Certified organic dairy goat cheese a unique niche market

Dan Woolley
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Shelley Campbell of Earltown has carved out a unique niche for herself in Nova Scotia agriculture. She and her husband Malcolm are the provinces only certified organic dairy goat farmers.

They milk 50 of the 100 goats in their Tucker Meadow Farm herd of Alpine, Nubian, La Mancha and Sanaan breeds.

Certified organic dairy goat cheese a unique niche market

Shelley Campbell of Earltown has carved out a unique niche for herself in Nova Scotia agriculture. She and her husband Malcolm are the provinces only certified organic dairy goat farmers.

They milk 50 of the 100 goats in their Tucker Meadow Farm herd of Alpine, Nubian, La Mancha and Sanaan breeds.

The couple started in 2003 with 15 goats, deciding from the beginning to seek organic certification. Shelley Campbell explains, "They (the goats) had to be on certified organic feed for one year. Also, all our hay and pasture land had to be certified organic."

That same year the Campbells got a loan to build a cheese plant; in 2004 they acquired a processing license to make cheese.

Two reasons propelled the Campbells into organic dairy goat cheese production. "I was always a dairy herd person. A friend had cancer and was looking for organic yogurt; but it was hard to buy. She said this is something you should be doing," Campbell says.

The couple originally wanted to get into organic dairying with cows, but were dissuaded because of the price of quota and the challenge of achieving organic certification within the quota system.

Dairy goats were the least cost, least hassle alternative, she says. "You just go under the radar."

Their organic cheese, now sells under the Earltown Country Cheese label from Halifax to New Glasgow. "The local support has been huge," she says,

"We sell most of it between Truro and Tatamagouche. We wholesale it to stores and some vendors sell it at farmers markets."

They also sell their organic cheeses and yogurt to specialty stores, two Halifax health food stores, independent grocers and the restaurant at the Pictou Lodge Resort, Campbell says.

"There is a big demand for goats milk and goats cheese with all the food allergies and sensitivities nowadays."

She notes Nova Scotia has only one other goat cheese plant at Aylesford which is non-organic and a non-organic goats milk dairy near Middle Musquodoboit.

The Campbells milk about 600 liters weekly from their does that yields about 40 kilograms of cheese and yogurt. "Feta cheese and yogurt are our biggest sellers. We also sell cream cheese, ricotta and panir which is almost like tofu."

She states: "We sell out every week pretty well. The market grows right along with us."

Campbell says their objective is to increase their herd and business slowly together. She manages the herd, while her husband does the field work, when not working off-farm "and my mother helps with the cheese-making."

Organizations: Earltown Country Cheese, Pictou Lodge Resort

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, La Mancha, Halifax New Glasgow Tatamagouche Middle Musquodoboit

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