Last year, Cindy Krepky realized her long-held dream of building a raw milk goat dairy on her Dog Mountain Farm near Carnation. After building her herd and investing $75,000 in a USDA-certified plant, she provided bottled milk from her does to customers through her farm store, CSAs and other outlets.
Now, she told customers, her insurance company will no longer cover raw milk sales. While the product is legal (though controversial) in Washington state, insurance coverage has been an issue for other farms nationwide. (For the lowdown on the Washington situation, click here.)
She’s looking for other insurance coverage, or considering leasing the goats. She plans to provide milk to the up-and-coming Cherry Valley Dairy for a new line of goat cheese. A Cherry Valley cheese maker just spent time in Italy learning to work with goat milk, and Krepky expects the results to be “incredible.” Still, now, she doesn’t expect now to ever recoup her investment in the dairy and bottling plant – or to achieve the goal she worked toward for so many years on the land where the sustainably-minded farmers also oversee vegetables and fruits, pigs, chickens and eggs, and other products from soups to jams.
“Such is the life of farming,” Krepky said philosophically by phone Wednesday, momentarily postponing a rabbit slaughtering. “You never know whether it’s going to be Mother Nature or some new regulation… It’s a very risky business.”
On the plus side for the farm, Dog Mountain recently renovated a landmark Carnation business into a literal farm-to-table cafe. The platters of breakfast, lunch and dinner made with farm stand ingredients look tempting for travelers as well as locals.
Shawn Iliff is the chef, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who spent years cooking at Tom Douglas Restaurants and also spent a year working at Douglas’s Prosser Farm. He’s started out serving dinner specials like duck confit from Dog Mountain birds and breakfast biscuits with the farm’s eggs or sausage or tomato jam. The cafe in a remodeled gas station also has a retail area for eggs, meats, and other products. Starting Saturday, there will be a weekly market on site with fresh produce. Lunch sandwiches run around $8 with salad or soup or taters, Krepky said, and dinners range from around $13 to a $27 ribeye. She said Iliff “has developed a really wonderful menu that resonates with folks here. It’s wholesome and delicious – it’s amazing what he can do with a simple egg salad sandwich.”
Why did the farmers branch out into a retail outlet, when there’s enough work on the farm as there is?
“We had a dinner conversation with friends, talking about how there was no good place to eat in the area that was serving local food that was well-prepared. A week later we happened to see this lovely little location up for lease, and we just decided to jump in,” Krepky said.
The farm itself is “really off the beaten path,” and it seemed like an opportunity to provide a central location where the community could find “the wonderful products grown here in the valley.”
The gain of the cafe versus the loss of the milk plant isn’t an even deal. But with Iliff, who met every item on their long wish list for a chef, they’re excited about the future. They’ll have an official grand re-opening and harvest festival at the restaurant Oct. 18, moving the festival down from its previous location on the farm.
As an accountant told Krepky after hearing of the restaurant, “Congratulations! You now own two of the riskiest businesses possible.”
The Dog Mountain Farm to Table cafe-grocery is located at 4721 Tolt Ave. in Carnation. Check out the harvest festival Oct. 18 for a cider pressing, apple butter demonstrations, fresh fruit (the farm produces some 15 varieties of apples, plus pears and quince), farmstand products like meat and baked goods, music, and, weather allowing, the beautiful draft horses from the farm coming down for carriage rides. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and there will be a regular market on other Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information is online here.