It’s a misty, grey morning at Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, North Carolina. A herd of goats huddles in the barn, trying to stay out of the rain, until they hear farm manager Adam Jernigan call them over.
Some of the goats perk up their ears and the youngest ones gallop over to the fence. Adam introduces three-week old goats named Fester and Puzzle. These tiny goats are the size of a small dog or large cat.
The goats crane their necks over the gate, begging for a scratch behind the ear. These goats will get lots of love during ASAP’s Farm Tour this weekend. “They’ll definitely be around,” Adam says. “They’ll definitely be paying attention to the humans that come and will likely be grateful for it.”
Visitors can also meet the does that provide milk for the creamery’s cheeses. Round Mountain Creamery produces several flavors of soft goat cheese just down the hill from where the goats graze.
Adam describes a day in the life of a goat at Round Mountain Creamery. “It begins in the morning when the milking herd is herded down into the lower large barn,” he says. “Then we usher them into the milking parlor, 16 at a time, where they get fed. As they’re distracted by feed we’re on the other end hooking them up to the milking machine. Then we let them back out and they have essentially twelve hours to just be goats. They get as much hay as they want, which is timothy and orchard grasses. They have shelter and plenty of straw to just nap and chill and gossip.”
On sunny days, the goats graze outside and greet visitors. Agritourism is a big part of the creamery’s mission and they offer tours by appointment several days a week. Big groups, young couples, and lots of kids come to the farm.
“[Tour groups] get to follow the milk from the goats’ udders in the parlor, to the culturing in the cheese room, and the packaging of the cheese,” Adam says. “Then they go out and meet the goats that make it all possible.”
For some people, it’s the first time they’ve visited a working farm and the first time they’ve been around goats. Adam doesn’t typically lead the tours, but he does overhear them when he’s working with the animals.
“I’ll be able to hear from the other side of the farm, people laughing or some kids squealing with joy when a goat tries to taste their finger or something, so typically people people leave happy,” he says.
One of the reasons the goats are so friendly is because they’re bottle fed for the first three months of their lives. Adam picks up a bottle to demonstrate how he feeds the youngest goats. The goat climbs into his arms to drink the milk. He says goats know just what to do when he holds the bottle because their instincts take over when they’re about one day old. The goat furiously wags her tail, a behavior that might be familiar to people who have pets at home.
Many of the goats’ behaviors, like nudging for scratches behind their ears or wagging their tails, are similar to how dogs act when they want human attention. These affectionate behaviors were one reason Round Mountain Creamery’s owner, Linda Seligman, wanted to start the farm in 2002.
She put Adam in charge of the day-to-day operations when she retired from farming a few years ago, but Linda still enjoys feeding the youngest goats, like Puzzle, who we met earlier. “So I get to feed her,” Linda says. “That’s my job now.”
The cheese shop is just down the hill from where the goats graze and it will be open during ASAP’s Farm Tour. Round Mountain Creamery will have soft goat cheese for sale, as well as local beverages and skincare products made by local artisans with their goats milk. And of course, the goats are a big draw.
“We’re hoping people will be able to just wander and hang out with the goats and maybe feed them,” Adam says. “We probably won’t be doing too much landscaping so there’ll be plenty of grass to pick up and feed the goats and hopefully they’ll all be in the socializing mood to come out and say hi to everybody.”
Round Mountain Creamery is one of nearly 20 farms on ASAP’s Farm Tour, June 22nd and 23rd, 2019. Read about all the farms on the tour and plan your route at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: June 17, 2019