“See that section of fence?” Karin Eide asked, pointing to just a small part of the extensive fencing around her Bayside farm. “That cost $100.”
Eide worked for 27 years in a tax preparation office, all the while planning and dreaming about her farm. She bought sections of fence as a savings account towards that dream of recreating the farms she saw as a child in Norway.
Eide’s father was Norwegian and the family would visit the old country every summer.
“We’d go past little farms and I’d dream of growing up and marrying a farmer.”
Now Eide is living that dream but she is the farmer, raising goats and making incredibly delicious goat cheese.
“I had a long term vision,” she said. “I see myself someplace and I go there.”
She’s had her Spring Hill Farmstead Goat Cheese at the Saturday farmers’ market for just a couple of months but it is already a local favorite. Her black and blueberry goat cheese, made with berries from her 120 bushes, is a sellout every week and her besitos (little kisses), heart-shaped cheeses, are in high demand.
Eide’s farm is a haven for critters and pollinators alike. Currently six dogs in residence keep the 32 goats safe from predators such as bears and mountain lions and her lavender labyrinth, sage gardens, and her blueberry bushes provide a lush home for pollinators. She’s milking 18 of those goats with the results of around 80 pounds of cheese a week. Spring Hill Farmstead is also home to 19 ducks, two geese, and a succession of international farm helpers who stay anywhere from a week to a month under the WWOOF program (see below).
She started making cheese in her kitchen, giving it away to friends or trading for vegetables. Now she has a beautifully appointed cheese room, carefully planned and laid out with modern equipment.
Eide bought her equipment from a couple in Napa and credits the state inspectors with helpful ideas and suggestions for setting up her operation. “The state inspectors have been wonderful,” she said.
She opens the door and the first thing I see is a pair of clean white rubber boots. Eide sheds her farm boots and steps carefully into the white boots before entering the pristine environment. We’ve approached the clean room through a vestibule, carefully closing the outside door before opening the inner door to keep out flies. Everyone who works in the cheese room wears scrubs and head wraps. Here goat cheese is queen!
It’s a contrast to the wild and free environment that the goats roam. The farm is a work in progress with terracing of hillsides underway. The goats roam through pasture and up onto fallen trees, wandering freely until they come in to be milked. Eide has a new milking facility which has its own three-chamber clarifying tank. Waste from the facility goes through those tanks, then into a 3,000 gallon holding tank and eventually is used as agricultural water. She’s got 28 solar panels and a solar water system. Self-sustaining is the watchword.
The goats are all LaManchas and they are charmers. We go into the corral and they mill around us, sniffing and rubbing our jeans, butting gently against our backs, and putting their heads up to be rubbed in that perfect place on the top. Each generation of goats are named from one letter of the alphabet and all have Spanish names because Eide is honoring her Mexican heritage that she’s inherited from her mother. One goat, Hilde, is recovering from a leg injury and rests on a chaise lounge near the milking barn. Eide has high hope that she will be better soon.
In another pasture, the younger goats are frolicking. Some of the male goats that are born go to 4H projects and some to the nearby Organic Matters Ranch where they are starting a brush clearing service. Eide is also grateful to her neighbors at Organic Matters as Max and Cisca are her Friday night relief milkers so that she can concentrate on the cheese kitchen, preparing for Saturday’s market.
“My first year that I made cheese I had a goal of making a soft cheese that I liked as much as Purple Haze,” Eide said. (Purple Haze is the popular cheese made by Cypress Grove.) “My second year my goal was a hard cheese and the third year was blooming rinds. I’m not trying to compete with Cypress Grove. If anything, I’m grateful to them for turning so many people on to goat cheese,” she added with a smile.
Eide comes by her cheesemaking by heritage. “I just found out that my great-grandma made goat’s milk cheese,” she said.
She’s creative with her products, too. Eide gathers fig leaves and macerates them for a couple of months in cabernet sauvignon. “Then I take them out and wrap a disc of cheese in the leaves. The cheeses are aged in their little drunken leafy cocoons.” Now that’s a wine and cheese pairing. She also makes a spicy Mexican cheddar called Aye Chihuahua! because her mother is originally from Chihuahua. For Hans, her Norwegian father’s 80th birthday, she made him, what else, a special cheese.
Her father was a great influence on her. He started a school for children in Cambodia and was a role model for having a dream and following it.
“I tell people I ended up in Bayside because of a horse named Stella and a man named Hans.” Eide looks around her front acreage which is blooming with butterfly bushes, lavenders and sages. “He told me, ‘you have a lot of landscaping to do.’ This was all clay when I came here.”
Eide’s cheeses are also available at the Kneeland Glen Farm Stand and are featured on the menu at the Hotel Carter’s 301 in Eureka. “I will always be small,” she said. “This is my working retirement. I plan on doing this for 20 years.”
Eide is a woman whose dreams and plans come true so we can look forward to enjoying her delicious cheeses for years to come. Visit the farm on Facebook, Spring Hill Farmstead Goat Cheese.
What’s a WWOOFER?
The word for goat in French is chèvre; in German, Ziege; in Gaelic, minseach.
Karin Eide knows the word for her helpers at her Spring Hill Farmstead, the visitors from all over the world who come to stay at her farm, work hard, and enjoy the beauty of Humboldt County.
That word is WWOOFER, a friendly acronym that refers to participants in the Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farmers.
These are folks who travel the world, working for board and room only, on organic farms.
They get to see different methods of farming, hands-on, eat delicious food, work for part of the day, and enjoy their surroundings.
Recent WWOOFERs at Eide's farm have included Pauline from Paris, James and Tom from England, Tim and Stine from Germany, and Michelle and Brian from Ireland.
The website, wwoofusa.org, describes the program as "part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community..."
The site lists over 2,000 organic farms in this country that participate.
Another site, wwoofinternational.org, lists farms in countries all over the world for those who want to go further afield.
Eide has nothing but positive things to say about the WWOOFERs who have come to her farm.
"They stay between a week and a month, beginning in February until mid-September," she said. "They come from all over the world."
Sometimes there is overlap and that makes it interesting for one group of WWOOFERs to pass on what they've learned to the next group.
Eide's Facebook page, Spring Hill Farmstead Goat Cheese, is filled with photographs and stories about the different visitors.
She keeps bicycles at the farm so that the WWOOFERs can take off on their own and go exploring.
Shoppers at the Arcata Farmers' Market get an opportunity to meet these international visitors because they help at the goat cheese stand on Saturdays.