Swede Farm Dairy has been in operation since 2008, but now the family-owned goat milk farm based out of Waller is facing the possibility of shutting down. Swede Farm sells goat milk to those who need it for health reasons, but like co-owner LeeAnne Carlson says, "cheese pays the bills."
In 2012, the farm decided to partner with another dairy to blend milks and create cheese to sell at farmers markets. In April of this year, Swede Farm was informed that the dairy was closing and would not milk its goats past November of this year, but in a sharp turn of events, the dairy stopped its operations in May, leaving Swede Farm in an unexpected situation.
"We dried out most of our goats so they could get pregnant about the time the other dairy closed," Carlson says. "The problem is two weeks after almost all of our goats were completely without milk, the other dairy got shut down by the state... Basically once you drain the bank accounts and you max out your credit cards and cash in the last year of your return account, we woke up one day and we couldn't go to farmers markets because we didn't have the gas money. "
Swede Farm started a Go Fund Me fundraiser to raise $35,000 about five weeks ago to raise enough funds so they could first buy six goats to keep them at the farmers markets, and then survive until December when the farm's goats would have babies and provide milk. Currently, the fundraiser has raised approximately $20,000, which allowed the husband-and-wife team Tim and LeeAnne Carlson to purchase those six goats currently in milk, a rarity during this time of year.
"Our very first goal when we did the fundraiser was we had heard of six goats that were in milk, and goat milk is a seasonal product, so this time of year most people are slowly stopping to milk their goats, but we had heard of six goats that were in milk," she says. "We figured that if we could buy these goats, that would give us at least enough milk to maintain a presence at the market. We might sell out in ten minutes, but at least we could go with some product. We have been able to do that."
The Carlsons were unsure whether their product was valued at the markets, and if they would receive a response from the farmers market community. After launching the Go Fund Me fundraiser, they have been overwhelmed by the response.
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"The biggest thing for us, we reached a point where we just didn't know how to get from point A to point B, and then we were facing shutting down -- our's wouldn't be the first farm to shut down by a long shot," Carlson says. "Every week when we go to farmers markets, we are told, 'Thank you for doing what you're doing; we so appreciate what you're doing,' and we decided basically to go out on a limb. The farmers market community certainly seems like a community, but basically we just decided are we going to take people at face value? Is what we do valued? Does it carry worth other than just a product on a table? And we have been incredibly humbled to find out yeah."
If Swede Farm reaches its goal, then the Carlsons will continue operating. They won't have to sell goats or equipment to get through December. If they exceed their goal, then they will be able to expand the cheese production and possibly offer cheese classes to the public.
You can contribute to the Swede Farm Dairy Go Fund Me fundraiser online, and make sure to stop by the farm's booth at the Urban Harvest farmers market at Eastside on Saturdays, as well as the City Hall Farmers Market on Wednesdays.