The day starts just before 5 a.m. for Max and Trystan Sandvoss, who begin milking their herd of nubian, alpine, and saanen goats at 5 o’clock on the dot.
The Sandvoss brothers grew up in Westchester County outside Manhattan, attended prestigious universities, and left their careers on the West Coast about five years ago to start their dairy farm in East Bethany, N.Y., just outside of Rochester. “This is fun. This is really fun for us,” Trystan tells us.
Trystan and Max take meticulously good care of their goats. They started the farm five years ago with 18 goats, and now boast a herd of 110. “I can name every one of them,” Trystan says proudly. “The saanens are a little harder to tell apart, because they’re all white, but when you milk them every day you get to know them.”
The Sandvoss brothers do all of the veterinary work themselves, including assisting their goats through the birthing process. “We mostly let them do it on their own. Let nature do it’s thing. But of course we’re there if any problems should come up.”
No sooner had Trystan finished his last sentence than one of the alpine goats, Sprocket, started to give birth. We watched in awe as Max helped pull the young kid out and wrap him in a blanket. Not even 10 minutes later, Sprocket gave birth again, this time to a girl. “We haven’t had a birth in about 3 weeks,” Max tells us. It’s our lucky day!
“Sometimes there are up to eight kiddings in one day. It can be absolute chaos,” Max says. “The first night is the hardest. There’s no sleep.”
Keeping up with the herd of goats certainly has its challenges. “You have to plan for everything,” Trystan jokes. “When they get out, and they do get out, we have enough things planned between here and the road to keep them occupied.”
First Light produces several varieties of goat cheese, as well as cream-top yogurt and cheese made from organic jersey cow milk from a farmer just a few miles down the road. “You can immediately tell the difference in cheese made from holstein cow milk and jersey cow milk,” Trystan says.
Just as terroir is expressed in fine wine, First Light’s products have their own unique flavor profiles based on the local grasses Trystan and Max buy in from a ten mile radius of the farm. Doing so ensures that the goats always have a supply of fresh grass to chow down on, even in the middle of winter.
It really is all about the goats.
Look for First Light Farm and Creamery products in our dairy and cheese cases this spring.