Green farmers Ilyssa Berg and Javier Flores produce
artisan cheeses at their Painted Goat Farm.
Happy goats graze on a rotational cycle on the
farm’s 110 hilly acres.
A variety of award-winning goat cheeses are
made every other day at Painted Goat.
Helen and I checked into our room at the
Cooper Inn, built in 1813 and converted
for lodging in 1939. Our room was lovely,
and we were tempted to put our feet up for
a few minutes. But the sun was sinking and
we hurried off to The Otsego Resort for
dinner and a beautiful sunset.
The view of the lake from the resort was
spectacular. We relaxed on the back porch
waiting for our table, taking in the lake, fall
foliage, and neighboring golf course.
After dinner, we made ourselves at home
back at the Inn. Helen was busy with
some school work and I thought of the
museum’s farm and the industrialization
High-yield farming—driven by our nation’s
demand for “cheap meat”—has been stimulated by new machinery, fertilizers, genetics, and politics. Farmers who wished to
continue with ecological, free-range, nonchemical methods became the organic,
“alternative” farmers of the late 20th
Century’s environmental movement.
Agricultural polarization has continued.
Today, although by number more farms are
family-owned (91 percent), agribusiness
handily collects more revenue (73 percent).
The downside to the environment has been
pollution, from over fertilization, poor
manure management, erosion, and extended transportation needs. The social downside has been less nutritious food, confined
animals, and the waning of a philosophy
that protects the lifestyle and income of a
Helen and I were excited to spend the following day with family farmers Ilyssa Berg
and Javier Flores at their Painted Goat
Farm ( www.paintedgoat.com).
I went to sleep dreaming of goat cheese,
Ilyssa’s last e-mail playing in my head:
“Don’t wear heels.”
Early the next morning, just a few miles
outside Cooperstown, we found Painted
Goat’s mailbox in the middle of what many
would call “nowhere.” We called from the
car. “I see a barn and some pigs.” “Uh-huh,”
answered Ilyssa. (At home, this would be a
helpful landmark.) “Look for our green
barns at the end of the road.”
Ilyssa greeted us outside the building that
houses their living quarters, milking room,
office, cheese-making lab, and storage cave.
Ilyssa and Javier built everything themselves and it was impressive.
Ilyssa met Javier in a farming region of
Ecuador’s Andes while Ilyssa was doing
research for her Master’s in Ecological
Anthropology at the University of Georgia.
Her approach to farming is holistic, covering anthropology, the environment, and
She talked about Javier’s home country,
how much more environmentally conscientious the Ecuadorian people are, even without regulation and infrastructure. There,
most people live in rural areas. Their love of
the land is cultural, tied to their family’s
past and future. They value organic farming, happy animals, better food, and a
The couple had thought to remain in
Ecuador. Instead they settled here with the
idea to follow a surge of interest in food that
is gourmet, local, organic, and healthy.
Painted Goat’s 110 hilly acres are home to
80 goats (mostly Alpine and Nuvian), 24
chickens, two roosters (the younger still
working on his crow), and Juju, a very
friendly Jack Russell. The goats are rotated
from field to field where they graze on
grasses and get exercise and fresh air. They
winter in the barn with hay.
Following kidding in February, the nannies
are milked twice per day for about ten
months. The kids drink cow milk until they
are able to eat solids.
Helen and I watched Javier making cheese
in the lab. The milk had already been pasteurized and cultured. Javier scooped the
glistening pure-white curds into various
molds, while the whey drained off the table
The nutritious whey is consumed by the
neighbor’s pigs who love it so much they
reportedly no longer drink water. A sip was
enough for me.
The resulting fresh and aged cheeses are
sold at local farmers’ markets and specialty
food stores. Painted Farm won a Blue
Ribbon at the 2011 New York State Fair.
The cheese is sublime and we were anxious
to meet the prized milk makers.
The goats were friendly and affectionate,
crowding around as we approached the
gate. I shared a long embrace with a black
and white Nubian while we talked. I knew
that on the car ride home I would have to
tell Helen we couldn’t have a goat.
The goats bleated as we left, and I joked that
they were saying “good bye.” But Ilyssa
knows her goats and corrected, “They are
saying ‘come back.’” We look forward to it.
Loren Anne Barnett—CBF’s
Director of Creative Services
and Editor of Save the Bay
magazine—grew up on
Maryland’s Severn River.