If you’re are anything like me, then chances are that you are looking for your next vacation getaway – even the short but restful weekend kind. Thankfully, living in North Carolina means that the beaches and the mountains are never too far for a few days of rest and relaxation. But if you’ve already made that circuit once this year, or are in the mood for some new and interesting spots to explore with your family, may I suggest baby goats?
Specifically speaking, let’s talk about a wonderfully quaint and beautiful farm and inn in Siler City called Celebrity Dairy. Located in Chatham County, just under an hour’s drive west from Raleigh, Celebrity Dairy is a working goat farm with a rural bed and breakfast. In other words, it is the perfect getaway for all of us city kids.
About 20 years or so ago, I somehow acquired the knowledge that goats are very easy animals to raise. Since then, I have carried with me this completely irrational but absolutely charming fantasy of one day keeping a farm with goats and chickens. So when I came across Celebrity Dairy’s open barn event in spring earlier this year, I could hardly believe it. Even more alluring was the discovery that this working goat farm has a bed and breakfast that welcomes guests year-round. It was like beholding my dream in reality, but only better.
On a recent weekend, all my waiting and anticipation finally came to an end, as my family and I drove down Highway-64 to spend a night at Celebrity Dairy. I could hardly wait to pretend that I lived in an alternate universe as a farmer, inn’s keeper, and goat cheese maker, rub-a-dub-dub.
The beginnings of Celebrity Dairy are rather serendipitous. The owners, Brit and Fleming Pfann bought this land in 1987 with no prior farming experience. Brit, an engineer by profession, and Fleming, a weaver and artist, wanted to turn this unworked farm into a sustainable enterprise of some kind. Goats weren’t really on their mind until they acquired a couple to eat the overgrown brush on the farm. Fleming who is allergic to cow’s milk would soon learn that goat’s milk suited her just fine.
Winding country roads lead up to the dirt and gravel path that is the entrance to the goat farm. The inn stands out beautifully amidst this idyllic setting even before we make it to the end of the dirt road. Built as an addition to the original cabin from the 1800s, it is a 9-room farmhouse constructed in the Greek revival style, complete with an airy atrium as the main gathering spot inside, and a wrap-around patio with plenty of seating outside.
And as the saying goes, if life gives you goats milk, cheese will soon follow. The extra gallons of milk from their goats soon became Fleming’s experiments in cheese making. The results were so good that two years later, with the help of North Carolina’s Department of Agriculture and some uber special equipment sourced from another farm in Arizona, Brit and Fleming officially started their micro-dairy. It took another two years to get licensed in 1991, at which point they had about 18 goats. Fast forward to my visit this summer, the 25-acre farm now has about 120 goats, along with llamas, chickens, and ducks to keep them in good company.
The goat farm is tucked behind the inn just steps away. Surrounding all of this are pastures, a pond with occasional swans, and the click-cluck of chickens and ducks that tend to just roam as they please. A 250-year-old oak tree once stood between the two structures but had to be taken down recently due to a natural end to its life. I took in the setting and as I turned around momentarily with a look of can you believe this to my husband, I noticed one of my children had already discovered the barn cat, and the other two were laughing and giggling as they jumped through the sprinklers.
It took a few minutes for my little ones to settle into their new surroundings, but as soon as the baby goats came into sight so did their questions which were blasted off to Brit with barely any pauses for an answer. The smile on Brit’s face clearly suggesting that he has seen such a transformation and eagerness before. We spent many minutes learning about goats and holding and feeding the baby goats. Eventually, it took the efforts of all three grown-ups to get the children out of the barn and into the dining room (a promise involving goats milk ice cream might have helped).
A dinner of pasta with vegetables and goat cheese, along with a hearty salad awaited as Fleming put the finishing touches on setting the table. With grandkids of their own, Brit and Fleming are experts at entertaining children and making conversations that made me chuckle. We traded stories about parenting and farming which continued well through the dessert course of some of the best selections of their goat cheese and local bread. I was in heaven.
After dinner, we made our way to the chicken coop and took one last look at the baby goats before calling it a night and heading to our rooms. Decorated with great care, the rooms are charming, comfortable, and adequate, each with their own bathroom stocked with toiletries made from goat’s milk. There are no TVs or iPod docking stations, but that hardly seemed to matter given the big picturesque windows looking out onto the pond and pastures. There is a spacious library with a TV, piano, board games, and a loft full of toys however, should you desire some entertainment before falling asleep or anytime during your stay.
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of roosters, and the hustle and bustle that is typical of a working farm. By the time we made it downstairs to the atrium, the dining table was laid out with so much freshly made food that I had to take a minute to imagine how early Fleming and her staff had gotten their start. Before we sat down for the delicious breakfast however, we filled our coffee cups and made our way to the barn to watch the morning milking of the goats. Like a choreographed dance, the entire process was so mesmerizing and efficient. My children had never ever seen anything like this before, and they were quite literally frozen in their spots. Most of this milk will be used to produce the farm’s signature French-style chevre goat cheeses which come in several types and flavors.
What was to follow was perhaps one of the best parts of our stay. We had a wonderful breakfast along with all the other guests who were staying at the inn also. Some of us had children, who made friends instantly and ran laps around the breakfast table without any judgments. I was still full from dinner actually, but one look at the offerings (and more goat cheese) and I found my second stomach.
Over breakfast, I couldn’t help but ask what their long term vision is for Celebrity Dairy. And while Brit and Fleming hardly show any signs of slowing down, they do know that the future involves transitioning the farm to someone who cares about goats and cheeses as much as they do. Their land extends beyond just the goat farm with 275 more acres which are currently under timber management. They would like to see it all being leased to farmers who are interested in micro-farming (currently 15-acres is already leased to two farmers). As Fleming summed it up, “this is first and foremost a working farm more than anything else, and we want to keep that vision intact no matter what.”
After breakfast and some more playing around on the farm, we bid goodbye to the goats and to our excellent hosts with the promise to come visit them again soon. I made a pit stop in their gift shop for some cheese and goat milk soap to take back with me as an incentive to keep dreaming about my own goat farm.
Four full-time employees help Fleming run the inn. Brit and a full-time milker care for the goats and the barn. Three additional part-time employees help Fleming with making the goat cheese and selling it in the markets. A goat nanny is employed during kidding season to help with all the new babies. In other words, this is truly as authentic an experience as you can receive when it comes to hospitality on a farm. Everything, from our meals, to our rooms, to our time spent playing and exploring the farm was a first hand look at what it means to be a farmer. The hard work, the long hours, the endless to-do list, yet the kind of reward that has kept Fleming and Brit as excited and happy as the day they bought this property.
Celebrity Dairy and Inn is located at 144 Celebrity Dairy Way, Siler City, NC 27344. Inn reservations can be made online by visiting their website or by calling (919) 742-5176. Celebrity Dairy Goat Cheeses can be purchased at these farmers markets and grocery stores in the Triangle. The farm also produces goat’s milk soaps called Cud-Zu Soaps which are also available for purchase online. Follow them on Instagram.