A Visit to Twig Farm

Twig Goat Close-Up

Goats are sensitive, fickle creatures and often don’t like to eat or give milk if it’s rainy or too hot.

Michael Lee strides into the thick, overgrown land behind his house, looking for the shady spot where his herd of goats is foraging for their afternoon meal.

“Hey ladies!” he shouts upon spotting the group, and steps over the portable fence into their large makeshift pen. At once, they surround him, following as he walks to another part of the pasture. He knows each one by name, and can tell you stories about their personalities, which other goats in the herd they are related to, and which ones managed to survive a vicious dog attack last year.

Curious Twig Farm Goat

One of Michael Lee’s curious goats looks for something to eat.

Lee, a former cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen, has been making his own cheese at Twig Farm since 2004. He lives with his wife, Emily, their young son, and about 40 amiable goats on 20 sprawling acres just outside of Middlebury, VT.

We first visited on a hot day in June, and although Michael told us that goats tend to eat less on hot days, this flock — mostly Alpine breed — did not seem to lack for appetite. They scrambled around eating dogwood and buckthorn, a welcome change from the hay that sustains them through the winter.

Twig Cave

Michael Lee ages his cheeses in a climate-controlled cave under his house.

The goats, who typically have kids in February, will give milk until winter. Michael milks them twice a day and makes cheese three times a week. Although his goats produce a couple hundred pounds of milk a day, Michael also buys both cow and goat’s milk from other nearby farms, which he uses to make cheeses such as Twig Farm’s goat tommes and washed rind wheels. Only his square cheese, which is carried at Formaggio Kitchen under the name “North Stone,” is made entirely of milk from Twig Farm goats.

Michael ages his cheeses — typically anywhere from 60-100 days — in a cellar below his house that is cooled to around 50 degrees. Some wheels are regularly washed with brine to encourage the growth of a pungent orange rind, while others naturally develop a mottled gray crust. Several are shipped to Jasper Hill Farm’s new cellar facility in Greensboro, VT, for distribution across the country (see related travelogue), while others are sold at nearby farmer’s markets.

Check out our complete collection of Twig Farm cheeses.