From Pasture to Pint

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Andrew, middle left, and Blake place, middle right, pose for a portrait with their children Collin, 4, left, Aurora, 2, right, and Isobella, less than a month old, at their goat farm, Hidden Pastures Dairy, in Glenfield.

BY: Norah Machia
Are you allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk, yet still have that strong craving for something sweet and dairy-like? A Lewis County farm has developed an alternative treat that might just work for you – goat milk gelato.

      It’s the newest product being distributed throughout Northern New York and the Adirondacks by Hidden Pastures Dairy in Glenfield, a 300-herd goat dairy owned by the husband and wife team of Andrew and Blake Place.

     Goat’s milk is comparable in many ways to the nutritional value of cow’s milk, with similar amounts of fat and protein. But there is a difference in the digestibility of goat milk, according to Mrs. Place. 

                “For most people, the goat’s milk is easier to digest because the fat molecules are smaller, so they are absorbed quicker through the digestive system,” she said. Because the proteins are also different, a person who is allergic to proteins in cow’s milk is typically able to better tolerate the proteins in goat’s milk.

     Hidden Pastures Dairy, located on State Route 12, is a member of the New York State Grown and Certified Program and has earned the designation of a Grade A Dairy facility, which has allowed the couple to ship their milk to regional creameries.

     While their goat’s milk has been used for products such as cheese and ice cream, the couple decided last year to experiment with creating a recipe for goat milk gelato, which has a lower overall fat content than ice cream. The cream produced in the goat’s milk during the process stays consistent, so it contributes to the flavor of the gelato, without overpowering it, Mrs. Place said. No additional cream needs to be added to the goat milk gelato. “It already has a creamy and silky texture to it,” she said.

     “There are just a handful of goat farms in the north country, so we decided that goat milk gelato would be a unique idea,” Mrs. Place said.

       The goat milk gelato is distributed at more than 30 locations, including stores and restaurants, throughout the north country. The couple also sells it through their farm store, and recently launched e-commerce sales through their website. To find a location near you, or to order online, visit www.hiddenpasturesdairy.com

    “We can ship anywhere in the country, except Hawaii,” she said. There is a minimum order of a 4-pack, plus shipping costs. The gelato comes in three flavors – vanilla, chocolate and maple syrup (for the latter one, the couple uses real maple syrup from Lewis County for a distinctive taste).

        “There is a farm-to-table movement that has been growing nationwide,” Mrs. Place said. “I believe people are becoming more interested in where their food comes from and are searching for locally sourced options.”

     Mrs. Place grew up in Heuvelton, while her husband is a native of Norwich. They first met at Cornell University, where they both completed animal science degrees. While in college, the couple traveled to Italy and were introduced to gelato, what many people call the “Italian version of ice cream.”

     After college graduation, they became employed in different areas – he went to work for the Marks Farm, Lowville, and she started teaching veterinary practices at the Howard G. Sackett Technical Center in Glenfield. Raising goats started as a hobby for the couple, but their plans soon changed.

     “We decided that we wanted to start our own farm, where we could raise our children and have something to pass along to the next generation,” Mrs. Place said. The couple has three children: Collin, 4; Aurora, 3; and a newborn daughter, Isobella.

      Although both Mr. and Mrs. Place were raised on cow dairy farms, they decided to move forward in a different direction with goat dairy farming, anticipating a growing market. They light-heartedly describe the goats on their website as “some of the sweetest, most curious and awesomely animated animals around.”

      Once they made the decision to establish a goat dairy farm, they purchased 100 acres of farmland and began construction of a milk house and parlor, and later added a store with a large freezer unit. Their herd grew from just a handful of goats to their current 300-head.

     The couple is in the process of building a creamery on site. In the meantime, they transport their fresh goat milk to a creamery in Boonville, which creates the gelato dessert from their recipe. The gelato product is then sent back to the family farm for distribution (their dairy maintains a wholesale frozen dessert license).

     On the farm, they use a milking machine with a closed system, and the goat’s milk must undergo the same type of stringent testing as cow’s milk. It’s transported in sterilized food grade boxes with disposable liners (unlike a cow dairy farm, there is no truck that picks up the goat’s milk).

     Hidden Pastures Dairy also participates in the New York State Sheep and Goat Health Assurance Program and works with several veterinarians. The dairy has hosted several educational workshops through BOCES, and worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension programs in Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

     “We could not do any of this without the support of a few good friends and neighbors,” said Mrs. Place. “Our one neighbor, Steve, showed up the first night of milking, and hasn’t missed a milking since. Also, some other good friends help us by driving loads of milk to the creamery.”

     If the temperatures get too frigid to bring the children outside, friends will come over to the dairy to watch them so the couple can take care of the milking, she added. “We are so very fortunate to live in a community that supports our farm and the dream of agriculture,” she said.