Mischievous Yearlings, Bloomy Rind Cheeses Star At Garden Dairy Alpine Goats

Wendy Gardner of Garden Dairy Alpine Goats tells us how being 6,000 feet up in the Montana mountains helps her farm prosper.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Garden Dairy Alpine Goats

“I remember as a small child, I’ve always been interested in goats,” says Wendy Gardner. “It’s just my thing.”

Gardner’s early interest in goats has bloomed into Garden Dairy Alpine Goats, a venture situated 6,000 feet up in the mountains in southwestern Montana. Housing a herd that includes Cherry Glen, Rancho-Snowfall and Strawberry Fields foundation bloodlines (among many others), Gardner’s goats help produce a line of French-inspired cheeses headed up by Brie, Valencay and Wasabi Tomme delicacies.

Taking a moment out from farm duties, we spoke to Gardner about the mischievous nature of the herd and the character of her yearlings. We also got into the joys of bloomy rind cheeses.

An Early Interest in Goats


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Looking back on her interest in goats, Gardner recalls writing a paper in the fourth grade about wanting to start a farm.

“I was going to get a farm and get these animals, then get more animals,” she says. “It’s just always been goats for me!”

Read more: Sheep and goats have bring year-round value to the small farm!

The Intelligence of the Herd

At one point in life, Gardner used to train dogs. Based on that experience, she estimates that goats are “smarter than a Border Collie.”

Although she adds that her goats “learn from each other which is troublesome—they’re definitely a herd animal and they teach each other things.”

Mischief & Shenanigans

When it comes to the sort of daily mischief that Gardner’s goats manage to get up to, she reels off a seemingly endless list.

“We have to have all the latches secured ’cause they will work at the gates,” she says. “Anything new, like if you’re working on a fence, they will check out what you’re doing and your tools and run away with your tools or clips you’re putting the fence up with.”

Recently, the goats have also discovered a way to get into smart phones. “They have dialed my phone when it’s in my back pocket!” says Gardner with a laugh.

Read more: There are so many reasons to get goats!

Getting into Herd Dynamics

“I have a pretty big herd,” says Gardner when asked if there are any mischief-making ringleaders on the farm. “The yearlings are really the teenagers of the group—they’re always a handful. They’re very athletic and big like an adult goat, but essentially babies.”

“Then the babies themselves that are a couple of months right now, they’re so curious,” she continues. “It’s like a little gang of baby goats that are always stirring up trouble.”

The Joys of High Altitude Cheese

Gardner says that living 6,000 feet up in the mountains is a great location for cheese-making. “It’s perfect ’cause most of this cheese is French cheese, and they’d make it in the summertime up in the Alps,” she explains. “They’re probably even higher than I am.”

Talking about her favorite cheeses to produce, Gardner selects bloomy rind cheeses like Brie. “It’s really the cheese of a busy person,” she says. “You bring the milk in, then you put the cultures in, but then you have the whole day. It’s a real farm cheese—you’re always busy on the farm.”

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