If you’re lucky enough to go to Jamaica this winter (or any other time), pay a visit to Ruth Mitchell and Byron Walker at Ruby Goat Dairy. They will be happy to show you around their micro dairy – the only one on the the island. It’s not a tourist attraction – it’s a real goat farm and creamery.
Ruth and Byron had been coming to Jamaica for decades, and when they retired in 2015, they decided to raise goats and make cheese there.
Ruth answered a few questions for us:
Are you the only ‘commercial’ dairy in Jamaica?
We prefer to label ourselves ‘artisanal’ rather than commercial – we are very small! All our supplies come from you (or, mostly, you!) When I am in the States (every 6-8 wks) I order from you and then bring the ingredients to Jamaica (Ja) with me. There are no dairy suppliers in Ja. Another person recently started making cow milk cheese, but I’ve not asked them where they get supplies.
There are few dairy goats in the country and there had been no goat milking until we started – yes, surprising!
Where did you get your goats when you started?
The goats in Carey Park (a town in Trelawny) were shared with us for this ‘experiment.’ We still work closely with the man who owned them.
We are about to embark on artificial insemination with semen from Saanan goats from Canada. The semen just arrived after nearly a year of effort to get everything coordinated. The goal will be goats with increased milk capacity. Currently, if we have a goat giving us 2 qts per day, she is a ‘big milker.” In the future, we hope to have fewer mouths to feed and more milk!
Are there a lot of regulations there?
There are no cheese regs – I am a nurse who managed home health agencies in my previous life and was constantly aware of regs of all kinds. It is a relief! We are approved by the Ja Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Health.
Is cheese a big part of the Jamaican culture?
There is a processed cheese from New Zealand that comes in a can – orange colored – much like our “Velveeta.” That is the only cheese Jamaicans who do not travel outside the country have been exposed to.
Ja is actually a very international place and there’s more and more interest in goat milk products. So, we sell cheese and do “missionary” work, encouraging folks to taste goat milk products. We are making headway! And, it is fun to see the expression on folks’ faces change from apprehension to surprise – “It’s good!” “It is mild!”
The list of their products (which they only sell on the island) makes a trip to Jamaica seem to us like a very good idea!
Everything is made in small batches.
This article from the Fall, 2018 issue of Indulge (a Jamaican “foodie” magazine) captures the magic of the dairy: (flip the pages using the arrows at the bottom)complete