Surfing Goat Dairy
Feed a buck, milk a doe, adopt a kid and eat a truffle—all on a savannah on the slopes of the world’s largest dormant volcano?
Yes, yes, and yes again, should you choose to visit Maui’s incomparable Surfing Goat Dairy—an experience that takes agri-tourism to new heights by giving it an inspired, tropical spin.
Photos by Natalie Brown Photography and article by Haleakala EcoTours
Surfing Goat Dairy is the genius and whim of Thomas and Eva Kafsack, a former software entrepreneur and German teacher whose emigration from Hamburg to Maui proved to be a boon for cheese-lovers in the Hawaiian Islands and in pockets throughout the world.
One of only two goat farms in the Aloha State, Surfing Goat Dairy is located in lower Kula on forty-two acres of kikuyu and buffel grass—a savannah so drenched in heat and sun that it receives little more than ten inches of rain per year. Such aridness might be a deterrent for the ‘ohia on Haleakala’s upper slopes, but it’s a gift for the 250 French Alpines, Swiss Saanen and crossbreeds who roam the sweltering, yellow-grassed land, two-thirds of which are devoted to pasture.
Rust-edged signs—which range from “Snowmobile Parking” to a buck’s story of evading castration—underscore Surfing Goat Dairy’s quirky, irreverent nature, while fences comprised of surfboards let visitors know they’ve arrived.
Tours begin with an overview of the farm by a lively guide before guests are led to the pasture to meet the stars of the show. There, dozens of friendly goats gather to greet visitors, who are encouraged to feed them (and there’s nothing quite like a charming Billy eating straight from your hand). The warmth and openness from the resident goats might seem at first like a fluke—perhaps part of the farm’s legendary quirk—before guides remind you that goats are such social creatures they’ve been known to die of heartbreak. Looking for the buck? He’s the alpha of the crew, standing taller than his compatriots and hanging back with cool confidence. Consider it deserved: bucks are an amorous breed, mating up to eighty times per night.
When the alfalfa is pau, mosey on back to the headquarters, where goats are milked twice a day in rows.
(Agri-curious guests can also sign up for their Evening Chores & Milking Tours.) The milk is then used to craft their cheeses, where vegetarian-friendly products are used to make their acclaimed creations. Pause for a peek as red-wax-wrapped globes of cheese are produced in small batches, or make reservations for their two-hour Grand Dairy Tour on Saturdays, which includes a longer glimpse into their intricate cheese-making process. And because this a farm characterized by aloha and a love of ohana, don’t be surprised to spot cats and dogs wandering around the premises—or to have an encounter with the farm’s pot-bellied pig, Charlie. Whether or not the goats can actually surf remains to be seen (although guests can grab an eyeful of babes climbing slanted surfboards after kidding season in May), the flock is well-equipped with choices should they choose to hit the surf below: the numerous surfboards scattered around the grounds are the result of a confrontation Eva had at the Maui Dump with a coterie of surfers who were retiring their boards. Eva—nothing if not environmentally-conscious—made them a deal: if they brought their old boards to her farm on Omaopia Road, she would gladly take them off their hands, an arrangement she still honors today–fourteen years after the farm was born.
Select tours are followed by a flight of the goat cheeses for which this idiosyncratic farm has become famous.
Flavors abound in this ultra-creamy cheese, from their spicy Ole!—chevre blended with jalapenos, artichokes and limes, to their Maui Lavender-infused Purple Rain. Herbs grown on the farm freshen up their Garden Fantasia, while piquant horseradish dominates the aptly-named Men’s Challenge. Take a bite of their O Sole Mio and you’ll understand why this sundried tomato blend took home the gold for the Best US Goat Cheese Spread in 2005, then savor the Udderly Delicious—their plain, salted chevre, which was served during the festivities at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Those jonseing for a sweeter treat will find their kick in the cinnamon, cranberry and honey laced Canada, while fans of exotic flavors will relish their apple banana and curry Mandalay. Can’t get enough? Order their Mo’ Betta Feta—which is ripened for five months in olive oil and brine—or splurge on a nibble from their acclaimed Shark Bite Line, which includes a one-of-a-kind chevre blended with smoked oysters.
While Surfing Goat may be famous for its cheese—stores as far away as New York City’s Fairway carry their creations, and a number of restaurants and hotels around the islands feature their products front and center—they’re also riding the wave of specialty Hawaii chocolatiers through their line of Gourmet Goat Cheese Truffles.
These gems, with flavors that span from Balsamic Strawberry to Lilikoi Martini, are genuinely extraordinary. Using an intense dark chocolate for their shells and a rich semisweet for their ganache (with all of their cacao coming from San Francisco’s inimitable “bean-to-bar” Guittard), their truffles are tempered—a crystallization process that gives each candy a remarkable texture and sheen—and filled with their signature goat cheese and fruit from their own organic orchard. Their Rum Raisin is especially noteworthy, comprised of aged rums the owner has collected from around the globe and star anise, cinnamon bark and cloves. Those searching for something on the lighter side ought to reach for one of their gourmet quarks, like their Upcountry-fresh Kula Strawberry. Goat milk soap, like pleasing plumeria and their classic oatmeal honey, are also available for purchase.
Goats got your goad?
Thomas and Eva offer members of their herd for purchase, while those off-island can adopt a furry pal—an arrangement that includes monthly pictures, daily care and visits. Parent of a goat or not, this is a place worthy of a return trip—if for nothing else than to glorify in its unique playfulness.