Morris and Gloria Richardson raise goats and lamb on their farm in Wiggins, Mississippi. They sell dairy products, goat and lamb meat and goat milk-based skin care products via their website (www.msgoatlady.com) and at farmers markets, including the Tuesday Crescent City Farmers Market at 200 Broadway St. Morris spoke to Gambit about their farm.
How did you get into farming?
Richardson: The farm has been in my wife's family since 1895 — continuously farmed since 1895 with livestock and vegetables. We started the goat business in 2000. My wife had been given some goats, and she had read an article in Progressive Farmer that it was the fastest-growing small-farm business in the country. She decided we should give it a try. She was given nine goats. The next year we purchased more; we were up to 150. We jumped in with all four feet.
We were the first farm licensed to sell goat meat in Mississippi. For a couple years, we sold only the meat. We had it processed at a state-inspected facility. A few years after that, we were asked for dairy products.
How did you learn about the dairy business?
R: We built our own dairy herd. There are different types of goats; some produce more milk. It's like a Jersey cow and a Black Angus cow — one is bred for meat, the other is bred for milk. Our dairy goats are LaMancha and Nubian goats.
We built our own processing plant. We are a USDA-inspected dairy facility. We started making dairy products in 2012. We had someone teach us how to make cheese, but from there it was trial and error. We focus on soft cheeses like chevre, and we do some hard cheeses. We do cheddar and feta. Cheese is really simple actually. People have been making cheeses for thousands of years. It's about repetition.
Have farmers markets helped your business?
R: We sell directly from the farm. We have some stores where we sell dairy products in Mississippi, and we have several farmers markets. We do the Tuesday Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans. We do Ocean Springs (Fresh Market) in Mississippi on Saturdays and Long Beach (Farmers Market) on Saturdays and the Pine Belt (Farmers & Artisans) Market in Hattiesburg on Thursdays.
We like the exposure and it's worthwhile. It's one-on-one with the customer. It's a very good way for people to buy directly from the food source. It's a good way to meet customers and show them the different products. The farmers market business has grown for us. But we're a three-ring circus with two clowns running it. We'd need more resources to go to more markets.