By Ann E. Duckett
With each bite of this remarkably fresh chèvre, I smile and silently thank Russell and Rita Kellogg for their dedication and commitment to what began as a happy accident decades ago.
Raising goats and producing award-winning goat milk cheese wasn’t in their purview as they settled into farm and family life. Their story—one of persevering pioneers in goat dairying—began innocently during an outing.
“In 1987, we bought seven-acres of land located on a hill from Russell’s grandfather; land that’s been in the family since late 1800s. We initially were going to be a bee farm,” said Rita. “Russell had farming and dairy experience, so we purchased four heifers. The day we picked them up, Robert, our youngest, he was six then, saw the baby goats and we couldn’t go home without one. We soon realized the goat was lonely and needed company.”
Nestled in the rolling hills of southern New York, they felt Candor was the perfect place to raise their kids, both human and four-legged. While raising goats was a bit novel, the family quickly embraced the idea.
Word spread and interest grew in the exceptional milk Rita and Russell’s herd was producing. By 1991, Side Hill Acres Goat Farm was well established, providing 3,000 pounds of milk weekly to an artisan cheesemaker in Apalachin, nearly two hours away. Rita’s daily delivery ensured fresh, all natural milk from their 300 goats for cheesemaking, cheese cakes, and ice cream. Eventually, the partnership dried up, and in 1994 Rita and Russell made the decision to become farmstead cheesemakers. They overhauled the cheese plant and built the Farm Store.
Today, their operation encompasses all 22 acres of the original farm, and is one of only eleven commercial goat dairies in the state. Daughter Karissa is handling much of the day-to-day operations like milking, cheesemaking, and orders.
“Karissa is the backbone of what we do. We hope she will be the one to carry on what we started decades ago,” said Rita.
In addition to Kefir, raw and pasteurized goat milk, and yogurt they offer fresh and aged cheeses—from plain or flavored (sweet to savory) chevre to fruit dips, herb spreads, and fudge too! Can’t decide? Pick up a Colby Jack or mild Cheddar. You’ll also find their premium quality, hand-crafted goat milk skincare, health and beauty products, along with cute goat-inspired gifts.
The Farm Store is open year round; if you can’t visit, shipping is available. Free seasonal tours of the farm include the goat barn, milk house, and cheese plant, with free cheese samples. Side Hill Acres cheese is available in small grocers and at farm markets in the area, too.
“Come spend an hour with us at the farm. You’ll have a little bit of fun and it won’t cost your family a dollar,” noted Rita. “Bring your camera and mingle with the goats; they love to pose.”
Ann Duckett is a writer, cheese educator and recovering cheesemonger. She delights in helping others find their cheese bliss through classes, events, and sharing stories of whey, wheels, and wedges.
Address: 79 Spencer Rd., Candor; Phone number: 607-659-4121 Facebook and web site: facebook.com/sidehillacres, sidehillacres.org