Our farmers and local vendors appreciate everyone who comes to our markets every week. For all the folks who go the extra mile and bring a new person along to one of our My Market Club markets, we want to thank you! As a token of our gratitude, each month, My Market Club will hold a raffle for great free prizes. Bring a friend who is new to the market along on your next visit! They’ll get $5 and you’ll be entered to win free goodies from your favorite local vendors.
This month, the raffle prize at Decatur Farmers Market comes from Atlanta’s own Capra Gia Cheese Company. They specialize in delicious flavors of goat cheese, make from the milk of their own goat herds. We asked a Jenny Livingston O’Connor of Capra Gia few questions to get to know a little bit more about them.
How did you get started in the business?
Capra Gia is, in essence, a 4H project gone awry. Both Mark Stevens and I raised and showed goats from the time we were of 4H age, and have been breeding and showing both locally and nationally pretty much ever since.
I actually started younger than Mark did, but didn’t have goats for about 10 years, after we lost all of our animals to a barn fire when I was about 10. As soon as my kids were old enough to walk, though, I was back into it! Mark moved to Georgia in 2006 and started Coles Lake Dairy in 2007 or 2008 (can’t remember exactly). He met Heidi Lewis at a market (I believe it was Decatur!) and that’s how she came to work with us. I had sold goats to Jeremy Bethel around 2007 or so, which is when we first met him, and in 2010 he came to work for Coles Lake for a brief time.
When Coles Lake disbanded (some of the partners wanted to change the direction of the product and company) Mark, Heidi and I set out to start again. We secured the Shady Grove location in January of 2011, and reconnected with Jeremy around the same time, and the construction of the dairy structure started shortly thereafter. We did most of the work ourselves (with the help of great friends, of course) and the building, pens, and barn modifications were done predominately with salvaged and re-purposed materials, many of which we found on the property when we moved in. This idea of waste-not, want-not has been a cornerstone of how things are done on the farm, as we believe that that responsibility is just as important as our responsibility to produce a fresh, wholesome product. The final farm and equipment inspections were done and our licences were issued and our first batch of cheese was produced in July of 2011.
What’s your favorite thing about your market?
The ability to enlighten, which is part of our mission statement. The markets give us the opportunity to connect one-on-one with our customers, and to educate them on what we do, how we do it, and why its important to be done that way. So many people have a predisposed idea of not only goat cheese, but of goats themselves. Goats are amazing, intelligent animals that somehow ended up with the stigma of being dirty, smelly animals that stand on trash heaps and eat tin cans. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is one of the reasons we bring the baby goats to the markets – it sparks conversation, and we are able to answer questions and dispel myths, one person at a time. When it comes to our products, we love being afforded the opportunity to show people that even though goat cheese can often be “goaty” and unpalatable, fresh, handmade goat cheese made from the milk of happy, healthy goats can not only taste good, but downright heavenly!
What is your number one passion outside of work?
It differs for all of us, really, and somehow, all of our “outside” passions somehow link back to the animals. Mark enjoys showing our herd on a local and national level. Jeremy collects artwork, much of which depicts goats. I enjoy tinkering in my workshop, and generally end up working on things for the farm or the markets. Heidi is a potter and loves making goat mugs and cheese serving plates and knives. We also all dabble in the husbandry of other animal species – from cats to exotic birds to pigs.
What’s your favorite food or recipe?
That’s a really difficult question! It’s really hard to pick just one when we are exposed to such a wonderful array of fresh and handmade products at the markets. We have found that the best “recipe” is one comprised of a little bit of this, little bit of that, all procured from fellow farmers and artisans…which includes, of course, goat cheese!
A big thank you to the folks (and goats) of Capra Gia for your donation to My Market Club at Decatur Farmers Market!