The annual spring Open Barn at Celebrity Dairy near Siler City, North Carolina, was a smashing success this year. "We sold the most cheese we’ve ever sold in one day at this Open Barn," said Fleming Pfaff, who operates the Celebrity Dairy and Inn with her husband, staff, and apprentices.
Celebrity Dairy hosts an Open Barn event every year on the weekend before Valentine’s Day and the weekend after Thanksgiving. The February Open Barn generally coincides with the beginning of the kidding season. The November event wraps up the season.
Both Open Barns are an opportunity for friends, customers, and potential customers to meet the 50 to 75 Alpine does and kids at the dairy, sample cheeses, have a light lunch, and to purchase some cheese to take home. Although Celebrity Dairy has been in the area for decades there are still people who show up, unfamiliar with goat cheese.
"Everybody had a good time," Pfaff said. "We introduced some people to goat cheese. I was amazed that after all the years we’ve been in business there are still people who have never put goat cheese in their mouth."
Sampling cheese, visiting the barn, and petting does and kids doesn’t cost visitors anything, but donations are accepted. This year the proceeds went to Heifer International.
"We ask for a $10 per car donation to Heifer International," Pfaff said. "This year we raised $1,500. We are very thrilled. The people who made a donation also got their picture taken. They got to hold a goat and sit on a hay bale."
The dairy does charge for a lunch that includes several different kinds of soup, biscuits, corn bread, and brownies. Those who choose to have lunch can have it in the restaurant or on the porch at the Inn at Celebrity Dairy.
Celebrity Dairy makes a variety of herb-coated cheeses.
Celebrity Dairy near Siler City, North Carolina
Interns, assistants, apprentices and volunteers work to keep the farm running smoothly.
A pile of Celebrity Dairy’s kids.
Whitney rolls cheese logs in herbs. Garlic/Basil is among one of the favorites.
This year, Celebrity Dairy actually held two Open Barns in spring—one around Valentine’s Day and a second one in early March. About 200 people attended the February event even though it was held on a cold rainy Saturday. Then, thanks to some free publicity by the local public television station, more people attended the second one than Pfaff could count.
Promotion is important to the success of any Open Barn event, though Pfaff makes it sound easy. The primary way Celebrity Dairy promoted their events is through the dairy’s e-mail newsletter. In the old days a paper newsletter was sent out via the U.S. Postal Service. Also, in the old days, the dairy was more assertive in collecting postal and e-mail addresses. "We used to collect names and addresses to send our newsletter to," Pfaff said. "We now tell people if they want to be on our mailing list to send us an e-mail. It cuts down on our secretarial work."
There are also logistical problems associated with hosting an Open Barn with the potential to attract so many visitors. Since the Inn at Celebrity Dairy is set up to host parties of up to 250 people, there generally is adequate parking. But when they expect a lot of visitors, additional parking attendants are hired and parking signs put up. Inevitably, somebody does get stuck in the mud and has to be pulled out.
Staffing the barn, and barnyard, is also important. The cheesemaker, interns, innkeeper, and innkeeper’s assistants, along with a small cadre of knowledgeable volunteers, are all outfitted with Celebrity Dairy t-shirts and posted around the farm. "People can come up to them and ask anything they want to know about the farm," Pfaff said. "We want to educate people about goats, cheese, and farming in general."
Interns and apprentices are very important to Celebrity Dairy. For years they have come to the farm to learn through working. They come through organizations in the area such as American Livestock Breeds Association (ALBA), and a community college program in sustainable and organic agriculture at Central Carolina Community College.
"We have a wonderful woman right now who is working with the animals," Pfaff said. "She is actually going to get married here."
Pfaff enjoys the Open Barns, but she enjoys the barn tour and lunch program that the dairy has just a little bit more.
"One of the things that is the most fun for me and Bill is the farm tour and lunch," she said. "You can have 15 people (attend) for $15 each, and you get a nice lunch and a tour. We have book clubs, garden groups, retirement clubs, and other groups. I have fun with that because the groups are small and the questions are good."
The dairy schedules the tours on days when they are not taking cheese to the farmers market or excessively burdened with the other routine farm work. The tours provide additional income and also keep staff occupied during times when there might not be much farm work.
"We can be flexible," Pfaff said. "If the group wants to visit the barn first and then have lunch and their meeting we can do it that way. We’ll do it however they want. A tour lasts as long as there are questions—usually not more than an hour."
The lunch menus are also flexible. There are six menus to choose from. They include entrees such as Spinach and Goat Cheese Lasagna, Herb Encrusted Pork Loin, and Chicken Pot Pie with Peas and Carrots.
Of course, participants in the tour and lunch program are more than welcome to buy goat milk cheese. The dairy sells most of its cheese retail. Its main product is a fresh Montrachet-style log. These are sold plain or surface-coated with dried herbs—garlic/basil is the most popular. The dairy also makes a creamy chip-dip spread. To learn more about Celebrity Dairy and the Inn at Celebrity Dairy visit their website at www.celebritydairy.com or call 919-742-5176.