There’s a new dairy business in Manhattan, Kan. — and the owner/operator, who recently retired from an almost-30-year career as a medical doctor delivering babies and conducting gynecologic surgery, will begin making specialty goat cheeses later this month.
Suzanne Bennett, M.D., now owner/operator of the brand new state-of-the-art Holy Goat Creamery near Manhattan, Kan., will sell gourmet cheeses to high-end restaurants, casinos, and gourmet shops in a 150-mile radius, as well as to The People’s Market, and the East Side Market and West Side Market in Manhattan.
Cheese production at the Holy Goat Creamery is set to get underway later this month. Tops on her list is Chèvre cheese, feta cheese, as well as goat gouda. Chèvre is French for goat cheese and has a unique, robust flavor. Bennett recommends marinating it in herb oil or putting honey on it. Feta is a fresh, white cheese often mixed into salads. Goat gouda is a wheel of mild, partially sweet cheese.
Equally as unique as the career switch from practicing medicine to establishing a creamery and diving into three-hours of morning chores daily, is the story behind the Holy Goat Creamery name.
“I came by the name when I heard my son as a small child praying in church to the Father, Son and Holy ‘Goat,’” Bennett explained, “then of course there is the play off of Holy Cow.”
A savvy scientist, Bennett noted there’s also much science involved in establishing a quality creamery.
“My facility is state of the art, and I hope it can be a model for other micro dairies,” Bennett said. “We milk on a six goat raised stanchion with a closed pipeline milking system and an automatic clean and sanitize device within the loop. I have a small lab on site and we do our own milk testing according to USDA guidelines. We have just been granted Grade A status and are one of only two Grade A goat dairies in Kansas, and we get inspected regularly by the USDA.”
Bennett applied for, and received, a USDA grant for Value Added Production that helps with matching funds, which she’s putting back into the development of cheese making.
The Holy Goat Creamery received help kicking off its mission from nationally known cheese consultant Neville McNaughton from Cheezsorce in St. Louis. Bennett has built one aging room into the facility for hard cheese aging.
“We developed all her systems for her building,” McNaughton said. “I’ve laid out a ‘make procedure’ for Dr. Bennett, which is just the rules in a cascading series of events. I tell her what ‘milestones’ to hit, to be on time at the right level. I’ve written it chronologically on an Excel spread sheet.”
McNaughton noted he’s designed and built over 120 aging rooms in the last three and a half years. He specializes in developing cheeses, business plans, and sanitation and equipment design.
Interestingly, cheese-making is biochemistry.
“Actually, doctors actually make pretty good cheese — much better than engineers,” McNaughton commented. “Engineers may get the building right, but not so much in cheese.
“Dr. Bennett has a wonderful personality and is an incredible person. Her legacy will be to leave something for someone who would never be able to build it.”
Bennett began the process of starting her new career 12 years ago in 2005. That’s when her husband — who helps with daily chores — suggested she find a hobby to give her a break from the OB/GYN practice. Several years later, Bennett decided to raise the goats and make cheese.
It was a sad event that moved the entire process up.
“One of my partners was diagnosed with cancer and died last year, so I decided to retire sooner and enjoy the extra time that she couldn’t,” said Bennett, who retired in December 2016.
Bennett decided to attend a retreat in Wisconsin, and made cheese for a week and had a great time. The rest, as they say, is history.
“When I came home, I wanted to continue cheese-making, but milk was hard to come by in Kansas, especially goat’s milk,” she explained. “That was the moment I decided to raise the goats myself.” read more…