by Heidi Grieser
Surrounded by the expanding suburbs of West Jordan is a lane named after the family who has been farming 10 acres there for six generations. The lane is off the busy Redwood Rd. and leads to a tiny shack on the corner: a self-service dairy. Leave your money in the box and come away with raw or pasteurized goat milk, cheese, and soap. Beyond the small store, the family home, 300 goats, milking and creamery facilities, and pasture are succinctly fit. Herd manager, Richard Drake joked, “West Jordan needs to update their city logo because all the wheat fields are gone.”
But this little spot remains a farm- with it’s leftover mud from the spring storms, delicious alfalfa hay smells, and month-old baby goats (kids) busy climbing over one another to stick their noses through the fence for a pat. Luckily, I came at one of three meal times for these lucky goats, and I get to follow Richard Drake while he visits all the pens. The kids get pasteurized milk and some grain but they are so young that they don’t know what to do with grain. The older ones get alfalfa hay to maintain healthy weights, and the milking goats get their grain while they are being milked- an arrangement that seems to work to the satisfaction of Drake and the goats.
The herd is really the strength of Drake farm. The family has been in farming for over a century and according to Drake, “have always been competitive in the show ring.” So much so that their animals are in huge demand, and sold to 4-Her’s, other breeders, and milk producers. They were successful with animal breeding and then became a dairy. The dairy has been open 10 years and Drake said because they are now well established, “it’s easier to go to other dairies to ask how they do things, like how to build your equipment. We’re converting from do-it-yourselfers to pros. We’d like to do what we do better, make better facilities, and cut down on the time and labor it takes to do things.”
Because of the high quality of their animals and milk, Drake said they might be the only farm right now in the state that supplies raw milk. The laws are such that customers have to come out to the farm to buy raw milk. Drake said, “The demand got so high that we started selling it.” John Faux, a neighbor of the Drakes who makes cheese and yogurt, said the people interested in raw milk are diverse and, “want healthy eating habits- and goat milk is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk or soy.”
Faux makes a batch of cheese every day and describes their style as European. Today he is making yogurt and explained that the European style is extremely tangy compared to American products because of a mere six-degree difference in temperature when they add the starter cultures. The result is extremely fresh and unique tasting products like the feta cheese and yogurt that I got to taste. Faux is also working on a batch of Chevre, a soft French style cheese that takes 12 hours to make. Faux said the hours can be long but he really loves making cheese. Faux was trained by the Drake patriarch, Ron, who learned from his wife Jeanette, after she enrolled in some cheesemaking courses at the University of Utah.
Truly a family effort, the herd’s health is maintained by Richard’s brother Dan who is a trained “Cow Vet” and has taught Richard about disease prevention and control. It’s also obvious that Richard cares very much for his goats. He said he imagines, “It’s strange to be milked.” That’s why he has an arrangement to make it as pleasant as possible. He can also call them out by name, and admits that he keeps all the name tags that each goat wears in a jar at home after they die. Somewhere on the property is a little cemetery where some of the lucky goats that live their whole lives on this farm end up; never having to leave the family.
Drake Family Farms Product Line
- Pasteurized and Raw Goat Milk
- Ricotta and Chevre Cheese
- Raw Milk Feta, Mozzarella, and Cheddar
- Ice Cream and Yogurt
- Cage Free Eggs
- Goat Milk Soap Lotion and Lip Balm
Some Products available at Whole Foods, Liberty Heights Fresh, Sunflower Market, Good Earth, and Earth Goods General.