351 Wise Road, Howard, PennsylvaniaPA 16841
Pennsylvania is rapidly losing its farms. A U.S. Department of Agriculture census showed that over the five-year period from 2012 to 2017, 6,000 farms closed down — a 10% decrease. This same census also showed a 6% drop in the amount of the state’s total farm acreage.
These days, it is challenging to manage a family farm in the United States. Large corporations consolidate and control pricing. Large farms can make more product and sell it for less than smaller operations. And family farming is hard work, no doubt.
But family farms provide a way for family members to work side-by-side, just like many other small businesses. And like those other businesses, family farms must have an outlet to sell their product. That is one of the core missions here at Goot Essa Cheese: to give our associated small dairy farms a place to sell their milk.
There are not too many places in central Pennsylvania that will consistently take goat milk, says Henry Wengerd, of Tyrone, who manages a goat herd of about 55 and is one of Goot Essa’s milk suppliers. Selling milk to Goot Essa allows him and his family to pay their bills and live the farming lifestyle they want to live.
“There was a time we didn’t have a market,” Wengerd added. “It seemed hopeless for a while.” Recently, Wengerd has been shipping much more milk to Goot Essa, nearly twice as much as last year, he said.
“Something we really do appreciate about Goot Essa is they are dependable, you can trust them for their word,” Wengerd said. “If they say they are going to use this much milk, we can build on that.”
Wengerd’s goats have free access to pasture and are able to come and go from the barn as they please. He also grows some corn and oats for their diet and buys soybeans from an outside farm. When asked why he raises goats instead of the more common cow, he said that his family simply prefers goat’s milk to cow’s milk.
Wengerd is one of five farms (one cow, three sheep, and one goat) that currently supply the milk for Goot Essa cheese. That connection enables these families to farm the way they want to and protect their lifestyle and their values, which include the husbandry (care) of the animals, individual responsibility, and a commitment to the hard work that goes into making a business and community thrive.
At Goot Essa, we are pleased to be able to pay our milk suppliers 10% above the market average. We believe in quality, and the willingness of our customers to recognize and pay for it. We use our suppliers’ high-quality milk to make many kinds of excellent cheese in small quantities, with individual attention to each batch to make sure every block of cheese that makes it to your home or business meets our high standards. If we don’t fulfill this promise to our customers, we won’t be able to carry out our mission and our life’s work.
At Goot Essa, we hope to support a total of 10 dairy farms by the year 2030. With your support, we will achieve our goal!
Written by Sean Yoder