Mystery Bay Farm’s goat’s milk cheeses and yogurt are only available on the Olympic Peninsula, so whenever I’m over there, which, fortunately, is fairly often, I make it a point of stopping to buy a thyme and white pepper fresh chevre, or sometimes two… The other day, I also tentatively picked up a jar of their farmstead yogurt .
While I was working on the story below, I was hanging around in the milking room talking to Rachael, and she assured me that if I were to drink some of her chilled fresh goat’s milk, I’d never know the difference from cow’s milk. I was skeptical, and due to USDA regulations, she couldn’t prove it to me, but after spooning some of that creamy sweet yogurt onto my bowl of fruit, I know she wasn’t kidding.
Though I love goat’s milk cheeses, I had a strong bias against the milk and yogurt. My skepticism stemmed from the fact that growing up, my brother was allergic to cow’s milk, so we always had a carton of goat’s milk in the refrigerator alongside the cartons of Darigold. In the summers, we made frequent treks from our cabin on the Olympic Peninsula near Quilcene to a farm near Sequim where we bought goat’s milk, which was pretty unusual in the early 70’s. My memory of the barnyard smell of the milk suggested that I would definitely know the difference between it and the cow’s milk I was accustomed to. Rachael’s yogurt had none of that. It tastes clean and creamy, not overly rich, and without any bite. It was actually perfect on fruit… At least in my opinion.
I wrote the following for Rear Curtain magazine, after a visit to Mystery Bay Farm. Since then, the herd size has increased to 20 milking goats, the products are available in more locations, Cora’s grown up a bit, the barn has 100% solar heated hot water, and the farm has a new kitty. Fortunately, they still make my favorite cheese…
Sitting on Rachael and Scott’s living room floor with a glass of wine in my hand, I reflected on an afternoon of photographing the process of caring for goats, milking and the first steps of cheese making at Mystery Bay goat dairy. Scott’s mother, visiting from California, was making a pasta dish from vegetables and herbs gathered from the garden behind the house and their own fresh cheese. Scott and his father helped, rotating in and out of the kitchen a few feet away. Rachel and Cora, their two and a half year old, sat across from me, and a pleasant buzz of conversation filled the small house.
Rachael Van Laanan and Scott Brinton own Mystery Bay Farm. Their interest in farming and food production is via ecology and environmental education. Scott teaches in nearby Port Townsend and the surrounding area alongside his responsibilities on the farm. Rachael cares for the goats and makes cheese. Cora keeps her mom company, and has learned enough to earn herself a pair of rain boots – designated footwear worn only in the cheese room.
Mystery Bay Farm is the couple’s personal, whole-hearted answer and contribution to the question of sustainable local food production. “We feel that there is a need to inform the greater public about where our food comes from and to provide a genuine experience for the growing number of people interested in artisan, non-industrial food production and farming.”
Spending the afternoon with Rachael felt like a privilege; a window into a lifestyle that harkens back to another era yet embraces the challenges and opportunities of this one. Theirs is not an exercise in nostalgia or an experiment in living off the grid. Rachael runs a business that makes award winning cheese and supplies an expanding number of restaurants and retail locations. Scott juggles a career in teaching with farming, and together they are raising a child who watched the goats being milked to make the cheese sprinkled on her pasta.
To find Mystery Bay Farm on line go to: www.mysterybayfarm.com.
To see the original slideshow go to: Rear Curtain