Goat Cheese an Everyday Staple? One Farmer Aims to Make It So
She used to be a city girl. She never dreamed she’d grow up to be a goat farmer.
“Life has taken me to where I’m supposed to be,” said Elly Hushour, owner of Patches of Star Dairy, one of a handful of purveyors of goat products at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. Ever since she got turned on to goats some 25 years ago, she’s been trying to turn others onto them too. Nutritionally, she says, goats can’t be beat. Their milk is high in B vitamin, magnesium and trace minerals and very low in butterfat.
“I want to introduce goat products into everyday family lifestyle,” Elly said. The goat shepherdess extraordinaire prides herself in making basic products that people can afford and incorporate into their diets. The products are definitely not, she emphasizes, gourmet.
In addition to goat meat, Elly sells a variety of goat cheeses, from chèvre and queso blanco — the staples of the business — to feta and ricotta. She also sells yogurt and ice-cream in imaginative flavors such as peanut butter chocolate chip, bing cherry, and black raspberry.
A four-ounce container of chèvre costs $5, which stacks up well against the goat cheese sold at the supermarket. At Morton Williams, for example, a 3.5-ounce package of imported French chèvre goes for $4.99.
The chèvre, Elly tells an elderly couple, was made just two days before. If unopened, it will keep in the frig for two weeks. Otherwise, she says, it’s good for two days.
Since the early 1990s, demand for goat products has increased in the United States, largely due to the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, regions with goat-rich culinary traditions. Elly can attest to the growing popularity of goat meat and other products. In 2006, she was the first and only goat farmer at the Greenmarket. Now there are four other purveyors of goat products.
Elly keeps a herd of 150 goats on her 14-acre farm in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. She breeds long-legged, white Saanen goats – the Holsteins of the goat industry – with shorter, stubbier Boers, one of the world’s most popular meat goats.
How does a girl raised in West New York — a neighborhood across the Hudson River from New York City — become an expert goat breeder and farmer? The journey, Elly recounts, began with a book by Bernard Jensen, a proponent of alternative medicine who studied the benefits of goat milk. She soon bought a goat and on a whim — an act of “total craziness” — moved to Pennsylvania where she attended her first goat show. “Forget it,” she said, “I was hooked after that.”
For the next 10 years, Elly participated in goat shows, traveling throughout the U.S. and exporting her goats around the world. In 2002, when the U.S. government banned the export of livestock due to the outbreak of Mad Cow disease, Elly was forced to switch gears. Rather than showing goats, she started making goat cheese and other products instead.
Elly’s completely at home at the Greenmarket. She recalls her early childhood in Mexico City, where she lived until she was four or five years old. She used to accompany the maids to the city’s bustling farmers markets every morning to buy food that they would prepare fresh that day. She fondly remembers bread and tortillas being made and fish “still kicking” in bins.
“It’s the neatest thing,” she said. “I’ve come full circle.”
Elly is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.