By MIKE RUBEN ∙ firstname.lastname@example.org
FROZEN CAMP — What started as a healthy hobby evolved into an entrepreneurial enterprise for a Jackson County family.
The resulting TLC Farm Goat Dairy in Jackson County is the agricultural equivalent of a smoothie bar for the Clapp family. Their goat products are trendy, tasty and organic.
"I had always wanted to do some farming on the side in the back of my mind," said Terry Clapp, who recently retired after a 40-year career as a hospital pathologist. "My family and my wife's family had both been into farming."
Opportunity met motivation when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
"That had been a wake-up call for me to have a more healthy diet and a more healthy way of living," he said. "I had been hearing about how goat products were a good, natural food source."
Goat farming is less expensive and more nutritious than a traditional cow dairy, according to Clapp. The products are lower in fat, calories, cholesterol and carbohydrates with more protein and calcium. He also claims they are easier to digest, especially for those who are lactose intolerant. No "kidding."
His family relocated from Port Charlotte, Fla., to a 30-acre farm near Ripley and soon invested in a small herd of goats. The resulting dairy products soon gained popularity with the family and others.
"The kids loved it and we liked it," he said. "A lot of friends and neighbors told us ‘your cheese is really good.' People couldn't believe the flavor of our products. So, we said ‘let's just try doing this for the public."
Hobby turned business after some extensive research with the American Dairy Goat Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and state dairy inspector.
"Quite a bit of investment later, my wife, Linda, and I opened up the TLC Farm Goat Dairy," said Clapp. "We have quite a unique set up here. It's all a family business. We're a small, artisan company, and we started selling our cheeses at Jackson County Farmers Market."
The digital, computerized equipment system was accumulated from as far away as Poland and Canada. The facilities consist of a nursery barn, birthing center, milking area for a dozen goats and processing plant, making TLC the first Grade A goat dairy in the state.
"It's all automated, twice a day," he said. "We line them up every morning at 4:30 a.m. and again at 3:30 in the afternoon. There are no preservatives in the cheese, milk or ice cream.
"Our cheese is fresh, not aged. It's hand made in small batches, which allows us to pay close attention to every detail of the process. It also has a very smooth flavor."
The process may seem a bit impersonal, but Clapp said the family develops pet-like relationships with the animals.
"They each have an individual personality," he said, referring to the goats by individual name. "They are quite personable once you get to know them. They are trained almost like a dog."
The herd of 17 consists of those named for the characters in the "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" movie. The goats named Sioux, Cherokee and Apache have coats of fur resembling Native American blankets. The latest additions, Lexus and her sisters, are named for automobiles.
TLC has expanded its product line over the years. It now includes red pepper, jalapeno, chipotle herb, roasted garlic, cranberry and honey and apple wood smoked cheese, pasteurized milk and ice cream. Likewise, the customer base ranges from Charleston and Huntington to Marietta, Ohio.