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Local Family Starts Goat Cheese Production

The Guindons of Lost Ruby Farm

By Lindsey Pizzica Rotolo

Adair Mali and Antonio Guindon bought their first goat shortly after returning from a year-long trip to Guindon’s homeland of Costa Rica in 2009. Goats were everywhere during Guindon’s youth, and he swore to never own the “loud, stinky animals”, but one of his daughters and his wife had a cow dairy allergy, and filled that void in their diet with the consumption of goat milk and goat cheese. It didn’t take long for Skye, one of the couple’s then nine year-old twins, to talk Guindon into goat ownership.

Conveniently, Mali had taken a cheese-making class several years earlier, so she was ready at the helm. And their home, the 14-acre former Canfield farm on the corner of Winchester and Schoolhouse Roads, was the perfect place to raise animals. Recently renamed Lost Ruby Farm for the rumored uncut ruby lost in the floorboards of the farmhouse a century ago, the farm used to stretch over the entire neighborhood, at least as far down Winchester Road as the still-standing silo on the corner of Bruey Road. “We’ve taken the land back to where it should be,” says Guindon, “and that feels pretty good.”

Perhaps there was something even more relatable about goats for Guindon and Mali, like the fact that goats almost always have multiples for offspring. The older a goat becomes, the more likely they are to have triplets than twins. The first two years of the Lost Ruby Farm operation, there were six babies each year, the third year brought ten offspring and the fourth year brought 14. The population can get away from you quickly, but another onerous set of certifications is required by the Department of Agriculture once your herd surpasses ten, so at ten the Lost Ruby Farm operation will remain.

Even with just ten goats, there are plenty of burdensome requirements. The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, the bible for all milk and cheese operations, is a tome with stipulations on everything under the sun. For starters, the United States Department of Health and Human Services requires a segregated barn with two separate rooms, a milk house and a make room. Guindon and his oldest daughter, Oriana, spent much of their free time this winter and spring building the barn.

“We spent a lot of time talking about where our food was coming from, the thousands of miles it travels and the toll that takes on the environment. It got to the point where just talking about it wasn’t satisfying. If you really care about it, you have to do something about it,” says Guindon.

And they did. An average day’s milking results in 32-pounds of goat milk, which yields seven pounds of cheese and 25 pounds of whey. The disposal of the by-product almost halted the entire operation. Torrington Health Department informed Guindon and Mali that they needed to invest in a special septic system dedicated to the new barn. The couple’s quick math resulted in an estimated financial burden of up to $60,000 for such a system, but Guindon soon realized that their pigs loved the whey. He contacted the Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), who came out to the farm, dug test pits, tested soils and designed a disposal system with the pigs’ consumption rates in mind for just $4,000.

Norfolk’s Zoning Commission learned a lot from Lost Ruby Farm’s approval process, and is now positioned to encourage small farms to produce goods at profit. “Trashing the land isn’t sustainable. I want the animals to be happy,” Guindon says. “If you raise them well, they die happy.” And they taste better, too. You would be hard-pressed to find a better tasting goat cheese than what comes out of Lost Ruby Farm. Very benign in taste and with a consistency of whipped butter, customers will be happy to know that two sizes are available, an eight-ounce container for $10 and a one-pound container for $20.

Female goats constantly produce hormones in the presence of the males, which results in that pungent, gamey taste that is the big complaint about goat milk. Lost Ruby Farm’s chèvre’s mild flavor is achieved by separating the female goats from the males. As with humans, you don’t want any kissing cousins among your herd, so Guindon borrows goats from as far away as Granby to keep the bloodlines diverse.

“Our cheese is unique,” Mali adds. “Many people have described it as the best goat cheese they have ever eaten. We think that’s because we take the time to get each step in the process exactly right. Our goats all have names, not numbers, and they have the freedom to explore the pastures and choose what they eat. We believe that what the animals eat is really important. That’s why we’ve chosen to use organic feed and to make sure that each animal has access to pasture every day.”
Mali and Guindon hope to produce 2,000 pounds of cheese a year. With no sights set on great expansion, that is just enough cheese to serve their community. Interested consumers can find Lost Ruby Farm chèvre at the Farmers Market this summer or they can get it straight from the source at 458 Winchester Road.

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