On Tuesday, he presented county commissioners with the findings of a study that showed the demands for his products and a plan that could help him and other Colorado independent goat farmers stay in business.

Commissioners were receptive to the plan and told Schott to continue working with county planners to find a new home.

Schott said the demand for goat dairy products is high enough in the Denver-Boulder area that he could own eight times more animals to meet the needs of consumers, who typically are upscale and well traveled, he said.
A growing number of Front Range restaurants and shoppers at supermarkets, such as King Soopers, Wild Oats and Whole Foods buy his cheese.

Schott, whose plant produces only cheese now, would also would like to churn out goat milk, butter and yogurt. But instead of buying more goats, Schott proposes to use the same amount of milk his herd produces and milk trucked in from goat farmers across the state, who would enter into profit-sharing ventures with him.

But he said he needs more than the six acres he owns to expand the operation. He would like to stay in Boulder County, but finding a new home for Boulder County's remaining dairy farm isn't easy with farmland dwindling.

If he is driven out, "it would sure represent what is going on in Boulder County," he said. "It's not anybody's fault, but look around. I'm surrounded by houses."

Countywide, land dedicated to farms decreased 19 percent to a total of 128,146 acres between 1992 and 1997, according to the Colorado Agricultural Statistics Service. The number of farms operating full time decreased 13 percent to 276, and the market value of agricultural products sold dropped 35 percent to $43.7 million in 1997. Numbers for a five-year study ending in 2002 will not be released until 2003, officials said.

Schott, a former education professor and lifelong teacher, worked in agriculture much of his life and began raising goats 13 years ago when he bought his Niwot farm with his first wife, Arlene.

A goat dairy farm was their dream, but Arlene died of ovarian cancer before Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy opened.
Schott, who later re-married, stuck to the plan, although profits were slim at first.

"There were so many times I thought we'd go belly-up," he said. "But we stayed in business because it seemed like a good thing."
At Cheese Importers, a large Longmont cheese seller, Haystack cheese sales have doubled over the last year, said Clara White, co-owner.

"Many customers say they don't like goat cheese, but when they try Jim's, it's mild and they really like it," White said.

Meg Wagner-DeWitt of Longmont, president of the Colorado Dairy Goat Association, said she supports Schott's general plans to create a goat-milk processing plant that would aid some of the estimated 119 Colorado dairy goat raisers.
"It's an excellent way to keep the independent farmer in business," she said.

Schott said options for expansion include moving his outfit to more agriculturally friendly Weld or Adams counties, or buying an "expensive" light-industrial plant in Boulder County for dairy production.
But he said he would rather keep his "farmstead operation" together, where visitors can see the products' beginnings and ends.

He pointed to pens Tuesday where curious goats trotted to visitors while chewing hay, a milking dairy with rubber hoses, large steel pasteurization vats and an assembly line where women wearing white coats and rubber shoes rolled cheeses in Rosemary.

"I think people enjoy seeing the goats over here and the milk goes in here and the curd comes out here," he said.
Contact Justin George at (303) 473-1359 or georgej@dailycamera.com.




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