Bedford Blueberry Goat Farm No Longer Just a Dream

New neighbors along Concord Road

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

For Ann Kiessling, the seed of the idea that became Bedford Blueberry Goat Farm was planted30 years ago. In the 1980’s, Kiessling—a biochemist—worked on a research project with pygmy goats in her home state of Oregon. It was then that she developed an interest in the creatures, a herd of which now reside at the only licensed pasteurized goat milk producing farm in Massachusetts.

The micro-farm, located at 41-53 Concord Road, consists of 11 does and one “whether”, or neutered male. Kiessling and partner Steve Hagan could have as many as 16 goats and remain in the micro category. The Bedford Blueberry Farm goats are Saanens and LaManchas, breeds chosen for temperament and milk-producing qualities. Of the 11 females, 6 are now producing milk,with a total daily yield of about 4½ gallons.

For their size, the goats produce quite a lot of milk. “This breed should produce about a gallon a day each,” said Kiessling. “Right now there’s a slacker in the bunch, and we know exactly who it is. It’s Daphne.”

At first, Kiessling wanted to produce Greek-style goat yogurt, but she found that the market had become saturated. Instead, she decided to start with milk—plain, vanilla and chocolate—and with body lotion. In the future, she may branch out to sell fresh cheese and, perhaps, yogurt.

“I wanted to have products I could sell at farmers’ markets,” she said, speaking specifically the reason she developed the goats’ milk body lotion. Although farmers’ markets are mostly dormant during the winter months, Bedford Blueberry Goat Farm milk is also sold in three retail food shops: Chip-In Farm in Bedford, Wilson Farm in Lexington, and Allendale Farm in Brookline.

A young visitor learns the finer points of milking

A schedule that requires milking twice a day could become quite onerous, which is one of the reasons Bedford Blueberry Farm employs three farm hands besides Kiessling and Hagan, who claims he’s mostly “a hefter” rather than someone who works with the animals and the milk processing.Additionally, both Kiessling and Hagan work full-time outside the farm—she at Harvard Medical School and as the head of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, he as the Engineering Vice President for Development at Oracle.

“There’s an advantage to having four people milking,” said Kiessling. “That way, it doesn’t get monotonous.” She added that avoiding tedium was of key importance, particularly for the pasteurization process which requires careful monitoring and testing to ensure a safe product for consumers.

Kiessling and Hagan stand firmly behind pasteurization despite the current raw milk movement and the many requests for unpasteurized dairy products they’ve received. At a recent open house at the dairy, they provided copies of an article generated by the Colorado State University Extension that explains how the pasteurization process guards against pathogenic bacteria “without adversely affecting the milk’s nutritional content, flavor or quality.”

To read the Colorado State University Extension article, visit:  https://www.ext.colostate.edu/safefood/newsltr/v10n2s04.html

At the farm’s level of production, batches of milk are put through the pasteurization process about every other day. The milk must be brought up to a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for exactly 30 minutes and the airspace around the milk must be 150 degrees. After the milk is heated to the requisite temperature for the specified length of time, it must be cooled quickly to 41 degrees. An instrument keeps track of how each batch was processed and a report is generated to verify that correct procedures were followed.

A corner of the pasteurization room

The pasteurization is done in a room with a dividing wall between the goat pens and the sanitized equipment. The milking is done by machine, gathered in stainless steel buckets and passed through a window into the pasteurization chamber. Special clothing and shoes must be worn to enter and work in the chamber. To ensure sanitation in all areas of the barn, the dairy has a total of eight sinks.

Hagan stated that all past-date or otherwise unsalable milk is either composted or used by pig farmers as feed for their animals. “Nothing is wasted,” he said.

To get to the point where Bedford Blueberry Farm could sell its products, several regulatory agencies had to be involved, both at the local and state levels. In Bedford, Joe Knott of the Bedford Board of Health was instrumental in getting the necessary approvals, Kiessling and Hagan said, though navigating the requirements of the Conservation Commission— on which Hagan sits— was a lengthy and expensive process.

Both had high praise, however, for the assistance that the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources provided, commending Alex MacDonald of that Department, who helped to guide much of the dairy’s design decisions. Additional support was provided by Ellen Fitzgibbons of the state’s Department of Public Health and Brad Mitchell of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation.

Several Bedfordites were noted for their help and encouragement.  Kiessling particularly praised John Britton of Town and Country Construction for his “brilliant solutions to many of the issues associated with the project.” Joe Piantedosi, Selectman Cathy Cordes, designer Art Smith, general contractor John Litchfield, and Richard Iovino, owner of Iovino Excavation, were also acknowledged with gratitude.

Click to see more photographs from the farm’s recent open house.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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steven hagan
steven hagan
9 years ago

Also, the barn and dairy will be available for tours by school children groups and 4h groups.

Ann Kiessling
Ann Kiessling
9 years ago

Congrats to The Bedford Citizen reporter, Kim, and photographer Julie for an accurate, detailed report with great photos!

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