Rumors swirled that 1,200 people were expected at the Brooklyn Food Conference (BFC) on Saturday, May 2 at John Jay High School in Park Slope, Brooklyn. We were certainly surprised to find a projected 3,000 people in attendance and we even ran out of most of our materials! It was an honor to be invited to speak on the panel, "Our industrial meat complex: Hazardous to our health and our habitat" moderated by Kerry Trueman (co-founder of EatingLiberally.org) and to present testimony at the Public Hearing on Food Policy and Implementation with State and City Elected Officials. Animal Welfare Approved staffer Brigid Sweeney presented on behalf of independent pasture-based and high welfare farmers before State Senator Eric Adams, State Assembly member Jim Brennan, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and City Council Member Leticia James. The public hearing was moderated by David Buckel, civil rights attorney and BFC volunteer organizer, who is determined to make Animal Welfare Approved's voice heard for New York's legislative agenda.
Meg and Joel Wittenmyer raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) dairy goats outdoors on pasture at Bifrost Farms Creamery in Boyceville, Wisconsin. Bifrost Farms Creamery is set on 20 acres of mixed tillable pasture, forest and wetland. The Wittenmyers raise mini-Nubian dairy goats—a cross between Nigerian Dwarf and standard Nubian goats—which are perfect for one-on-one handling and produce a wonderful high-butterfat milk for cheese making. The Wittenmyers decided to pursue Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification to highlight their high-welfare, pasture-based management: “We felt we already practiced many of the tenets espoused by Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and wanted to let the world know,” says Meg. “We are very proud of our practices.”
The Wittenmyers moved to the farm with the goal of producing as much food as possible for themselves, and their love of raising goats evolved into their cheese making business. “We got a couple of goats for dairy needs and I discovered a passion for cheese making,” Meg explains. “After three years of working towards it, I got my Wisconsin Cheesemaker’s License and we built the creamery.”
It had been decades since anyone farmed the land before the Wittenmyers moved to the farm in 2010, so Meg and Joel are focused on building soil health to encourage more efficient and sustainable growth of browse and pasture. Their goats are raised outdoors on rotating pastures, which in addition to allowing goats to express natural behaviors and building soil health, promotes goat health by disrupting parasite lifecycles.
“While I keep the pastures maintained and things working properly, Meg acts as cheesemaker, milker, goat herder and midwife for our herd,” Joel explains. “Between the two of us, every detailed aspect of the farm, dairy and creamery is controlled to our exacting standards—now also reflected in our AWA certification—creating true pasture to plate goat milk products.”
Long term, Meg and Joel hope to be able to expand the pasture available to their goats by adding new fencing and water lines and would like to work toward growing their own hay. The Wittenmyers are aiming for sustainable growth—no more than 50 goats, milking no more than 20. “At these goal numbers, each goat gets the individual attention they deserve, and I can stay on top of conditions more easily,” says Meg.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW goat’s milk cheeses, seasonal yogurt cheeses (spring and summer) and luscious Cajeta (fall and winter) from Bifrost Farms Creamery are available at The Menomonie Market and Just Local Food Co-Ops, seasonally at the Menomonie Farmers’ Market and The Barron Farmer’s Market, and direct from the farm. For more information, visit www.bifrostfarms.com, or follow Bifrost Farms Creamery on Facebook @BifrostFarmsDairyGoats, Instagram @Bifrostfarms and Twitter @bifrostfarms.