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PHOTO: Alethea Swift
Fiore di Capra is Italian for “Flower of the Goat.” This small family-owned and -operated goat dairy and creamery, owned by Alethea Swift, is located in the lovely San Pedro river valley 40 miles east of Tucson, Ariz. Swift started raising dairy goats at age 4 when her 9-year-old sister started 4-H.
“Being the younger sister, I wanted to do what my older sister was doing, so I had my own little group of goats and started 4-H as soon as I was old enough,” she says. “In addition to my dairy goat project, I was also involved in the dairy foods project where we made all sorts of products with the milk of our goats.”
Swift fell in love with her goats and continued raising them through high school and college.
“As my herd grew so did my feed bill, so I got the idea that I could sell my dairy products to pay the feed bill,” she says. “And that was the start of Fiore di Capra, Inc.”
The dairy drums up a lot of business from people who are allergic to cow’s milk and seek out goat’s milk as an alternative. In addition to fresh milk, the farm supplies goat’s milk yogurt, kefir, cheese, and even goat’ milk treats like caramels, cheesecakes and truffles. Many customers are mothers with babies who have digestive issues—goat’s milk works in almost all of these cases, Swift says.
Desert To Dairy
Raising goats or any animals in the desert is tough, as it’s void of pastureland.
“We live in a dry area so we have to purchase almost every bite of food for our animals,” Swift says. “With hay prices ranging from $14 to $18 per bale, this becomes very expensive.”
Heat also causes a decrease in production during the summer, she explains.
Despite the hurdles she’s faced with the unique Southwestern climate, she’s found success in her endeavors and passes along this advice to other budding goat dairies:
- Check with your state Agriculture department before you start any construction. Laws vary by state and you don’t want to sink money into a project and have to change it due to local laws.
- Find out what the demand is in your area by going to farmers markets and stores. See how many other producers are making the types of products that you want to make. Ask questions like: Can the area handle another small-scale producer?
- Test your products out on family and friends. You must have a quality product in order to be successful! Ask for honest feedback so that you can make improvements before you market your products.
- Try it: Cheese and other dairy products can be made very successfully at home. Find a local source of fresh milk. There are numerous sites in the Internet with recipes for the beginner. “Nothing beats homemade cheese or yogurt that you produced yourself,” Swift says.
When You Visit
Check out Fiore di Capra’s booth at the Heirloom Farmer’s Market at Rillito Park in Tuscon, Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon (summer) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (winter).