Kandy Potter From Kandyland Dairy
Editor’s Note: It was a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon — I was driving to Scottville to interview a fourth generation farmer — a woman who owns the first and only Grade A-licensed goat creamery in Michigan. I know nothing about farming. Even though I grew up in small town Manistee, I was pretty “citified”. I’ve never milked a cow, I’ve never planted vegetables and could never imagine living on a farm. (And yes, I know you don’t have to live on a farm to plant vegetables.)
When I pulled into Kandyland Dairy’s driveway, I smiled. You can laugh but I felt totally zen. A woman, obviously Kandy, came toward me with a smile that puts you immediately at ease. Her two story light green house was surrounded by flowers and budding bushes. Just west of the house were at least twenty to thirty goats eating hay and grass. Behind the house was a big red wood barn with another yellow barn nearby—and lots of land. The farm includes about 45 acres.
Kandy walked me to where the goats were eating and explained she started with three rescue goats in 2008 and is now managing 120 goats. Her passion is contagious and I find myself wanting to be her cheerleader. Again—being present at her farm was zen-like—the sky was full of ever changing clouds, the goats were adorable (they all have names) and I felt a certain peaceful energy—very aware of nature—and life. I hope she lets me visit again but what if she offers to show me how to milk a goat? Is this citified woman up to the challenge?
Did you always know you would continue your family’s heritage of being a farmer? How did it all come about?
I always wanted to have something to do with farming. However, my parents told me to pick out something else as a career since farming is such hard work (they had farmed their whole life and were just selling off their dairy and beef farm), so I got an associate’s degree in criminal law at West Shore Community College, milking cows on the night shift to pay for college. I learned quickly on my first job that law enforcement wasn’t the right career for me. I tried nursing school next, then volunteer firefighter work (I loved it but it doesn’t pay the mortgage) – in fact, I just retired from that about 5 years ago after 14 years of service. I ultimately went back to farming. I milked cows on two different farms for work, and I love dairy animals. People always need to eat, and I enjoy farming. It’s very hard work but it requires dedication, and my dad would be proud of what I have built.
What is it about farming that entices you?
The animals. I should have gone to school for vet medicine. But I paid for all my schooling so I had to do what was practical.
Okay — why goats? Are they more difficult to handle than other milkproducing animals?
I didn’t choose goats – they chose me [laughing]. No really, they all have their own personalities. Each one has her own name. They are easy to handle, they are small and you don’t have to worry about getting stampeded (cows can weigh over 1,000 pounds, where dairy goats are 150 pounds.) My dad was always so scared for me because I had been critically injured by horses a few times. At 93 years old, the year he died, he told me to “pick something small” if you’re going to farm. And don’t do cash crops, because there’s no money in it. He suggested the idea of goat farming so he didn’t have to worry about me. Plus, they are beautiful animals. And their milk is so creamy.
What are the benefits of goat’s milk over cow’s milk?
Goat’s milk is lower in cholesterol than cow’s milk. And the fat globules are smaller so it’s very easy to digest. Lactose-intolerant people search out goat’s milk (that’s why I have so many customers at the farmer’s market, and why the bottled milk will be so important). It also forms a much softer curd than cow’s milk for making cheese.
Do you see yourself supplying products made with goat’s milk—like soap and lotion?
I don’t see us having a lot of time to make soaps and lotions. We have made it in the past and have some supplies left, but it’s limited. All of the milk we get goes into cheese and yogurt at this point.
What do you do to relax? I have never lived on a farm—I always wondered how you get any free time. Who “goat-sits” for you?
Free time?? What is that? We haven’t been on a vacation in five years. Even when we have hired help, we don’t feel comfortable leaving the girls. For free time, we enjoy walks, hunting, and short road trips (we still have to milk in the morning before we leave and at night when we get home) to see friends and family. Sometimes free time is just relaxing on our deck or large garden.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
We hope to be making and distributing awesome cheese and bottled milk all over the state. We’d also like to make ice cream. I always feel sorry for people who are lactose-intolerant who can’t enjoy ice cream, and this would give them a great option. Hopefully we will be ready for an expansion by then.
Do you think your dad would be proud if he could see you now?
I think my tattoo, “Daddy’s Girl,” says it all. I got it on my wrist of my right arm so that every time I hand a container of cheese to someone or make an exchange of money, I’m reminded that because of him, I am where I am. He didn’t live to see me sell my first load of milk (he died in January 2011, and I sold my first load of milk that spring). I got the tattoo on my way back from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor after selling my first order of goat’s milk – I was crying so hard on the way back home thinking, “Daddy, I did it.”
For more information go to www.kandylanddairy.com or their facebook page. You can also find her at farmers’ markets in Ludington and Frankfort in spring and summer (also some time in Manistee) and Sweetwater in Muskegon in the fall, winter and early spring.