Cypress Grove Chevre's Goat Plans Draw Neighborhood Protest – June 7, 2011

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

Q STREET – Cypress Grove Chevre (CGC) is in escrow on 23 acres of what used to be the Gil’s Creamline Dairy on the Arcata Bottom. The world-renowned goat cheese company hopes to use the land for dairy goats, which would give it an in-house supply of milk for cheese production.

“We have a large demand and are always looking for new sources of milk,” said Bob McCall, sales manager. The company has at times been criticized for not having on-site goat milk production, and trucking in its supply.

McCall said that in  the company’s early days, founder Mary Keehn kept goats to supply milk for its then-limited cheese production. When the chevremaker opened its Arcata Bottom facility, the volume of milk required could only be satisfied by tapping area goat ranches.

Now, said McCall, “we’re looking into creating some of our own again.”

Though the project has been eight years in the making, plans, McCall said, are still uncertain and tentative. He said the company preferred to complete the land acquisition and nail down other uncertainties before disclosing details.

“We do have a project that we’re formulating,” McCall said. “It isn’t finalized at all. At this point we aren’t really ready to say what it is. When we do we will be very clear and succinct.”

Neighbors react

In recent weeks, Cypress Grove contacted a couple of property owners neighboring the Gilardoni parcel, including Foster Avenue resident Carol McFarland and St. Mary’s Church, where a gift basket of chevre was left.

McFarland said that during a visit by CGC General Manager Karen Dressler in mid-May, the project was described in vague terms as a “goat pasture” which would have little impact on adjacent neighbors. McFarland initially expressed relief that such a project might protect the land against installation of a housing subdivision.

But last weekend, having gotten wind of the nascent project, other area residents grew alarmed at the fragmentary information available. Speculation – some of it apparently unfounded – fed fears of a much more massive installation than had been suggested.

As it turns out, up to 1,400 goats would be housed at the site in a large building. The prospect of that many goats on 23 acres adjacent to residential areas raised concerns about noise, smell, traffic and property value impacts, plus questions about disposition of the effluent the animals will generate.

McCall said the figure of 1,400 goats is “roughly right, probably a little high.” He insisted that “absolutely no misleading information at all” was provided during the “chance meetings” with neighbors.

Another hot rumor was that the goats’ wastes would be liquified and sprayed onto the grounds. McCall flatly denied that. He said the goat droppings will be collected and stored for giveaway as fertilizer.

Q Street resident Karen Davidson (see letters, page 7) listed numerous concerns, and is circulating a petition demanding a public hearing on the project. She called the project a “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” or CAFO.

McCall denied this. “That’s a term used to describe feedlots for meat animals,” he said. “It has nothing to do with what we’re doing.”

Davidson wondered how many trucks would be required to deliver feed for the goats, as 23 acres of pastureland can only support something over a hundred goats, not more than a thousand.

McCall responded that “at any goat dairy, food must be trucked in. Every goat dairy brings in grain.” Some grazing would occur on the land, augmenting the animals' diet.

Davidson wondered whether antibiotics the goats might be treated with would, along with their urine, wind up in adjacent Janes Creek, eventually polluting the Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary.

McCall said goats involved with chevre production cannot be given antibiotics, as it stifles the cultures that turn milk into cheese.

Neighbors Lee and Barbara Sobo also have a petition going. Their concerns echo Davidson’s, and they want a rigorous review of the project.

“We need an Environmental Impact Report to fully understand how this is going to impact the neighbors and the City,” Lee Sobo said.

No public hearing

Humboldt County Planner Bev Burks said that while no formal proposal has been made, from what she has heard about the project, it would be a “principally permitted” use of the agriculturally-zoned land and may not require any discretionary permits.

If that’s the case, approvals would be ministerial actions not requiring public hearings.

McCall said any project would be consistent with the land’s intended agricultural usage. “We’re very good stewards of the land here,” he said. “I think we have a good track record for the citizens and the environment.”

Protest planned

As the faint wisps of solid information spread among neighbors over the weekend, so did fear about a huge change in the neighborhood's quality of life.

On Tuesday, the inevitable Facebook page was born, titled "Stop the Industrial Dairy in Arcata."

A protest was also planned for Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Cypress Grove Chevre's Q Street gate.



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  1. Matt Horns said:

    Your zoning is “Agricultural.” Grow, shut up, or get out of the way!

