The magic of goats at Winter Winds Farms in Teton Valley

25 Jun 2023

Jessica Konrath and Mark Farmer expand educational opportunities in third summer as owners

Summer 2023

Written By: Heather Jarvis | Images: Lara Agnew

On a swath of 20 acres in Teton Valley, Idaho, 80 goats, 24 chickens, six ducks and a gaggle of dogs and cats solidify a dream that Mark Farmer and Jessica Konrath didn’t even realize they had until it was put in front of them.

It’s been three years since the couple purchased Winter Winds Farm, and their vision is only expanding as they develop more community educational opportunities to complement the sale of their artisan goat cheeses. It started with a dream to get married on a goat farm, and a quick Google search for venues. Jessica serendipitously landed on a search result showcasing Winter Winds Farm for sale. She already had a deep love for the animal after an intimate goat snuggle session years prior — thus the desire to get married on a goat farm — and once the idea was planted, there was no shaking it. Living in Washington, D.C. at the time, the couple had already been exploring the idea of moving West to be closer to Mark’s family and where he grew up in Cottonwood, Idaho, and this sealed the deal. “I was surprised about how much this could be my dream. My initial inquiry was basically like, ‘is this for real? I think this is my dream,’ and then a bunch of heart and goat emojis,” Jessica laughs. The couple moved to Idaho and spent their first summer learning the ropes from the previous owners. Mark took on the animal husbandry side while Jessica learned the art of cheese making. The farm’s senior cheesemaker, Lacey McNeff, stayed on with the new owners and was imperative to helping with the transition. Winter Winds Farm cheeses can be found in farmers markets, specialty grocers and restaurants on both sides of the pass. Not only is Jessica intimately familiar with the process of making cheese — she can talk at length about proteins, fat content, and how what the goats are eating changes the taste — but it’s also easy to hear the familiarity and fondness for the animals in her voice. “Milking goats is humbling,” she says. “When they are happy, they are more than willing to give you milk. When they are not feeling well, they don’t want to give milk. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship, and we honor their gift to us.” Growing up in a suburb of Madison, Jessica was surrounded by farms in the agriculture-heavy state of Wisconsin. She says that her lack of knowledge when it came to farming before purchasing Winter Winds inspired her to start education initiatives at their farm. “It’s so important to be connected to food, and understand what it takes to get what we eat,” she says. “People take it for granted.” To educate and engage with the local community, the farm hosts area students and organizations to learn about raising goats and the process of cheese production. They also open up cheese-making workshops to the community throughout the summer. In 2022, the couple created a 501c3 nonprofit to help grow their educational programs. “We want the farm to be a gathering place to bring the community together,” Mark says. And of course, each May they host snuggle sessions with a new batch of baby goats. Not only is it a way for the couple to share the same experience that founded Jessica’s love of goats, but it also socializes the baby goats for easier handling. “It’s an opportunity for us to share the magic of goats with the community, and harken back to the same experience Jessica had,” Mark says. In the summer of 2021, the couple completed their dream of getting married on a goat farm. And this May, as a new batch of baby goats began their lives, the couple welcomed their own first child, a daughter, into the world. As the couple accepts this new challenge and adventure, a new dream begins to take shape: watching their daughter grow up on the farm that came into their lives through a product of their love for each other, and, of course, goats.

HOMEMADE SOAP

Jessica began making goat’s milk soaps as a way to use some of the leftover milk they had from the cheese-making process. All Winter Winds Farm soaps have 10 ounces of goat’s milk, making up a quarter of each bar, along with other natural, skin-healthy oils.

Benefits of goat milk for skin:
  • PH of goat’s milk is similar to human skin, so it’s very gentle
  • Fat in goat’s milk means it’s moisturizing and won’t dry out your skin like water-based soaps
  • Nutrients and minerals present in the milk have anti-aging properties
  • It’s local, so you are exposing yourself to trace allergens, making you resistant to them
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