It's surprising when a lawyer gives up a 20-year law career to start her own farm, and it's even more surprising when that turns out to be a good business move. That's the story of Talitha Thurau, the owner of Edgwick Farm on Angola Road in Cornwall, a farm where goats are raised and milked, and goat cheese is produced. Thurau recently stopped practicing law to begin farming full-time. So far, following her passion seems to be working out. Earlier this year, her farm was awarded a $120,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture. The grant was the largest of five grants given to farms in the Hudson Valley/Catskills region.
Thurau manages the farm along with her significant other, Dan Jones (pictured above with Thurau). Both Jones and Thurau live on the farm and both have children from previous marriages (Thurau has three and Jones has two) that live on the farm as well. The farm produces various kinds of artisan goat cheese that is sold at a weekend farm stand and at farmers markets. Thurau says the grant is helping to launch the farm on a larger scale. "The grant is pretty exciting, it's going to allow us to get a good start," she says. "It goes to operating expenses, which is just incredible."
The grant is a matching grant, and Thurau has to invest time, skill, and cash to match the state funds. Thurau says the application was quite thick and was submitted last July. She adds that "one of the neatest things is, it's cash that comes into our local community because we're spending it here and it's a nice boost for the economy."
Thurau's transition to farming was a gradual one. She grew up on an organic farm and her family produced most of their own food, including goat's milk. When she had kids of her own, one of them turned out to be a picky eater, and when he went to his grandparents he'd always drink the goat's milk. In 2005, Thurau decided to buy a goat of her own for milk. "You never have just one goat. They're herd animals, so we bought a baby and another one for companionship," she says. "Then the next year, when we bred them, we ended up getting four more, so suddenly we had doubled the herd. I started making cheese for the family from the extra milk and then I had too much cheese for the family and I started sharing it with friends and neighbors, and people said it was out of this world. It was fresh, it didn't taste like the nasty goat cheese they bought in the supermarket."
It was at that point that Thurau, with the help of Jones, began a five-year-long process of starting a viable farming business. They began doing market research and taking extensive cheese-making classes to hone their skills.
So far, Thurau says she's been surprised by the variety of costumers for the cheese.
"When we did our business plan, we thought our main costumers would be the green consumer, the person who would go to a farmers market, people who want local food fresh food. But we've found that once people taste our cheese they love it, and we've had the full range of the population come through and it's been kind of neat."