Hawai'i Island Goat Dairy
The Hawai'i Island Goat Dairy is a small goat farm and dairy that produces all handmade "Farmstead Goat Cheeses" the old fashioned way.
The farm is located in Ahualoa, above the Honoka'a area at about 1800 feet elevation, nestled into the flanks of Mauna Kea on a beautiful 10-acre property that was at one time a macadamia nut tree farm. The macnuts trees are still there but are not harvested commercially.
Owner Dick Threlfall, a retired farrier who shod horses for over 35 years, and his late wife Heather, who worked in the veterinary field most of her professional life, started the farm in the year 2000. They built the dairy and a house at the old macadamia nut farm site.
At this time the herd consists of several dairy goat breeds such as Alpines, Toggenburgs, Nubians, Saanens and a few Snubians (the result of cross breeding between the last two).
The dairy counts 90 milk-producing goats, 4 bucks, a few retired goats and several adorable babies. They are all numbered and named. Among many others we spotted Bandit, Tamale, Tanya, Squeeker, Cookie, Birdie and Whoopi. A new addition is a pure-bred Boer buckling named Zeus. Most of the kids are sold off, except those kept for breeding.
There are several pastures where the goats are allowed to free range on rotation to ensure enough vegetation to supplement their diet of imported alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets. The vegetation of preference, besides pasture grass, is leaves of ginger, ti, bamboo, and macadamia.
The goats are milked to the sound of music, twice a day by a fully automated pipeline milking system designed specifically for goats. Some of the goats can produce as much as 2-1/2 gallons of milk a day. One particular goat always tries to be the first one in line, pushing her way through the rest to guarantee her spot.
In the early stages of the farm, Heather made only chèvre, the soft, creamy cheese. Later she started experimenting with adding different flavors to the chèvre and started making the popular Guava Wood-Smoked Pyramids, Feta, Gavarti and other types of cheeses.
Since then a long, narrow utility closet was converted into a walk-in refrigerated "cheese cave," lined with shelves along one wall. This made it possible for a much larger variety of aged cheeses to be crafted.
Amongst the many new cheeses the Dairy is now producing are Fromage Blanc, Kalehua Crottin de Chèvre, Gruyère style, Feta, Gouda, Colby, Mozzarella, and Gavarti (Havarti style), Aged Valençay (a hard cheese that can be grated as you would Parmigiano); Saint George, Bulgarian White Cheese, Hamakua Tomme style (which are generally low in fat since they are made with milk that has been skimmed of fat to make the richer cheeses), and Smoked Guava Wood Pyramid. Finally, of course, the plain, creamy chèvre and the several flavored chèvre: Dill & Garlic, Macnut-Basil Pesto, and Chipotle Pepper.
Most of the cheese is sold to island chefs who feature it on their restaurant menus. But you can also find it locally at Dick's booth at the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market on Saturdays, and at Abundant Life health food store in Hilo.
A new product for the dairy is Goat Milk Soap made with 30% goat milk and using no lye (sodium hydroxide)
Dick's son, granddaughter, and brother-in-law have recently joined the rest of the farm employees, continuing the tradition of a family-owned farmstead.
If interested in learning about goats and cheese-making, contact them about their internship program.
Hawai'i Island Goat Dairy Farm
45-3529 Kawela Place, Ahualoa
Sonia R. Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a. She is a regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine; and has her own food & garden blog at www.soniatasteshawaii.com.