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Yuma company offers farm-fresh goat's milk treats
Toggenburg Goats of Arizona, a Yuma-based company, offers farm-fresh goat cheese and other products made from goat's milk to area residents.
The new company is a joint venture of husband and wife duo Bob and Suzanne Eaton, who tend a herd of Toggenburg goats at their property on the Yuma mesa.
With the fresh milk they receive from their herd, the Eatons make homemade soap, fudge and chevre cheese, which they sell at the Sunrise Farmers Market held every Sunday throughout the winter and spring at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot. The couple does not sell raw goat's milk to the public.
At present, the cost of maintaining the goats is more than any profit the couple receives in return for their products.
“We are trying to do it as a business, but it is costly at the beginning,” Bob said. “We are hoping this next year to produce more income.”
Even though it will take time before the Eatons start earning money, they are pleased they are able to make and sell wholesome homemade products to the Yuma community.
“People love it,” Suzanne said. “They love the concept. I couldn't believe it.”
“It is satisfying that people enjoy our product,” Bob added, noting even those who have never eaten goat cheese before have become repeat customers after trying his product.
“The stuff you buy, processed goat cheese, is not the same.”
The couple have also been approached by Yuma bars and restaurants seeking to procure the fresh goat cheese to serve to their customers.
“They tasted our goat cheese and bought it,” Bob said.
The company comes from humble beginnings. About four years ago, the Eatons bought three baby female goats at the Yuma County Fair.
“It was sort of spur of the moment,” Bob said, adding that he and his wife specifically sought out Toggenburg goats, which originated in Switzerland.
“We really like the Toggenburg goat. It is the oldest domesticated goat. We decided that was the breed of goat that we wanted.”
The Eatons then traveled to California and Oregon to purchase male goats to expand their herd, which now includes about 17 females and several males. The males are kept in a separate pen.
The herd is about to get even larger because many of the female goats are pregnant. Currently, that means no fresh milk. But within a few months, the Eatons will have all the milk they need to begin making their products again.
For Suzanne, a typical day tending goats begins as the sun rises over their country property, nestled amid citrus groves and alfalfa fields.
“If I am not out there by 7 a.m., they are in panic mode.”
When the goats are not pregnant, Bob milks them in a small building within the pen.
“When we go into the milking process, we milk them twice a day,” he said, noting he is also in charge of maintaining the equipment. “It keeps me busy.”
To keep the milk sweet, it is immediately refrigerated, Bob continued.
“You get a little bit of a wild taste with goat milk. What we do is chill the milk when we first get it, and it gets the wild taste away from it.”
The milk is brought to a temperature of about 39 degrees within two hours of being collected from the goats. Some of the milk is then frozen for future use, while the rest becomes the main ingredient for various products.
The couple does not drink the milk, but Suzanne does cook with it, she said. “It is wonderful.”
The Eatons are careful to feed the goats only certain grains or alfalfa.
“They are very picky with what they will eat,” Bob said. “They have a pecking order as far as food. They love eucalyptus and mulberry.”
They are also extremely fond of hay.
“They are hooked on alfalfa. It is almost like cocaine with them,” he joked.
The Eatons sell their products from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Sunday through the end of April at the Quartermaster Depot, 201 N. 4th Ave.
For more information, call 246-7865 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.