The Art of Doing What You Love
We find our inspiration whenever we step outdoors—deep in the wilds, down windy city streets, on worksites, in factories and occasionally...in a big field of goats. That’s where we met up with Erin Bligh—activist, entrepreneur, goat farmer and cheese maker. For the past nine years, Erin’s poured her heart, soul and passion into producing some of New England’s finest cheeses, sold under her Dancing Goats Dairy brand. Here, in the crisp, early fall air with 18 goats looking on, we got down to business.
The Kodiak Interview with Erin Bligh
KODIAK: You seem at home here—did you grow up farming?
ERIN: Well…no. (laughs) Not at all. Both of my parents are accountants, so this came as a surprise to everyone. Probably the furthest thing from what they thought I would do! I always had a love for animals, but my parents were thinking I’d go into veterinary medicine or maybe even law—a lawyer and activist. Not goat farming.
K: Yet here you are! Take us on that journey.
E: It started with an internship on a farm in Vermont. I thought it’d give me a better understanding of how the world’s food system works—where our food is grown and how it’s grown. My parents dropped me off in a snowstorm and assumed I’d be asking them to come get me within a couple days. But...I loved it.
K: And you stuck with it.
E: It just clicked for me. It spoke to me in a way that went far beyond the food system. I’m someone who wants to build something—making something with my hands—having a concrete thing at the end of it. There’s something incredibly tactile about working with animals, making food, working with the land. It shook me to my core.
K: And what is your life like now—what’s a typical day?
E: Spring and summer are busy—easily a hundred hours a week. We breed the goats on their natural schedule, so the babies are born in early spring. It’s up early, milking the herd, setting them out to graze in our fields, and then switching over to cheese making. I’m hands-on through the entire process.
K: What goes into cheese making?
E: Our cheese starts with what the goats are eating. The plants they’re grazing on in early spring—like dandelion—the flavors and essences come out in the cheese’s flavor profile. If I make a cheese in the spring and people fall in love with it, they’ll have to wait until the next spring for the same flavors. That’s the reality with food when you don’t force it—when you produce it with nature there’s scarcity, and with scarcity comes a greater appreciation for it.
K: So it’s not an exact science?
E: There’s science, but there’s also art. It’s artisanal cheese. It’s not about uniformity, but instead it’s capturing a moment in time.
"It’s not about uniformity, but instead it’s capturing a moment in time."
K: Speaking of time, what do you do when you’re not on the farm?
E: This time of year things slow down a bit, so I can take the occasional day off. I have a lovely little wooden boat called a peapod—a handmade oak and mahogany skiff. It requires a lot of love, maintaining it and enjoying it.
K: Last question: We gave you a pair of Kodiak boots last year and you told us you wouldn’t hold back—that you’d treat them rough and give us an honest review. How’d that go?
E: I threw everything at them—and they thrived. If my gear is slowing me down, I can’t do what I need to do. I’m working to change the face of a food industry that we’ve let go industrial, and I’m trying to bring back it back to a better way. The ethics, the sustainability, the quality. When you make something right, people come back.
"When you make something right, people come back."