By Sara Shouhayib
Gretta’s Goats Farm held an open house – first ever – in Pecatonica on Saturday to give fans of the soap a chance to learn more about where the product comes from.
A big conversation circling through the open house that day focused on cheese as the farm moves to become a micro dairy.
Gretta Winkelbauer, farmer and owner of Gretta’s Goats, said she plans to start offering cheese next year.
Winkelbauer received a grant from Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation about a month ago to help launch the dairy initiative. The foundation supports small sustainable Midwestern farms serving the Chicago area by providing capital development grants.
“That’s like a game changer for us,” said Winkelbauer with her herd of 30 goats. The grant money will help the farm purchase a bulk milk tank and pasteurizer vat for the dairy.
Gretta’s Goats launched five years ago with goat milk soap as the main product and business, but her long-term goal was always to produce fresh dairy.
“I really wanted to make food, sustainable food, but I couldn’t do the dairy first because of all of the expense to it, all the money and the proper buildings and everything. So soap was a way to start my farm, have my goats, support my goats, support me and hopefully now transition into the dairy,” Winkelbauer said.
The farm is now making the transition in order to offer seasonal fresh chevre cheese, a creamy white goat cheese. Winkelbauer is exploring the option of making kefir cheese and frozen yogurt as well.
We’re all very excited about it,” said Kim Nemire, Gretta’s Goats farm hand. “I work farmers markets for her in [Chicago] and everyone always asks when is the cheese coming? When is the cheese coming?”
Simon Belisle drove 100 miles from Evanston to come to the open house. He and his wife have the soap and can’t wait to sample the cheese.
“We’re really excited about that and we’re looking forward to hopefully being guinea pigs,” Belisle said.
The farm is $20, 000 away from where it needs to be to build a USDA certified cheese make room and a mobile milking parlor to milk goats in the field. The farm will be having a kick-starter fundraiser in a month to help raise the rest of the money.
Despite the recent changes and potential implementations, Winkelbauer wants to remain small for the sake of Sassafras, Freda and Tansy, goats who are all expecting to deliver babies this week.
“I want to still know all of my goats names, and be able and be hands on, and be able to care for them and know right away if there’s something off or if they’re sick so I can take care of them,” she said.
Winkelbauer’s goat milk soap line will still be offered at various locations even when the micro dairy launches next year including her farm in Pecatonica, several farmers markets, including Evanston’s, and at a few Whole Foods Markets in the Chicago area.