From City Lights to Small Town Charm

by Kathryn Harnish

“Newly married and eager to begin our “happily ever after” on a small hobby farm, my husband, Rob, and I began our hunt for the perfect place to call home from a computer in the Chicago suburbs. We started exploring rural real estate networks online and stumbled upon Aroostook County, Maine. We often joke that finding our new home in Houlton was a bit like closing our eyes and sticking one of our fingers…there!…on the map. Moving from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city to a small town 300 miles north of Maine’s southern border and just three miles from Canada was truly taking a leap of faith; hence the name of our farm – Took a Leap Farm!

Enchanted by our brand-new, absolutely beautiful state and the amazing bounty of The County, we initially put aside our dream of starting a farm business. Rob worked for a local company that processes potatoes, and I continued working remotely for the company I worked for in the Chicago area, but slowly, we began to revisit the idea of putting our farm to work. We connected with a number of small cheesemakers in Maine and Vermont and were inspired by their success in producing farmstead artisan cheeses, particularly with goats’ milk. We purchased our first five goats in 2011, and soon, we were all goat, all the time!

Today, we have about fifty goats, and for the 2021 season, we’re milking about twenty of our does – by hand, enjoying the time with our “girls” and the quiet of our very old post-and-beam barn. We put our goats’ milk to use making chevre, both plain and flavored, and feta. Our products, which are seasonal, are sold at the Houlton Community Market and The County Co-op and Farm Store.

One of the things we love most about living in Houlton is the Community Market, which is held on Saturday mornings from Memorial Day weekend to the weekend of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There’s nothing like the way that the community comes together on those mornings to shop for cheese (of course!), gorgeous produce, crafts, glazed donuts made by an Amish family, and more; to listen to local musicians; and to catch up with friends. As vendors, we love when folks share memories with us – of raising goats in their childhoods, of enjoying similar cheeses while on vacation in France, and of laughing through the viral video in which our little goat, Buttermilk Sky, rocketed into her 15 minutes of Internet fame. We’re always amazed to learn that so many young kids love feta cheese and happy to introduce others to a new taste, with the invariable reaction a squished-up nose and “Woah, salty!” Nothing beats being downtown, among Houlton’s beautiful historic buildings and surrounded by so many of our friends and neighbors…the spirit is truly contagious!”

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