May 6, 2004
Thomas County-- Mother's Day comes this weekend, and if a Thomas County woman received a gift from all her kids, she would make quite a haul.
You can call Desiree Wehner a supermom. "40 kids. Goat kids," says Desiree standing in a pasture of tall, green grass.
All the kids have names. "This is Krissy right here. Krissy came from Cricket," remembers Desiree, pointing to a young kid whose mother provides milk.
Every day, Desiree comes to check on her kids like a good mother. "You don't look like you're feeling well, or are you chilling out or are you just taking it easy today?" asks Desiree holding one of the kids in her arms.
The goat seems content. They are adorable kids. "They are very, very sweet. They just love attention," says Desiree. "I don't know why goats have such a reputation. They are intelligent, as smart as a dog," says Desiree with a gang of kids all around her vying for her attention.
These kids have a bad habit that some real kids have. "No biting," says Desiree gently as one of the kids nuzzles her forearm. They have plenty of healthy grass that grows taller than the kids for them to bite.
Desiree travels down a different philosophical road than many farmers. She strongly believes in making sure the soil is as healthy as possible to grow better crops and animals. Better fed animals produce better milk. At Sweet Grass Dairy, one of about 150 American goat dairies, they milk 150 animals, and the adults have names like the kids.
"Most know their names," says Desiree, as the mama goats get in line for milking. Some look so content they appear asleep, while others eat feed. Their milk makes five types of cheese. "These pots have a lot of sentimental value," says Desiree with a smile.
A self-taught cheese maker, "I learned it from a book," in her family kitchen with small pots at first that held two gallons of milk, moving to larger ones as her knowledge grew. The dairy has a commercial cheese maker that holds 380 gallons of goat milk, quite an increase. "It takes the same amount of time whether you use a small pot or the large vat we have now," says Desiree pointing to a large stainless steel machine.
It took five years to grow from making cheese in the family kitchen to a commercial enterprise, and in that short time, the cheeses have won five national awards from the American Cheese Society last year, quite an accomplishment for a Supermom who realizes a successful family business continues with smart kids.
Desiree plans to shift the cheese business to their real, biological kids. Then, Desiree and her husband will concentrate on their dairy cow business.
Why do they call it Sweet Grass Diary? They concentrate on boosting the soil naturally, with tests showing their grass tastes sweeter and more appealing to the animals.
Their goat dairy web site is: www.sweetgrassdairy.com.
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