The love of goat cheese and of locally produced food led Ken and Jenn Muno to dairy life. About 20 years ago, they began to build their own sustainable farmstead dairy, where they could make fresh and aged goat cheese for their community.
Neither Ken nor Jenn was raised on a farm; however, Ken gained some experience as an intern at a couple of goat dairies. With that knowledge, and their strong desire to be part of the local food movement, they moved to 80 acres of rolling hills in Harrisburg, Missouri to build their farmhouse and dairy, Goatsbeard Farm.
They sold flowers at the Columbia Farmers Market until their cheesemaking facility was ready in 2001.
Since then, they have offered their fresh and aged goat cheese at the farmers market, and to local groceries and chefs. Goatsbeard Farm is the only commercial farmstead goat cheese creamery in Mid-Missouri.
“Ken makes all the aged cheeses,” Jenn said, “and everyone here helps make the fresh cheese.” Martha Folk, Jenn’s mom, has long been involved in the farm operation. She joins the cheese packaging crew twice a week. The Munos also hire a couple of part-time employees, and an intern joins the farmhands during the spring and summer seasons. The Muno children, Peter, 14, and Cyrus, 7, also “pitch in,” Jenn said.
Jenn handles much of the animal husbandry, the pasture management, and caring for the baby goats in the spring. She also takes care of the books and most of the sales.
The goats—crosses between Nubian, Sable Saanen and LaMancha breeds—get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Rotational grazing is a priority on the farm. The goats go out to pasture every morning after milking and spend the day grazing on diverse grasses and legumes. “We spend a lot of time getting the goats out to pasture,” said Jenn. “It is a big deal to move the goats—and to make sure they don’t escape,” she said. This is a challenge that, so far, they have managed to meet. The “girls” are milked twice a day for nine months out of the year. From December through February, they get a break before they kid, Jenn said. During that time, the couple works on other farm projects, and they sell aged cheeses and some frozen cheeses at the winter market. When spring arrives, and the outdoor market opens, the Munos bring fresh goat cheese to market, along with all of their popular aged cheeses.
“Ken’s job is complicated,” Jenn said. Cheesemaking is like a mash-up of chemistry and art, she said. His constant tweaking and diligence led to recent success with his Missouri Moons, a melt-in-
your-mouth, soft, aged cheese, made from pasteurized goat milk in the style of French Camembert. “The moons have gotten really good this past year,” Jenn said. Over the years, he has mastered other cheeses as well.
The Franklin Island Feta cheese won honors twice in recent years at the American Cheese Society’s competition, which includes more than 1,000 cheesemakers from the Americas.
Among the other aged cheeses Ken makes are the Moniteau Blue, an aged Provolone style raw-milk Pizzicato, and the Taum Sauk, a washed-rind Gruyere-like cheese.
Among Ken and Jenn’s goals at Goatsbeard is to become more “green. We are working toward becoming a non-GMO, organic farm,” Jenn said. Long-time supporters of Katy Trail Slow Food—the local chapter of a national not-for-profit organization that promotes local and sustainable farming—the couple is pleased to bring their locally made cheese to the Columbia Farmer Market every Saturday.
Jenn and Ken like to use their fresh goat cheese on salads, they sprinkle feta on black beans and rice, and shredded Walloon into scrambled eggs and greens.
For goat cheese recipes and more about Goatsbeard Farm and the cheeses, check out the website at goatsbeardfarm.com.
Writing by Marcia Vanderlip.