  2. Matt Horns said:

    The last time I lived in Arcata Bottoms I lived in a 150-year-old farmhouse on Janes Road. I was delighted at the goats, chickens, sheep, rabbits, and organic vegetable garden on our property, plus the dairy cows in the field to the west.


  3. Matt Horns said:

    “…plus questions about disposition of the effluent the animals will generate.”

    Are you kidding me?? Goat manure is a precious resource that when mixed into the soil improves organic farm productivity. Hopefully, coming to a Farmer’s Markets near you soon is goat manure at a reasonable price.

  4. kevpod said:

    That’s a perfect example of a comment that adds nothing. If you’d like to discuss something substantively, please do so. But as for stupid noise that, take it to the blogs that thrive on it.

  5. Waldo said:

    I think that this most recent example of Arcata area resident’s delusions of mental adequacy is a good argument for signing the petition now being discussed to expell Arcata from Humboldt County.

  6. Al said:

    lisa, i think your comment is a bit rude. all opinions should be welcomed, this is “the place” for all of the sides of discussion.

  7. goatcheese said:

    There were pastures on ‘the bottoms’ way before there were subdivisions.

    City folk should lose this one, power to the dairy woman!! Demise to the NIMBY’s!!

  8. lisa said:

    Sean: therefore you are opposed to any feeding? Every dairy in the county feeds their animals more than what their pasture provides, especially in winter. Don’t give advice on a topic you know very little about. If you are opposed to a dairy providing feed beyond what the land can support, then you are opposed to every dairy in the county, not just this one. Your argument is weak and misplaced. This PRIVATE land is zoned ag; you aren’t then allowed to decide what kind of ag and how the business is to be run. It’s private property and a private business. If you have a problem with the ag zoning then take your argument elsewhere, this is not the place.

  9. Sean Armstrong said:

    A feed lot is a feed lot. A diary is a place to milk animals. A feed lot is an allotment of space where animals are confined and fed at densities that the land cannot naturally support. Whether they’re killed after they’re fed, or milked after they’re fed, is a distinction without a difference. Not to the neighbors who smell, hear and suffer from immune system challenges from industrial pollution. Please don’t torture the dictionary and common sense. This feed lot will go through the use permit process, the Emmi Corporation should stop trying to avoid it.

  10. The Nielsens said:

    No subdivision will ever be approved for the 23-acre parcel since it is zoned for agricultural use. So rest easy.

    The Mason family has run 20-25 cows on that pasture for over 30 years with no problems (for cows or neighbors) because they are good farmers — they run 1 cow per acre and have not abused the land and its ability to regenerate and nourish the animals.

    Over a thousand goats (where 5 goats are equivalent to 1 cow in terms of how they use the land) cannot even be compared to the appropriate animal husbandry that the farmers out here use. This is intensive farming which is full of contaminants and inappropriate near a creek, residences, children’s playgrounds, and so on.

    I think the residents near by are mostly appalled at the idea of a factory farm in THAT LOCATION where it is inappropriate; but they are not opposed to Cypress Grove or to the idea of goat farms. If Emmi would simply focus on a location not so close to residential areas and our town center, this might be a different discussion.

  11. Coastal Grove Parent said:

    This goat dairy sounds like a great idea.

    I love that the children at the elementary school would get to grow up around real working agriculture. The kids already love having a cow pasture next to the school and having a world reknowned goat farm would be even cooler.

    I was always afraid that the pasture would be turned into a subdivision.

    Everyone agrees that Cypress Grove Cheese is a top quality product so it is safe to assume that the dairy would be top quality as well.

    I’m reading complaints about possible manure smells as well as concerns about feed trucks.

    Feed trucks are a sign of a vibrant agricultural economy. They provide jobs for drivers and revenue for feed companies. This is good news for the local economy in tough times.

    Dairy cattle manure smells much worse than goat manure. Cattle manure is almost always liquefied and spread on the fields and most of it runs off into the watershed which is an environmental problem.

    Goat manure, on the other hand, is much drier and easier to use as fertilizer. Many local farmers and gardeners would be happy to put it to good use.

    A working goat dairy in the Arcata bottoms will be a wonderful addition to the community and a positive way to preserve the rural nature of the area while sustainably improving the economy.

    More goat cheese please.

