Supplier Diaries | A Visit to Dreaming Goat Dairy 🐐
Oct 03, 2023
Many of you who have followed our journey from the very beginning already know our story and the reason behind the name of Porcupine Eatery. The romantic idea of one day moving back to Daylesford/Porcupine Ridge and using the best ingredients in the Central Victorian region to showcase the amazing producers Australia has to offer. Although this goal is now still in the near future, there are no barriers to stop us from connecting with growers and producers in the area now. So when we do make the move, we already have a strong connection to the farmers of the land and what they have to offer.
Farmers Markets are a great way to connect with local growers and producers, and serving at the Woodend Farmer’s Market is no exception. We are often there during the winter months. Woodend, is often cold and wet around that time but our woodfire oven is a welcome sight for all. And that’s how we first met Sarah. Sarah trekked through the mud and rain from the other side of the market to try our pizza. Not ten minutes had passed and she came back with a smile asking for two more. We then started chatting and she explained that they run a goat farm - Dreaming Goat Dairy, and use the milk to produce several types of cheeses. Before we left, Sarah came by and dropped off a jar of Pressed Chevre. The next morning, I made ourselves an avo’ on toast with the goats cheese and let me tell you - I called them straight away to talk about how we can put it on our menu.
It was Daniel, who answered. The other half of the husband and wife team. We chatted for nearly an hour. Daniel explained how, very similarly to us, they'd left their corporate jobs after volunteering in a goat farm in Iran, and then moved to the country to farm their own goats. I could tell straight away that they were as passionate about goats and cheese production as I was about utilising local ingredients as part of our menu. So we set up a visit to their farm in order to understand more about what goes into producing some of the country’s best goats cheese.
On an early spring morning, Christine and I drove up to Monegeetta, through golden canola fields and dirt roads to reach the Dreaming Goat Dairy Farm. Sarah was already up milking the goats prior to our arrival. A small herd of just over forty goats. While quickly milking ten goats at a time, she explained the milking process starting with hand milking and then changed to machine, and then back to hand - as to alleviate stress from the goat’s udders. She then explained the different types of milk yields as it changes during the winter and summertime - where more nutritious milk is produced during winter and it gets more watery in the summer months. A very important factor in calculating cheese production. Milk yield can almost double in parts of the year, so it is a challenge to produce enough cheese all year round. You could tell that every decision that they were making was not just for the quantity of milk produced but also to take good care of the goats. They knew each and every goat by name at a glance and every goat had a detailed daily diary. Sarah explained that unlike big goats cheese producers, they try not to breed the goats too often - only once every three years. Yes, the down side is less milk production, but the goats have a better life and new mums are also able to spend time with their kids.
We were lucky coming in spring as several goats were pregnant and there were two new mums, which meant we were able to meet the new kids on the farm. Only a week old, we gave the baby goats a cuddle as Daniel showed us each section of the farm. As we toured the paddocks, each group is kept in its own area, from mums, teenagers, non-milking goats and bucks. It is here where we realised that the cheese making and milking is only a very small part of running the farm. The brunt is looking after the goats themselves. Daniel and Sarah choosing to look after the goats with so much care and respect doesn't make the job easy either, but I think that is also a reason why the cheese they produce is so good.
As we finished the tour, we were offered coffee and breakfast out in the sun. As we dug into the delicious farro salad topped with their pressed chevre, it was humbling to hear their story and the hard work they have put into running their farm. As with all labours of love, you don’t get rich being a small-scale goat farmer. But this is precisely why the product is of such high quality. There is so much respect for the animal and the milk that you can’t help but produce the best product that you can. And for us, visiting these farms and meeting people like Daniel and Sarah, really inspire us to to continue telling their story on the plate. So much work goes into producing the cheese, so as chefs we must showcase it in the best possible light.
We finished in agreement that the relationship between chef and producer is symbiotic. For us to use their produce and spread the word allows them to produce more and as their reach grows, they are able to refer customers to taste their product though us. In small country communities these relationships are life lines for both of us to survive and prosper.
We left Monageetta with some pressed chevre, ready for Heathcote Wine and Food Festival (happening this upcoming weekend 7-8th October). We will be serving a spring special which includes: Fior di latte, our Everything Onions, grilled asparagus, fermented beetroot and Dreaming Goat Dairy pressed chevre. Make sure you come down to try it and hopefully meet the producers themselves. Daniel and Sarah will also be at Woodend Farmers Market this Saturday - so please get some cheese from them there if you can’t make it out to Heathcote.
Daniel and Sarah’s hospitality and willingness to share their knowledge, is for me, priceless. I hope this will be one of many relationships with growers and producers in the region we begin to establish as we continue to work our way back to Porcupine Ridge in the near future.