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5/6/2004

Fetish for feta

By Mike Lawrence
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — For Jim Schott, the cheese business is starting to take off.

Schott’s Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, an award-winning cheesemaker located in Niwot, opened its second creamery April 28 in Longmont.

“There is a lot of interest in artisanal cheeses all over the U.S.,” Schott said. “We felt the time was right to expand our capacity in order to make our cheeses available outside of Colorado.”

The 2,700 square-foot Colorado Avenue facility will allow Haystack to double its production, Schott said, enabling service to new markets in five states across the country, including California and Texas.

The Longmont creamery is currently processing about 2,000 gallons of milk every week, Schott said, all from Haystack’s approximately 300 goats.

Two new employees have been hired to work at the creamery, bringing the company total to 12.

That also makes 12 the number of new part owners of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, according to Schott.

“We thought it was important to become an employee-owned company,” Schott said.

A former high school teacher and college professor, Schott got into the dairy business when he decided he didn’t want to spend his life inside a classroom.

“I realized I liked learning more than teaching,” he said.

So learn he did.

More than 15 years ago, Schott bought a 7-acre plot in Niwot, built a barn and learned how to raise goats and how to make cheese.

He began producing cheese commercially as Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy around 1991, he said.

It wasn’t an easy process.

“Learning things by the seat of your pants, you make a lot of mistakes,” Schott said. “But it’s also very exciting.”

Marketing Director Michele Wells has another word for the company’s growth.

“It’s chaotic in here,” she said, walking around the brand new, still-rough-around-the-edges Longmont creamery. “Don’t take photos of the messes.”

The extra production in Longmont will allow the original Niwot dairy to focus on Haystack’s experimental and specialty cheeses, Schott said.

Their fresh-ripened Haystack Peak and the Queso de Mano, a raw-milk Spanish-style cheese that is aged for up to eight months, are two specialty cheeses that are in high demand at many Colorado farmers’ markets.

“We do our biggest sales at the Aspen farmers’ market,” Wells said. “People out there can’t get our cheeses anywhere else.”

In Boulder and Denver counties, though, there is no shortage of Haystack cheese.

The goat cheeses are available at local Whole Foods and Wild Oats markets, as well as King Soopers, the Vitamin Cottage and the Boulder Cheese Company.

Haystack also sells at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market in Boulder, the Longmont Farmers’ Market set to open May 22 and at two Denver farmers’ markets.

If all goes well with the current expansion, Wells said Haystack has targeted markets in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Schott said.

Mike Lawrence can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 218, or by e-mail at mlawrence @times-call.com.