For the past year or so, some people in the greater Omaha metro area and some outlying regions have become familiar with the soaps and cheeses made from goats milk which are produced by Janna Feldman, who lives north of Crescent, Iowa. Selling her wonderfully fragrant soaps at farmers markets and various stores, Feldman is planning to expand her business to add but cheeses made from a blend of milks from goats and sheep and dairy products of the sheep and goats.
“We will be only goat and sheep dairy in Iowa,” says Janna whose herd includes 22 milking goats, seven ewes, one ram and 45 seemingly spring-loaded baby lambs and goats that feed on a grassy slope beyond some outbuildings at her acreage in the Loess Hills. A new building under construction will, when finished in a few weeks, house components of the new dairy: separate milking rooms for the goats and sheep, production rooms, viewing and tasting rooms for visitors and a cheese aging cave sunk into the side of the hill on which the dairy building will sit.
Janna and her husband Tom got into involved with goats a bit more than ten years ago when they discovered their daughter Mia could not digest cow’s milk but could drink goat’s milk. Also, their son Matt had dry skin, for which a doctor recommended soaps made of goat’s milk. From raising goats for their family, the couple began to think about making their products available to others. For awhile they were in a partnership but separated from that in 2012.
Now on their own and making and selling soap and cheese made from goat’s milk….permits from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship are hopefully coming soon so they can open the dairy to sell milk too…. they operate their business which is called Doe’s and Diva’s.
“A female goat is called a doe, like the deer, and I’m the diva,” says Janna with a laugh.
Janna explained that while each doe can produce an average of eight pounds of milk a day, the average ewe gives only about three pounds. “However, the sheep’s milk is heavier and denser that goat’s milk,” explains Janna who retired from a company that did government contract work. “It has different nutrients, a different texture and it’s the sweetest and creamiest milk I can ever describe.”
When the dairy is up and running, Janna plans on producing five types of cheese from the blended milks of the goats and sheep: a fresh plain cheese, feta, ricotta, aged cheese and she hopes to make curds too. Some of the aged cheese will sit for four to six weeks in containers including a couple barrels that were used in the production of Templeton Rye, another product made in Iowa.
Walking amid the grazing sheep and goats, Janna pointed out that just like cattle, certain breeds of goats and sheep produce milk better than others. “There’s an Alpine,” she said pointing at a multi-colored goat before gesturing to a Nubian which has long floppy ears.
“The Nubians have super creamy milk,” she says, then pointing at a white one. “The Saanans give the most milk but they’re low on butterfat.”
The sheep on her farm include Lucaune, East Friesian and Icelandic breeds.
“The sheep are given numbers, not names, but we name the goats after candies and sweets,” she says waving a finger at various goats. “There’s Almond, there’s Joy, Bing, Skittles, Ginger-Snap, Licorice and Cocoa.”
Not far away, in a pen where the sheep move themselves to in the evenings, is Yetti, a big fluffy white dog that provides protection against coyotes. “They were up here just last night,” says Janna, walking on the ridge where the coyotes had been in the darkness. “But Yetti keeps them away.”
A mix of various breeds of chickens and a small number of cats round out the animal population at Does and Divas.
Until the permit comes to open the dairy, Janna will continue to sell her goat’s cheese and soaps at various farmers markets that are starting soon for the summer. Those include the farmers markets at Midtown Crossing on Wednesday afternoons in Omaha; on Main Street in Council Bluffs on Thursday evenings and at the Iowa Welcome Center just east of Missouri Valley, Iowa on Thursday afternoons.
She also sells the goat’s cheese and soaps at the Artisan in Woodbine, Iowa; the Village Canvas and Cabernet in Aksarben Village in Omaha; and the Hy-Vee grocery stores in Council Bluffs.
For more information, visit www.doesanddivas.com.