Brought to Your Table by the Brown Family
A van pulls up to Amaltheia Dairy. Kids pop out, glance around, and ooh and aah at the snowcapped mountains and expansive green and yellow fields. A squealing piglet delights.
Sue and Melvyn Brown are no strangers to groups like this; they host a variety of tours not only for those who want to pet a goat but also for those who want to see a successful sustainable farming business in action. Recently highlighted in the book Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business, the couple has pieced together a profitable and rewarding farm in stages that seemed to fall together perfectly.
Melvyn, who grew up on a farm in the U.K., is a specialist in cattle embryo transplants, a skill that took him to Guatemala more than 30 years ago to work on the ranch of a wealthy cattleman. That’s where he met Sue, who was working as a teacher. After many ranch-related jobs in the U.S., they landed in Southwest Montana and decided it was time to have their own farm. They bought 20 acres just outside of Bozeman in 1997. Since it was not nearly enough room to graze cattle, they opted for goats instead.
It wasn’t long before they opened their own cheese-making facility nearby. In 2004, they won three awards from the American Cheese Society. Today, the Browns produce about a half a ton of cheese a week, which is distributed to grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Wild Oats as well as through their website. They make a plain goat cheese and a ricotta along with flavor-infused chevres, such as roasted garlic, sundried tomato, and spiced pepper. “People say you can taste the mountains in our cheese,” Sue says. “It tastes fresh, creamy, and clean. It’s just one farm’s milk going into it, which makes a difference.”
“Happy goats make good milk,” Melvyn adds.
And happy they are. At Amaltheia, goats mingle with sheep and alpaca and nuzzle a passerby; there are lambs snuggling with a piglet, chickens roaming with the pigs. And then of course there’s the wildlife: eagles, hawks, owls, elk, deer, coyotes, you name it. Aside from raising animals, their son Nate, who runs the farm with them, has built high tunnels (like greenhouses) to grow a variety of produce, and he has also created a business out of selling organic compost.
“We never used chemicals,” Sue says. “We just always knew how toxic that was.” They became certified organic in 2005, and by 2010, they leased another 130 acres and then another 120 acres of neighboring land to comply with the new organic standards of grazing for 120 days.
Meanwhile, back at the cheese factory, the Browns wanted to find something to do with all the whey, a cheese-making bi-product that was left over. “Part of our mission was to do zero emissions,” Sue explains. They decided to get pigs to eat the whey. Now they sell organic pork throughout Montana.
The Browns are an extraordinary sustainable success story. They love their lifestyle, their mountain views, their animals, their visitors, the many interns they host each year, and the fact that they can create products that people love. “We’re happy doing it,” Sue says. “It’s a lot of work, but we believe in this kind of farming.”
Amaltheia Organic Dairy | www.amaltheiadairy.com
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