BDN speaks with Welcomer, Marcinkowski about goat milking, cheesemaking

The Bangor Daily News spoke with Stephanie Welcomer, professor and associate dean of the Maine Business School at the University of Maine; and David Marcinkowski, associate professor and extension dairy specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, for the article “Maine farmers were milking goats long before it was trendy.” “The original [goat] cheese producers who popped up in the ’70s and ’80s were largely women who turned to goats instead of the traditional cow dairy,” said Welcomer. “Some of these women were really pioneers in introducing goat cheese.” Goat milking is the fastest growing farming sector in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture — dairy goat herds grew 61 percent between 2007 and 2017, the BDN reported. “The artisanal cheese market has really exploded,” said Welcomer. “[In Maine], we’ve gone from 10 to 20 creameries to over 80. [Maine is] first in terms of per capita creameries and second to New York in number of artisanal creameries.” According to Welcomer, Maine has less strict governmental regulations on startup dairy operations than other states, which could attract potential goat milkers. “The barriers to entry are a little lower. If you decide you want to try this out and get serious about it, you can build a creamery for less than $50,000. That makes cheesemaking thinkable,” she said. Goat milk is primarily used for value-added products like cheese and soap, which are not as much at the mercy of the whims of fluctuating dairy markets as cow milk is, according to the BDN, but value-added products do have their own challenges. “There’s certainly more interest in goats,” said Marcinkowski. “Most of that milk is going into cheese operations and stuff like that. But you have to then market yourself and your products, and that can have all of its own issues as well.”