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If only she had the time. Labor — or a lack thereof — is another factor in the farm’s modest scale. It’s just Reeck, who devotes every waking hour to the place (her sisters pitch in with packaging and selling) and Wall, who, when she isn’t immersed in her full-time management job at Northfield’s natural foods co-op, is hard at work at home, tending to the animals and their bottomless needs.
“Vegetable farming is so different,” Wall said. “With animals, there is so much more on the line. The quality of the cheese is directly connected to the animals’ health.”
As for the name, the hills portion of Singing Hills Goat Dairy is obvious to anyone visiting the rolling landscape a few miles south of Northfield. As for the singing part, hear no further than the plaintive bleats reverberating from a chorus of highly vocal goats.
It’s a good story, but the truth is Reeck and Wall borrowed the poetic name from their go-to getaway, nearby Sakatah Lake State Park; in the Dakota language, sakatah roughly translates into “singing hills.”
Running the farm makes for a lot of time together for the couple, who have been together for 11 years. “We work every day at communication,” said Reeck with a laugh. “We have both become really good at saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
Farm to table
Along with a dozen or so pigs — which feast upon the dairy’s whey — Reeck and Wall also raise about 30 to 40 goats each year for meat, selling almost all of them to Ian Gray, chef/owner of the Gray House in Minneapolis. It’s the veal of goats, maybe 8 or 9 months old, and Gray enthusiastically channels that young, herbaceous meat into a flurry of highly memorable dishes: a deeply savory goat ragu over gnocchi, chops garnished with Reeck’s spectacular yogurt and a distinctive, delicious burger.
“The love that Lynne and Kate show those animals — and the appreciation that they have for them — really translates into the meat’s flavor,” Gray said. “You really taste the love they put into it.”
You can see it, too. On weekends, anyway, when Reeck and Wall drive an hour north to sell their products at Minneapolis farmers markets. Rather than go the wholesale route, they choose to market directly to customers, in part because of the face-to-face contact.
“We want to be able to share our stories,” said Wall. “It’s our farm, and when people have questions, we want to be there to answer them. We also don’t mind looking tired — we get up at 2:45 on market day to milk the goats — because we want to show people that this isn’t easy. We want to give our customers an understanding of what it takes to bring food to people, to keep the local food system alive.”
Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib