032 – Gail Hobbs-Page, Caromont Farm
“Happiness lies at the edge of your comfort zone.” I read this quote from Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm and knew immediately I had to talk with her. Welcome to Episode 32. Here is a chef, cooking for 25 years, contemplating her next move in the food world back in 2007. Gail’s decision? To take up goat farming and make cheese. Cooking is in her DNA, but cheesemaking is not. So how did she get here? And why did a simple request for goat cuddling suddenly go viral and make national news, including The Today Show, threatening to overrun her small farm with thousands of folks wanting to give a kid a hug?
We talk about all of that. Her experience growing up on a 3rd-generation farm in North Carolina. Learning to cook under the tutelage of southern cooking icon Edna Lewis (yes, THAT Edna Lewis), as well as Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham. How she’s passed on the lessons she learned to the next generation of chefs, including Loren Mendosa at Lampo who continues to garner well-deserved accolades.
People hear, “Goat farm…” and they imagine Heidi, cavorting in the Swiss Alps. But this is WORK. Farming plus the real chemical science of cheesemaking. Pair that with the costs of running a business, building an online presence, and navigating new, stricter regulations and you begin to see to be a cheesemaker you’ve got to be creative just to stay afloat.
How? The emerging industry of agritourism is one way. Farm tours, goat cuddling, and cheesemaking classes not only alleviate the cost of business, but help bring back skills on the verge of extinction. Back in the day every household knew how to preserve milk. By offering knowledge, Gail Hobbs-Page is thankfully mentoring an ever-growing circle of students.
What does it mean to be a mentor? Why do folks want to hug goats? What important component is missing in our lives when there is such a strong need to see where our food comes from? Why is the terroir of cheese probably the most important aspect? Does the discussion of gender inequality in the kitchen need to continue? Or should we just get to cooking because it’s what we love and why we signed up for this journey in the first place? We didn’t come to any conclusions, but sure had fun traveling down that particular rabbit hole.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode so settle in. You’re in for a real treat!
SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:
- Chefs With Issues – an important project on the mental health of folks in the industry by food writer Kat Kinsman
- The Problems with Food Media that Nobody Wants to Talk About – an important article by First We Feast
- Why Women Don’t Get the Respect in the Kitchen – Edible San Francisco tackles the issue
- The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis
- Bill Neal – NYT article on his life
- Hottest Cheesemakers in America – Harper’s Bazaar recognizes our own Nadjeeb Chouaf
- Silky Cow Dairy – where Gail sources her milk
- Albemarle Ciderworks – what Gail uses to brush her Red Row cheese
- Fast Food Nation – Wow. Just wow. There’s a reason Richard Linklater is my favorite director
- Polyfaces – Joel Salatin offers up a better way
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
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