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Success Stories

Gorgeous Goats: Turning Grazing into Gold

Derek VanHorn
Value Added
goats at gorgeous goat creamery.

Hidden in the middle of a lush forest and accessible by only a single, winding drive is Stewgler Farm & Forest, home to the whimsically named Gorgeous Goat Creamery, where more than 70 gregarious Alpine dairy goats own the spotlight thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of two unlikely dairy farmers: Matt Kriegler and Maria Stewart.

goat steals the show at Stewgler farms.
A goat steals the spotlight as Matt Kriegler and Maria Stewart pose for a photo on April 17, 2024.

Their journey to goat farming was as unexpected as a goat chewing on a pair of earbuds — a fate Matt knows all too well.

“You have to keep an eye on them and make sure there’s nothing in reach or they’ll nibble it right off you,” laughed Matt as goats routinely swarm him each time he enters their pen. “I’ve lost a few pairs of earbuds over the years.”

With Maria's background in academia and the food industry, and Matt's in the cycling industry, the couple stumbled upon dairy farming after purchasing four goats to help clear invasive forest plants on their North Jersey property. As the goats gorged, they also began producing milk. It was an opportunity these farmers weren’t going to pass up, and their goat dairy operation took off, quickly becoming the only dairy farm in the state that bottles goat milk and produces goat milk yogurt.

As their herd size and production increased, Maria said they started looking at ways enhance their already diverse product lineup, which even included goat milk soaps. After some research, they came across USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), which are designed to help agricultural producers enter value-added activities, generate new products and expand marketing opportunities.

It didn’t take long to determine the grant would be a perfect fit when it came to making their now-specialty: aged cheese.

Matt makes cheese.
Matt Kriegler begins the cheesemaking process on his dairy farm in Stockton, NJ, on April 17, 2024. 

“With fresh dairy, there’s an instantaneous cash flow,” she explained. “With aged cheese, on the other hand, we wait months for revenue generation. The grant has been very helpful to us by providing a leg to stand on while we experiment, develop and perfect our aged cheese and extend our product line.”

With the opportunity to produce and sell aged goat cheese, the roughly $83,000 in grants have enabled the farm to increase milk production by 40%, hire two additional staff members, and expand sales to a new farmer’s market just outside of New York City. Their farm was also recently listed as “Grade A” by the FDA, making them the only goat milk producer in New Jersey with a top rating and authorization to sell across state lines.

A few years back, when a New Jersey Department of Agriculture dairy farming rep visited the farm prior to starting their cheese production, they warned Matt and Maria their biggest challenge would be keeping up with demand.

“At first, I thought they were just being nice,” Matt chuckled, “but that’s exactly what happened.”

While the goats are known for their high-quality milk, which is perfect for cheese-making, they’re not just milk producers. They’re also part-time landscapers, tasked with controlling the aforementioned invasive plant species in the forest, particularly the multiflora rose -- a thorny nuisance the goats devour with gusto. This practice not only keeps the forest healthy but also reduces the farm's reliance on fuel-powered machinery and herbicides.

“When it comes to sustainability, we’re always conscious of being environmentally friendly,” said Matt. “We reduce fuel use by using the goats to graze the property instead of mowing or hauling in hay, and we package our products into recyclable containers designed for reuse.”

Matt and Maria S. walk together on their goat farm.
Matt and Maria call themselves "accidental dairy farmers" after originally purchasing four goats to manage invasive plant species. They now own over 70 Alpine Dairy Goats.

Beyond their commitment to respecting the environment, what truly sets Gorgeous Goat Creamery apart is the passion and personality infused into every aspect of the farm. Matt, with his uncanny ability to remember the names of all their goats – except for maybe a couple lookalikes -- and Maria, balancing her role as a college professor with farming duties, bring a unique blend of expertise and enthusiasm to the table.

“Getting to know our farmers is how we deliver the financial resources needed to modernize or save on energy costs, or in the case of Matt and Maria -- boldly expand their line of products and business income,” said Jane Asselta, New Jersey state director of USDA Rural Development. “Investing in small-sized active farms is a priority for New Jersey Rural Development, and assisting farmers to save money or increase their income is a priority for President Biden. At Gorgeous Goat Creamery – we accomplished both!”

Their story is a refreshing reminder that sometimes, the best paths are the ones we stumble upon -- especially when they lead to high-quality cheese.

The farm’s aged cheese will be available beginning mid-Summer 2024, with goat’s milk gouda and a brie-style cheese slated as the first two to come out of the aging cave. For more information about Gorgeous Goat Creamery and their delightful range of products, visit their website.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety, healthcare and high-speed internet access in rural, high-poverty areas. For more information, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/nj

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

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