The area is also home to several small batch Cheesemakers which always welcome fellow cheese “nerds”.
While in the area, the new Cheesemongers at the North Bellingham Fred Meyer’s Murray’s Cheese Shop visited Gothberg Farms in Bow, a Skagit Valley goat farm owned by Cheesemaker and Herdswoman, Rhonda Gothberg.
This was my third visit to the farm and as always, Rhonda combines the excitement of visiting the goats with a short educational tour of making cheese and caring for her herd. Debbie, her #2 at the farm, joined Rhonda and added her own colorful stories to the tour. Following the tour, Rhonda and Debbie treated us to a tasting of several of her wonderful cheeses.
Rhonda, a registered nurse, uses that foundation to build an impressive farm and herd which have received the highest honors from the Animal Welfare Approved Program. Animal Welfare is the only free third-party welfare certification which visits farm to guarantee humane treatment of animals and assists family farmers who grass-feed and pasture-raise their animals with advice and help to maintain healthy herds.
Before entering her facility, Rhonda asks if anyone has been at another farm recently. If so, shoe covers are required. She also asks that we not pet the goats, to protect them from foreign germs, bacteria, etc. that we might be unknowingly carrying that could harm the animals. The farm is amazingly clean; you could literally eat off the floors and grounds. The goats have complete access to outdoors 24/7/365; they can hang out inside or outdoors as they please.
So dedicated to having perfect animals, Rhonda set out a few years ago to create a perfect dry mix to supplement the grass and hay she feeds her does and bucks. She consulted other experts and finally designed a feed that the local feed store mixes for her and now sells commercially to many farmers in the area. It is marketed and sold as “Gothberg Goat” with the sub-label of “For growing and lactating goats”. Rhonda receives no compensation for sales but receives major kudos for her superior feed.
You can buy Rhonda’s cheeses at local farmers’ markets, co-ops, specialty food markets and the farm. A map with all locations is on her website. An honor fridge is set-up at the farms on a daily basis. The fridge is stocked daily with a price list. All proceeds from this honor fridge are going toward buying a fire-burning pizza oven…
If you’re in the neighborhood, Gothberg Farms is off the scenic Chuckanut Drive that rolls along Samish Bay, part of the Puget Sound. During low tide you can see the Taylor Shellfish Farms oyster and clam beds from the cliffs above the bay.
At the request of The Man, I brought home both fresh feta and fresh chevre which we enjoyed with a freshly baked baguette and fig spread… all 4 Paws cheeses and another 4 Paw visit to Gothberg Farms.
You can read about our previous profiles and visits to Gothberg Farms:
Cheese Profile: The Woman of LaMancha, a raw goat milk cheese, aged and rubbed with paprika.
North of Bellingham in Ferndale is Appel Farms, a farmstead cheesemaking family that recently opened a store that offers their cheeses, cut to order, coffee (through their drive-through window) and a cafe which was busy when The Man and I arrived on Memorial Day.
When I was slinging cheese at the Hawthorne Fred Meyer, we carried Appel Farms’ Jalapeno Gouda and Smoked Gouda which Spaulding profiled.
While at the shop we met Owner Ruth Appel, bought a selection of cheddars and one raw milk gouda. Before leaving we took pictures with the “cows” that hangout in the shop.
We also brought home (actually hotel, but when you travel as much as I do, any place you lay your head becomes “home”) a slice of their house made cheesecake with fresh strawberries.
The cheeses we purchased that day are on the schedule to be our cheese plate tonight and will be reviewed in the coming days… stay tuned…