  12. Joan Crandell said:

    As a poster above mentioned, when cleaned out, THE BARN will stink. The same goes for our small 6 goat dairy. However, the outside doesn’t smell, just the barn. The “deep bedding” method is used by many, many folks. Fresh bedding is layered daily, weekly, whenever needed over soiled bedding. The lounge areas are deep so that a good three or 4 feet of bedding can accumulate without problem. As the soiled bedding breaks down, it releases heat which warms the dry, clean bedding the goats are on, and acts as a natural heater for the building. The smell is minimal (of course until the cleaning is done). In Europe, they use the “straw” from bio-fuel grains as bedding. A pretty neat cycle if you ask me. Another poster above keeps using the term FEEDLOT. That is a gross mis-statement, evoking thoughts of Harris Ranch on highway 5 and its horrible smell. I think discussion is hugely important, as is transparent information, but please don’t resort to fear tactics. That is SO Fox News.

  13. Seth Williams said:

    I love manure, I don’t now why but it has a wonderful scent.

  14. Ian Ray said:

    On the manure issue, an adult goat produces about 5 lb of manure per day. In contrast, an adult cow produces 120lb of manure per day, which reduces to 35 lbs or so when dried.

    1000 adult goats would equate to 5000 lb of manure per day or about 42 cows worth. Last time I looked, the property in question had cows grazing on it.

    As well, goat manure contains a high proportion of micronutrients due to goats’ diet. This makes goat manure compost an excellent fertilizer.

  15. Richard Stenger said:

    Wouldn’t it be cool if such an expansion could be turned into some sort of Goat World, whereby visitors to our area could have a personal Cypress Grove experience, other than the wonderful cheese of course.

  16. The Nielsens said:

    The dairy existed over 30 years ago; the proposed dairy will look very different from Gil’s. Picture over a thousand animals, a cement barn, piles of manure, and the coming/going of large vehicles. Certainly not like “the old days.”

    Would you be interested having this feed lot installed in your back yard?

  17. Karen Davidson said:

    I just had a very nice, if sad, conversation with Mary of the dairy. Our first request has been met, closing is not happening tomorrow so I have agreed that I will not lead a picket line in front of the dairy today at three. However, since the word is out and I can’t retract peoples plans or concerns, I suggested this was their best chance to fill us all in on the facts. I will be there trying to answer questions.
    I am hoping they will have a fact sheet today but I did confirm enough facts to know the article is basically correct.
    While to call it an chemical disaster zone is highly inaccurate and not true, it will be industry on a large scale, not seen before with goats in this county or country. They do not have a manure plan but I was assured that the 3 to 4 times a year they clean the barn will be really smelly. 1400 goats create a lot of feces and urine even if it isn’t spread on the fields. Karen

  18. Van Tassel Family said:

    All we ask for is a chance to hear and discuss plans for this project. Is that too much to ask?

  19. kevpod said:

    Gordon, the current facility is for manufacturing only, with milk imported from area goat farms. The Gilardoni property would be used for CGC’s own on-site goat herd and milk production. There would be no replacement of anything, just an addition of the goats.

  20. Joan Crandell said:

    I think people are overreatcting…confinement housed goat dairies, like those in Europe, are NOT CAFO’s, and the animals actually enjoy very large lounging areas. These animals are not confined as we might see in veal or swine productions. I believe the “indoor” aspect is in response to the wet winters and wet pasture conditions that prevail there. Goats are animals that REALLY do not do well outside in wet conditions-if you go to a traditional dairy setting around here, it can be pretty muddy and miserable. In addition, the Humboldt County coast has an endemic population of coccidia due to its temperate rain forest conditions. These parasites wreak havoc on young stock (just ask any local vet!). Indoor dairies, with proper management, would actually create a HEALTHIER environment in regards to parasite control, for these animals, and less need for intensive parasite management through anthelminics like chemical wormers. I believe that the community SHOULD be involved in the information as the dairy is planned, but I do feel that some of these folks are REACTING, and not doing their research first.

  21. Al said:

    once again, so glad to have AE on the story to help figure out what’s going on. good job kevin!

  22. Gordon Edgar said:

    The question unanswered in this article, and perhaps if I was a local it would be obvious, is how is replacing a dairy with another dairy a change of use? Has the farm not been in use for awhile?

Comments are closed.