There’s a goat diary nestled in the hills of Southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, bustling with the activity of about 50 energetic goats. But focus in a little closer and you’ll notice something different: the dairy goats are adorably cute Nigerian Dwarf goats, a pint-sized version of a ‘normal’ goat that stand about two feet tall. While these goats are small enough to be kept for pets, as it happens the breed’s milk is especially high in protein and butterfat (more than twice the butterfat of regular goat’s milk), making it perfect for cheesemaking. In fact, Pholia Farm (pronounced fo - LEE - a) is currently among the first cheesemaking operations in the US making cheese from the milk of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
Vern and Gianaclis Caldwell, who along with daughter Amelia are proprietors of Pholia Farm, purchased their first two goats while living in San Diego. “I had dairy cows growing up and initially wanted to provide healthy, kindly raised milk for our family,” Gianaclis says. A magazine article she read about dairy goats happened to mention the Nigerian Dwarf goat. The dwarf breed was appealing in part because Amelia, then 8 years old, would easily be able to handle them. One thing led to another and soon enough, the family was experimenting with using goat’s milk to make various products including soap and cheese. And the results of the Caldwells' experimentation with cheesemaking speak for themselves: when they entered their cheeses in a competition at the American Dairy Goat Association in 2005, their Elk Mountain cheese won Best in Show honors in the Amateur Division.
While it might seem like a long ways from San Diego to Southern Oregon, the move was a homecoming of sorts for Gianaclis, who was raised on the land where Pholia Farm now lies. The Caldwells are currently in the process of completing construction on their goat farm, a completely self-sustaining operation that fuels itself exclusively with energy from solar panels and a micro-hydro turbine, along with a biodiesel generator for emergencies. “Vern and I are bothered by the consumption and consumerism going on in the US. . . while we may not even make much of a dent in that, we can try!” says Gianaclis. Pholia Farm focuses every ounce of that self-generated energy on making outstanding cheese.
While the Caldwells hope to add to their herd in the future, the cheesemaking operation will always stay somewhat small, says Gianaclis. Small goats produce small amounts of milk, which translates into a relatively modest output of cheese when compared to that of regular-sized goats or cows. The family will also continue to concentrate on developing their Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeding program.
Pholia Farm currently produces three cheeses: Elk Mountain, washed with Caldera Pale Ale (a local microbrew); Hillis Peak, aged 4-8 months and rubbed with olive oil and sweet paprika; and Wimer Winter, an outstanding washed rind cheese aged 60-80 days. Pholia Farm cheeses are currently available at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon or at Artisanal Premium Cheese in New York and Pastoral Artisan Cheese in Chicago, Illinois. The restricted output means their cheeses might be a challenge to find, but once you try Pholia Farm cheeses you’ll find that the search is well worth the effort.
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Pholia Farm Gianaclis and Vern Caldwell 9115 W Evans Creek Rd Rogue River, OR 97537 (541) 582-8883