Durango High School students learned first hand Wednesday what it means to support the local-foods movement.
Two classes studying the culinary arts visited Linnaea Farm in the Animas Valley to see how goat cheese is made. The farm, which produces 70 pounds of cheese per week, is owned by Marje Cristol and Duncan Rothwell.
"It’s such a kick to have people out here," Cristol said. "A big part of what I like to do is just educate people. People are shocked at how much we can do with a little piece of property."
Cristol and Rothwell have made goat cheese on their 2-plus-acre farm for seven years and sold it locally for three years. Most of the cheese is sold at the Durango Farmers Market, but numerous local restaurants also use the cheese, including Cosmopolitan, Cyprus Cafe and Seasons Rotisserie & Grill.
In addition to milking nine goats twice a day, Cristol and Rothwell breed the goats, raise the kids and keep the goats healthy. They keep meticulous records for health inspectors and pay careful attention to cleanliness to prevent harmful bacteria.
They also grow flowers and keep chickens for eggs.
"Customers like to know where their food comes from; they like to buy it from the person who grows it," Cristol said.
Susie Francis, who teaches the culinary arts classes, said the field trip gave students a glimpse at what it means to grow food locally and do it in a sustainable fashion.
"So many of our students don’t go through the thought process of where our food comes from," Francis said. "I think it’s so important for our kids to see you don’t have to mass-produce everything."
After learning how to care for the goats and make cheese, students were given the chance to sample different cheeses.
"The cheese was really, really good," said CJ Hamby, a senior. "Everybody who was working on the cheese seemed really happy to be doing it."
But Nicole Sandoval, also a senior, said seeing where cheese comes from and how it is made didn’t change her dislike for the dairy product.
"It’s kind of weird to see how they make it," she said, adding: "The goats are cute."
Chantel Campbell, a sophomore, said local foods are fresher and more flavorful than mass-produced foods.
"I think it’s good that the town supports the local farms," she said.