Vallejo Times-Herald

Goat Milk? Meet David Bice of Redwood Hill Farm, ambassador of foods made from the milk of frolicking goats
Published By Times Herald
Posted:   03/29/2013 01:03:41 AM PDT
By Rayne Wolfe

Last summer, while helping to serve up dinner at a Sonoma County Farm Bureau fundraiser, a gentleman swore to David Bice that not only did he dislike goat cheese; he hated it. This didn’t worry Bice, who has run into bad culinary attitudes before at store demos and natural food trade shows.

“Often, this is a result of tasting a poorly made goat cheese many years ago, or goat milk that wasn’t fresh, at sometime way in their past,” said Bice. “Once a person gets past that negative ‘taste memory’ of long ago, and tastes whatever we make with an open mind, they are almost always pleasantly surprised.”

Bice persuaded the goat cheese growler to try a tiny bit of smoked cheddar made from goat milk.

“After a timid first taste, he went back for more and more while trying to convince me it could not possibly be goat cheese. So I told him, ‘Well, I wake up at the farm everyday, look out the window and all I see are goats, so I’m pretty sure it’s goat cheese.'”

As a member of Redwood Hill Farm, a family-owned goat cheese business that has been operating since the 1960’s all Bice asks is, that as with any food, don’t think of how it might taste, or what it’s supposed to taste like, just taste with an open mind.

Redwood Hill Farm is an award winning, Humane Certified (Certified Humane®), Grade A goat dairy farm and creamery located near Graton in Sonoma County. Founded 45 years ago, it is committed to making the best tasting and least processed goat milk, artisan goat milk cheese, yogurt and kefir possible.

Down a long windy road with vineyards to one side and hillsides so spring green it hurts your eyes on the other, Redwood Hill Farm is home to a frenetically bouncy, curious and galloping herd of 300 goats including: Saanens, which originated in Switzerland and are considered the Holsteins of goats for their high milk production; French Alpines; and high butter fat producing Nubians, which originated in Africa/Asia and are easy to spot with their long hanging ears and Roman noses. There are also Spanish La Mancha goats, which do have ears but not the flaps over them that we think of as ears. Don’t worry, they can hear just fine.

The four breeds all follow four phases of life. Kids become year-olds, which develop into adult milk producers, and after many years of service, are set to pasture in a bucolic retirement under the shade of Gravenstein apple trees serenely guarded by loyal farm dogs.

As a humane operation Redwood Hill goats enjoy clean, fresh each bedding morning and night and have adequate barn space, as dairy goats do not tolerate rain and wind.

At the farm literally crawling with Bices, David Bice is a relative newcomer. Having come home from Hawaii after 21 years as a morning radio personality and plant nursery owner, he returned in 2008 as his mother was battling cancer. One of nine siblings, he committed himself to becoming part of a tight goat cheese producing team.

“My parents really were visionaries when they started selling fresh milk and cheese to health stories. They insisted we do 4-H and learn how to plant and grow and do it in a sustainable way,” said Bice. “I came back because I really wanted that time with our mother and to join my sister, Jennifer, in expanding the business.”

Currently, David Bice is part of the communications team run by another sister, Sharon Bice. He enjoys taking day-in-the-life photos and posting them to the farm’s very popular

“One of the many wonderful things about Redwood Hill, is how Jennifer allows employees to cross train and move laterally within the company, matching positions with skill sets and what people really enjoy doing,” he said of his sister who has earned nearly every award and accolade there is in the cheese making and dairy goat worlds, along with much praise for her leadership in sustainable farming and environmental stewardship.

These days, David Bice represents the farm at many culinary events and non-profit fundraisers, while serving cheeses and sharing the story of Redwood Hill. He’s also a “milkman,” loading and driving fresh goat milk down that winding road from the dairy to the creamery, three miles away.

He’s very proud to be part of a thriving family business.

“I am most proud of this big, wonderful family. My mom and dad were way ahead of their time in building a goat dairy back in the 1960’s, and I’m so proud of my sister Jennifer, with her late husband Steven, for taking the farm in 1978 and, through passion and perseverance, building a company that remains committed to quality.”

Redwood Hill Farm

Check for events and tours.

The goat farm and creamery are 100% solar powered. Redwood Hill Farm is proud to be ‘Partners in Conservation’ with the Sonoma Land Trust, an active member/contributor to Sonoma Land Paths and the Climate Protection Campaign.

What does “humane” mean at a goat farm?

Redwood Hill Farm was the first goat farm in the country to be Certified Humane® for the way they treat their goats. They use gentle methods, for example, to get goats to hop up onto the milking station.

“Goats want to be milked. They feel better afterwards. Plus, it’s like their socializing time,” said David Bice.

Instead of using gates or any method of restraint, the goats line up side-by-side in the stations, are calm while the milking devices are attached and working and enjoy munching a sprinkling of food pellets that drop down tubes near their mouths.

Older goats even have a retirement plan with sunshine, pasture, shade trees and plenty of animal and human socialization.

“They are working dairy animals, but we do become very attached to them, and it’s rewarding for us to see them living a long, healthy life,” said Bice.

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