ERIE – Pam Wakan strolls out into her yard, and all her kids run up to her. They bounce around and rub up against her as she talks gently to them and rubs their heads. Pam, her husband, Paul, and son, Steve, own and operate the Wakan Goat Dairy, just outside of Erie. Pam and Steve do the bulk of the work, and Paul helps out, working around his full-time engineering job in Longmont. Pam has between 75 and 80 goats, which are milked each day to produce chevre and feta cheese. Although the Wakans run an active cheese dairy, it’s clear the goats are Pam’s pets. “Goats are real sensitive; they can be your best friend,” Pam said. “If you sit there with them, they come over and pester you to get petted. They are very social. Sometimes I go out and just sit with them.” It was not Pam’s intention to raise goats when she adopted her first kid while living on the island of St. Kitts, in the West Indies. “I found this little goat with my former husband when he was studying monkeys on St. Kitts,” Pam said. “We carried Pepper around everywhere, and we brought her home with us.” In the West Indies, Pepper would run around the ping-pong table when they batted the ball back and forth. Pepper was in quarantine for the required time after they returned to the states. When the Wakans came to claim the little goat, Pepper had become the favorite pet of the caretakers. So when Pepper died, Pam was heartbroken. She decided she didn’t want any more goats. That was then. When Pam moved to Colorado 10 years ago, she made friends with a local veterinarian who raised goats. Soon, Pam bought a goat named Hazel from the vet. She began reading and studying cheese-making and bought a herd of eight goats. “It took us five years to set up,” she said. “Everything I had read said to be careful not to get into a lot of debt. We built up our herd slowly. Someone gave me a cheese-making book, and I took a class at Erie High School. I took other courses along the way. So then we started to get into it, and I got licensed in 1990. But when I started out, it wasn’t real popular. Lots of people wanted to smell the cheese. In the beginning, people were skeptical. They believed the old wive’s tales. It’s a myth that goats eat anything. They are actually finicky eaters, picking out the leafy alfalfa and refusing anything that has fallen on the ground.” It was a gradual process, Pam said, but goat cheese caught on and has become popular. “I belong to the national and state goat clubs, and we are trying to educate people and to promote our products,” she said. The Wakans raise registered Nubian goats, fed on locally grown alfalfa and a ration of grain at milking time. Steve has two white La Mancha goats he is trying to breed. “It is only the male goats which carry a strong odor,” Pam said. “They have scent glands on top of their heads which they use to attract females, and they urinate on themselves during rutting season.” The goats mate in the fall and give birth or freshen in the spring, when they begin the lactation process. The milk diminishes at the end of the year. “We have chosen not to alter the natural cycle,” Pam said. “Therefore, we are seasonal cheese makers.” Cheese is produced from April through December. The cheese is pasteurized by heating the milk at low temperature for 30 minutes. “We drink the raw milk here, and we make ice cream,” she said. “People are always asking us for ice cream and milk, but we don’t sell it.” Goat products are gaining in popularity for a number of reasons, Pam said. Goat cheese is easier to digest than other types of cheeses because its component molecules consist of smaller short-chain fatty acids. The fats break down more easily than the larger, long-chain fats contained in cow’s milk cheese. Goat cheese generally is considered to be high in protein, vitamins and minerals and low in calories. “In general, goat milk is about 6 percent fat, and in all the literature I have seen, goat milk is lower in fat than cow milk,” Pam said. “Chevre is lower in fat than feta or hard cheese because it has more water than hard cheese. “I think it is growing in popularity because, in my opinion, the foreign goat cheese was very strong or pungent. In Europe, the standards are not as strict as they are here, and the milk would break down. But now Americans are making goat cheese that is a quality product and doesn’t have that goaty flavor. In Europe, they like that pungent flavor, but I think that now Americans like goat cheese because it has a more mild flavor.”
ERIE – Pam Wakan strolls out into her yard, and all her kids run up to her. They bounce around and rub up against her as she talks gently to them and rubs their heads. Pam, her husband, Paul, and son, Steve, own and operate the Wakan Goat Dairy, just outside of Erie. Pam and Steve do the bulk of the work, and Paul helps out, working around his full-time engineering job in Longmont. Pam has between 75 and 80 goats, which are milked each day to produce chevre and feta cheese. Although the Wakans run an active…
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