Words: Mundi Ross
Photos: Abby Mortenson
I had this grand idea that I would launch a farm to table series with my friend Kevin of Full Circle Cuisine. With no real game plan in mind, I tossed my idea out into the stratosphere and stumbled upon Lindsey Aparicio, The Goat Cheese Lady, who was thrilled to host our first regional farm tour and dinner. I put on my shoes and headed her way for a tour and chat this morning. In walking the farm with Lindsey, you can tell she is passionate about her craft and has really maximized the use of her land near Garden of the Gods. Lindsey introduced me to her husband Herbert, who sure can make you laugh and her children who have infectious smiles. Her farm is a family effort in which everyone has a role to play instilling values of knowing where their food comes from and once you can get past the “chaos” of her gardens you will find beauty in the functionality.
How did you get involved in urban homesteading?
"I never thought we wanted to be farmers but we knew we wanted to do everything we could ourselves"
When Herbert and I first got married, we had a little house with a starter garden and a couple chickens, and since then it has been a step-by-step process. I never thought we wanted to be farmers but we knew we wanted to do everything we could ourselves, from building fences to building our own decks to now growing our own food. Once we moved into our current location we extended our season with a green house and with the land we have and the barn that was on the property, I decided I wanted my own milk so we purchased a couple of dairy goats. As I mentioned before, I never set out to be a farmer and the words “foodie” or “urban homesteader” were completely off my radar, but learning that the milk I was purchasing came from Ohio and the organic from the grocery store was too expensive and often not local, I began to see the importance for my family and I to value and understand where their food comes from. It’s exciting to be a part of the food movement, and as I started providing the cheese making classes, I learned of the “urban homesteader” which, I can now proudly say I am. I love what I do and believe in what I do.
Did you spend time perfecting your craft before you became the Goat Cheese Lady, offering classes to the community?
We purchased our first two goats purely for the desire for milk for our family, but everyone was asking if we would make cheese and my reply was always “no”. Getting a gallon a day from goats, we needed to get creative with the milk, so I began to learn how to make not only cheese but soap, lotion, anything that had the ability to have milk in it.
Once I started making the cheese my husband Herbert loved it and encouraged me to sell it both from a financial standpoint, allowing me to stay home with our children, but also because I had a good product. I had no idea about food laws, so I sold to a restaurant, a catering company, and friends. Then people started asking about licensure and with so many people asking I stopped selling cheese and decided to start offering classes to the community. Since starting the cheese making classes, 900 people have thought it crazy enough to milk a goat, others who want to learn to make cheese, or live the way we live, people come for all reasons. I love to teach and I love to make cheese so I feel the process has been serendipitous.
What does the Goat Cheese Lady look like 5 years from now? Do you hope to stay in your current location or move out east and expand?
Having a creamery in our basement, staying in our current location, and having great produce from our fruit trees. I hope to maximize the land we are on while benefiting the land we are on. We would love to have more land but in order to do that, we would have to move and we just don’t want to move east. The mountains have a different draw. It’s beautiful but it’s not the same. The draw of our location is being in an urban environment and having the city dweller come to a city place. We love our location. It’s beautiful.
Do you have any advice for new urban homesteaders?
"We knew nothing when we first started. You just learn from your mistakes and the next year you do things differently. Be patient."
Don’t plan on doing everything all at once. Take on projects one at a time. People come here and feel overwhelmed wondering how we have all that we have, and they don’t understand that we are 15 years into the process. We knew nothing when we first started. You just learn from your mistakes and the next year you do things differently. Be patient.
Would you say that that has been your biggest challenge?
No, I wouldn’t say that it has because I never knew this is what I wanted. My biggest challenge is waiting for a seed to sprout (as she chuckles).
What do you think about the new city ordinance for goats?
I am so happy for those who can and are interested in taking on goats because to be able to have your own milk and raise your own kids knowing where their food comes from is a great lifestyle.
Are you concerned that people will start buying up goats and not educate themselves first on what is required?
That was a concern for the city council and those who opposed the ordinance but Monica Snowbird who really headed the campaign did a lot of research in different cities and it just hasn’t been an issue. I called the Denver Humane Society last year and asked the same question and they haven’t had one goat come into the facility. I think it’s a bigger issue on people’s minds than what it will actually be. I don’t think people will drop 400 bucks on a goat without doing their research. Or at least that is my hope, right now there is a limited supply of them because there is a bigger demand. The people we meet are over-educating themselves. They have read too much and they get scared to do it.
In walking your farm, primarily your gardens, it feels a bit chaotic but I am sure there is function amongst the chaos. I was watching where I stepped the whole time for fear I would step on a sunflower, wild asparagus or a potato. I would love to learn more about your philosophy of farming?
Perfect gardens are what you see in magazines and that is how I started out gardening, thinking everything needed to be in a row and it would all be one vegetable. Changing into this “chaos” took a lot of evolution for both Herbert and I. The reason for our gardens is better for the environment of the farm. For example, if you have a row of onions and that is it, no mulch, hay because its ugly, you will have to water more because the sun will bake the soil but the minute you put mulch on your row you save money, you don’t have to water as much. If you have a row of tomatoes and they are at their height and there is nothing happening on the ground other than your mulch why not plant radishes with the same dirt? You are using everything more efficiently. Once you pull the radishes, water will pool in the hole when it rains which is also healthy for the tomatoes. When you prune your tomatoes, why not just leave the leaves right there or the weeds (ones that don’t resprout) instead of just tossing in the trashcan? The leaves and weeds become mulch, organic material for the bugs to break down.
"In the garden and orchard we are promoting a good balance of natural things happening in soil, less water use, everything works together in our controlled chaos."
Everything that grows on the farm stays on the farm. In the garden and orchard we are promoting a good balance of natural things happening in soil, less water use, everything works together in our controlled chaos. I will say sometimes the chaos is hard to deal with. It’s nice to have some organization so our new orchard fence has been really thrilling for me. Herbert is a master recycler, which I do appreciate, but the fence means so much to me. The eye needed one thing to rest on that was organized. I think once someone understands the purpose of the chaos it makes it more acceptable or possibly beautiful.
Marinated Goat Brie Salad w Garden Herbs, White Truffle Oil and Grilled Bread
Smoke Roasted Callicrate Beef Ragu w Fresh Chèvre Polenta
Lavender Honey Goat Cheese Cake