Have you ever had fresh goats milk? I had never tried goats milk until I had the pleasure of visiting a brand new farm in Madison, NH last week. Sharon Laitinen- Dembinski ; RN, NP, former Corporate Executive for a company that ran 18 addiction treatment facilities in five states now adds farmer to her already impressive resume. Sharon raises Nubian goats for meat and dairy on Harmony Farm in Madison, New Hampshire. Sharing the farm with John, her high school sweetheart and husband of over 30 years, their three adopted children; Alex, Noah, and Jesse, and four dogs! Sharon and John also have two grown children, Sarah and Tony, who have children of their own making Sharon and John grandparents three times. I asked Sharon what made her decide to leave the corporate world to become a farmer and she replied, “I want to know where my children are, and where my food comes from…I want to feel part of the cycle of life and sustenance. My 16 year old son watched the documentary ‘Food Inc. 2 years ago and insisted I watch it with him after he watched it once alone. I was shocked. Why didn’t I know how big food industries treat animals? And now that I knew how could I keep eating that food?!”
Upon arrival we were greeted by two male goats, Atticus and Hercules. The bucks were mowing the lawn and they stopped and looked at us as if to say, “Oh hey! Hi!” Sharon welcomed us with a smile and she brought us into the house. Inside we were met by a very sweet Black Lab named Bruno and an 8 week old Old English Sheep Dog named Cleo. A little fur ball of a Jack Russell was also in the mix, being very polite and waiting his turn to say hello. “My favorite part of being a farmer is going to sound sappy, but I just love feeling so close to the natural world. I’ve always loved animals- any kind of animal- but farm animals especially. My grandparents had a farm and I spent many blissful days there. About 10 years ago I started dreaming of living in a rural area and raising farm animals.”
Sharon gave us the tour of the 120 year old farmhouse the family recently purchased and is restoring. Handmade shelving and vibrant colors help to show Sharon’s personality in the home while balancing perfectly with the craftsmanship of the original architecture. Moving on to the kitchen, we see cheese making books laying on the beautiful old wooden table. Hanging from a rack of pots and pans was a freshly made ball of chevre cheese draining into a bucket; at the kitchen sink were clean milk bottles used this morning for the 7am milking. We were given a quick tutorial as to what each piece of milking equipment was and then we headed outside to meet the girl
The barn was cozy and clean smelling of fresh hay and grain. Sharon prides herself on keeping a clean barn and we were thoroughly impressed. The girls; Wicked- due to kid May 12,a first time freshener, Lexie- due to kid May 18th, Hiku- due to kid May 10th, Tata and Tiana produce close to a gal of yummy milk a day, Chicklet, a first time freshener, produces about 1/2 gal of milk a day. Freshening refers to the first time a goat produces milk. This can be a very tough training period. Teaching your girl to get up on the stand, get off the stand, and be milked can frustrate the lady and you! We can’t forget to give a shout out to Cheekie! Cheekie, AKA Sausage, was unable to produce and therefore went off to the butcher to further help sustain the Dembinski clan and their homestead.
After meeting and learning about each of the goats Sharon herded us inside the spacious pen and shut the gate. Here, both Jillian and I turned into little kids. Surrounded by these majestic Nubian beauties, we were nibbled and kissed. TaTa, the smallest of them all, took a liking to me immediately and me to her. She jumped on me much like an excited pup and followed me around the enclosure nibbling my arms and fingers. Jillian was having her own selfie party with some of the other girls and having lots of fun getting smooched by these super personable animals. Another lovely lady named Lexi, pregnant with triplets and as big as a house, showed affection to us and was more than happy to let us feel her very pregnant belly. She seemed to love it.
After the meet and greet, Jillian and I got the opportunity to milk one of the ladies. Sharon showed us how she did it and explained that her daily milking schedule is 7am and 7pm. We were both a little nervous, but excited. And wouldn’t you know, we both did it perfectly!
After the milking, we said goodbye to those lovely ladies and made our way back to the house. We chatted with Sharon about life and about the babies that were soon to come. We also learned that Sharon will be getting her first piglets in a few weeks and chickens are in the works as well, free range that is.
Cheese, milk, pretty ladies and a pack of dogs; really, what more could you want? Farm life. Sharon makes it look very easy to be a farmer but we could see that wasn’t the case. In addition to raising 3 boys and restoring her home, she has a daily chore list that far exceeds the 8 hours of conventional employment we are all used to. Hat’s off to your farmers. Hug them. They feed you:)
I would like to say a very special thank you to Sharon Dembinski, her family, and her farm for allowing us to crash their homestead and glimpse into the world of dairy farming. Thank you, also, to all those cutie patootie Nubian Princes and Princesses for cuddling our brains off! We so look forward to updates and another visit to watch them all grow!