It has been two years since Evergreen Acres Dairy, a dairy farm outside of Tres Pinos, became Grade-A certified. The California Department of Food and Agriculture required Evergreen to become certified after the small, local dairy business became popular. The dairy farm sits on 36 acres of land, bought in 2012 by Mike and Jane Hulme. Mike is originally from the U.K. and Jane is originally from China, but both have lived in California for more than 20 years, Mike for more than 35 years.
Evergreen Acres currently has about 200 customers in the San Benito County area and has CSA memberships available. Jane says that they “continue to connect with people through farmers markets,” where they have a large local following. They also have a partnership with Manresa, a restaurant in Los Gatos.
It took hard work to get Evergreen Acres up and running. “It is a beautiful location,” said Mike, “but [when we bought it] it hadn’t been used as a farm in about 15 years. We had to redo fencing, and lay out the dairy.”
While Mike was working on the farm location, Jane was tending to the couple’s goat herd. Mike remembers the early days on the farm as challenging. “It’s probably the worst thing we could have done… but it ended up being a big feature of what we’re doing now,” he said.
What Mike and Jane are "doing now," is sweet goat’s milk, which comes from the Hulme’s unique herd of Guernsey goats. Mike also says that these goats, an endangered breed in Europe, are key to Evergreen’s success.
“I’m providing milk that is different from everybody’s dairy herd that you’ve got in the milking business,” Mike says.
Typical dairy goats are large animals, like Alpine goats, that produce a couple of gallons of milk per day, says Mike. But the Hulme’s Guernsey herd is specially bred to be different. Mike and Jane have spent the past few years cross-breeding their Guernsey goats for higher butter fat content, aiming for around 5 to 6 percent. The higher the butter fat, the sweeter the taste of the milk. Hulme also says that his goat milk’s high butter fat accounts for its “clean” taste.
“Most milking dairies get large goats that give you a lot of milk. That makes the goat milk smelly and taste a bit off,” Mike said.
He also points out that the proteins in goat milk are different from the proteins in cow milk, and it’s these different proteins that make goat milk ideal for cheese-making. On their website, the Hulmes sell a feta-style goat cheese, a cheshire-style goat cheese, and a parmesan-style goat cheese, all made on the property. They also use the goat milk to make homemade “goatgirt,” like yogurt, as well as kefir.
The Hulmes have plenty of videos and general information available on their website about the health benefits of all their organic products and raw milk. For example, they say that their kefir “can boost your immune system and provide a wealth of nutritional value, as well as some proven health benefits such as help with cancer, asthma, allergies, osteoporosis, IBS, and lactose intolerance.”
At the end of September, the Hulmes will host the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Annual Chef’s Conference. Matt Beaudin, Executive Chef at the aquarium, says that during this third year of the conference, he wanted to take the attendees out of a classroom setting and “into the field.” Beaudin expects 60 to 70 local, professional chefs to attend the conference. The goal is to have the chefs utilize Evergreen Acres’s fresh, natural products, and start a discussion about food sustainability.
“I learn best hands-on,” said Matt, “it’s going to be great for the chefs to get out in the field and get their creative juices flowing.”
In the future, Jane says that there might be some new products offered by Evergreen Acres that draw on her traditional Chinese cooking skills. She and Mike are “[thinking] about making some food that is fermented,” as well as making traditional “Chinese moon cakes” that would take advantage of the fresh salted duck eggs from the Hulme’s ducks.
In addition to their goats, the Hulmes keep a thriving team of around 260 ducks and sell the eggs alongside their dairy products. “It took $10,000 in investment in feed before we got our first duck egg, and then we suddenly had 1,000 eggs,” Mike remembers with a laugh. “But that’s just farming.”