Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Open House

Open House a-go-go.

Goat Lady Dairy has two Open Houses each year, Spring and Fall. It started as a way for customers to come out and see where the cheese comes from as well as demonstrate how a sustainable farm is managed. Every year the crowd grows in size. This spring Open House was no different.

We were blessed with great publicity. The morning news coverage really seemed to capture a lot of new customers. People were curious about the farm, the goats, the cheese and the truffles. Since I made a batch of truffles on TV, everyone wanted to try them. Once they ate them, they had to buy one or two packages of six. We were making truffles everyday, getting ready for the market as well as the Open House. We knew we had a hot product.

Sunday morning was spent in the cheese room. Steve dipped fromage curds into socks to drain. He had smoked rounds set out to dry on top of the vat. We cleaned tables and moved camembert around from one side of the room to the other. Then we left the room and began to tidy up the farm.

I felt like we were preparing for a visit from Grandma. Only we were having hundreds of grandmothers flocking to the farm in order to inspect it. We all had brooms and swept every porch, every floor, and every flat surface. Jessie and her boyfriend, Scott put up signs. Odell Routh, owner of Routh Oil Service Station, set up two pottery wheels and had lots of clay ready for the kids to try making pottery. A woodcarver was set up near the red barn selling cutting boards and other wood products. Nathan was up on a ladder, thirty feet off the ground, opening windows along the peak of the Barn roof.

The weather was perfect. Breezy and in the 70's. The sky was clear. People began to show up in droves at 12:30. We didn't start until 1:00. Oh well. Here we go.

I got to give the "cheese talk." I set up a table in a corner of the Barn, near the cheese room windows. On the table I had several cheese moulds, a cheese knife/harp, a Mason jar of fresh goat milk, and a small container of rennet. I also took a half gallon of goat milk, added a ton of rennet to it and turned it into a big gelatinous blob. I taped a sign o the side of the tub that read "curds and whey." This was my big demo prop. I knew it would suck in the curious. I was right. All afternoon, I talked about how cheese is made. I showed kids and parents the jar of milk and the tub of rennet. Then I picked up the container marked "curds and whey" and had them feel the curds. I explained how rennet is a coagulant and just a small amount could make milk turn into jelly. The kids loved it. The curds felt like cottage cheese or rice pudding. Some kids wanted to eat it. I let them smell it instead. It smelled like buttermilk.

I had to step away from my table periodically and monitor the pasteurizer. I got to make another batch fresh chevre during the Open House. During critical moments I made announcements to the crowd in the Barn. I told them what I was doing inside and to watch through the windows. When I was through, I'd explain it again and take questions. I had a great time, but I was really pooped by the end of the day.

I did manage to go outside a couple of times just to see the hoards of visitors. We were swamped. The crowds of people inside the barn were large. The coolers full of cheese were emptied by 3:00pm. The lines to sample the cheeses snaked around the room and out the doors. We had a tremendous response.

People were parked over in the pasture by Ginnie's house. Cars were parked up and down Jess Hackett Road. People were everywhere. They were eager to pet goats, look at the pigs, hold a chicken, and eat cheese. They wanted to spend money and by something from the farm. We didn't want to disappoint them. Everyone seemed to leave happy. People lingered around the pond, looking at the frogs, fish and little water snake. Families brought picnics and sat under the trees and ate. It was a perfect day to spend on the farm.

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