A Small-Scale Goat Cheese Business

Learn how one farm family earns a comfortable living from its small-scale goat cheese business.


Photo by iStock/Getty Images Plus/nikidavison

Probably every back-to-the-lander has dreamed about making his or her homestead pay its way. These monetary ruminations tend to crop up at two times: while the would-be entrepreneur is either pouring out pounds of expensive feed to contentedly munching, "freeloading" livestock or climbing into the car, probably before daybreak, to commute to a necessary but unrewarding job in the nearest metropolis.

Well, the fact is that some folks actually have broken that "live on the farm, work in the city" cycle and earn respectable incomes from their small homesteads. For example, Gerald and Suzanne Aiello — owners of Belle Terre Farms in the rolling countryside near Orange, Virginia — have figured out a way to make their herd of 40 Nubian dairy goats pay for the farm's upkeep, provide capital for additional building and development and furnish an income for the couple and their two daughters. The keystone of this successful homestead business is a cheesemaking program — modeled on similar farm-based operations in Europe — through which the Aiellos turn out a tangy feta cheese from raw goat's milk. The undertaking has the potential of bringing in a net income of $30,000 or more a year.

Of course, Suzanne and Jerry didn't just drift into this profitable farm business. Rather, their success is the result of what they half-seriously refer to as their five-year plan: a carefully plotted homestead management program in which the Aiellos' long-range goals for Belle Terre were meshed — after a good bit of planning and research — with the resources at hand (consisting of a small herd of sleek Nubians and the entire family's willingness to work).

Brainstorming How to Make Money on a Homestead

Like most owners of small-scale dairy herds, the Aiellos were quick to recognize that the market for milk is diminishing — a trend that started in 1964 and doesn't seem likely to reverse. (In fact, one dairy journal has estimated that the goat's milk requirements for the entire state of Virginia could be fulfilled by one 120-doe herd!) So, several years ago, instead of trying to sell their surplus milk, Jerry and Suzanne decided to put it to work on their farm by using the liquid as feed to raise veal and pork for sale.



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