Innovative dairy goat farmers win Premier’s innovation award

Cindy and Kevin Hope always knew they wanted to create their own branded line of dairy goat products and goat meat right on their farm some day. What they didn’t know was that their efforts to build sustainability into their farming business would net them a prestigious award.

Cross Wind Farm was the recipient of a Premier’s Award of Excellence for Agri-food Innovation Excellence this year, which Cindy says is wonderful recognition for the work her family is doing on their farm and in Ontario’s growing goat industry.

“To win an award of this magnitude means the world to us. It means the small producer does matter and is making a difference in our local food chain,” she explains. “The work that farmers put in in a day hardly gets noticed so this recognition is a great pat on the back for us.”

The Hopes farm in Keene, about 10 minutes east of Peterborough, on the family farm where Kevin grew up milking cows. They have a dairy goat herd of 350, as well as 50 meat goats, and began shipping goat milk in spring of 2007 after renovating and expanding their 19th century barn to make it suitable for goats.

And they never looked back from there, growing their business first in 2008 to include a line of meat and soap products that were introduced at the local farmers’ market and soon spread to restaurants and specialty boutiques in the area.

In 2010, they built a 6,000 square foot dairy processing facility on their farm to meet increasing consumer demand for their products. First to be introduced was pasteurized whole milk in jugs, followed by homestead feta in two flavours and a line of chevre, which has grown to 12 flavours so far. The following year they added a new vat for yogurt production so they could expand their dairy product offerings even further.

“We decided to get into processing in response to consumer demands at our local farmers market and our own desire to provide a fresh quality product,” says Cindy. “There is nothing better than goat milk that is fresh. As farmers we have this luxury and to day to day consumers we knew that it would make a difference and it has. We’re now able to get our milk to customers within hours.”

Their goat milk is available in stores in Peterborough, Havelock, Keene, Campbellford and Lakefield and their artisan goat cheeses are sold province-wide under the Cross Wind Farm label. The Hopes have also opened a 600 square foot on-farm country store, where they sell not only their own line of goat meat and dairy products but also support other farmers in the area by carrying some of their products too.

They also offer a number of hands-on courses and agri-education experiences. This includes a “Cheese maker for a day” program that was launched in 2012 where participants learn about artisan cheese-making and can experience working in the production room.

New products are always being developed, including a new 100 per cent goat breakfast sausage that was introduced earlier this year and a “chevarti” cheese currently in the works, the Cross Wind Farm twist on traditional Havarti flavour.

Their responsibilities on-farm are pretty evenly divided with Kevin focusing primarily on animal health, safety, housing and the daily milking and Cindy providing the art of milk processing and cheese making. Daughter Mackenzie also helps out where necessary. Cindy has also recently joined the Board of Directors of Ontario Goat, where she hopes her passion for the goat industry will help to continue to grow the sector.

This article was originally written by Lilian Schaer for Farm & Food Care Ontario.

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