The Thankful Goat: A Micro-Farm Flourishes (With Recipe)

Reader Contribution by Tori Degen
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A napkin. That’s what prompted her first farm vision. It was January 2010, and Dawn Mathews had purchased her first goat, Athena, a few months prior. A woman, a goat, and a really big dream scribbled out on a napkin. Dawn is the first to admit that she had no idea what she was getting into.

Fast forward to four years later, and today you’ll find Farmer Dawn and her family running their flourishing farm, The Thankful Goat, in Granite Falls, North Carolina.

Soon after she and her husband Steve began saying “Good night” to the goats each evening, they realized “the girls” would shout back something that sounded very similar to “Thaaaaaanks!” so they appropriately named their farm in honor of the gratitude their goats expressed. And the Mathewses themselves have plenty they are thankful for. They have meat rabbits, dairy goats, ducks, laying hens and a three-season garden that contains “any vegetable you can think of.” Dawn makes hand-crafted goat milk soaps, lip balms, lotions and bath products, while milking and making cheese from her girls’ milk . . . all on one half acre.

Running a WWOOF USA Farm

“We are a micro farm. We have an all-inclusive farm, just on a small scale,” explains Dawn. “It’s what every home used to do decades ago. So many people are now getting back to this – growing their own food.”  So many people that the Mathews decided to open their doors to young people from across the country who have an interest in organic farming. This month marks their two year anniversary with the WWOOF-USA program (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA), a period during which they have hosted over 60 WWOOFers on their farm. “We are a teaching farm, so we actually teach WWOOFers homesteading skills as opposed to just weeding and watering crops, or feeding and watering animals,” said Dawn. “Milking, soap making, cheese making, quilting, sewing, jam making, canning, cooking, animal processing, tanning hides, hunting . . . anything they are interested in, we have time for.”

Hosting visitors has been a mutually enriching educational and cultural experience for all involved. “Dawn has a great vision for her small patch of land, and it’s really awesome to see how she puts every inch to good use,” recalled Jonathan Oh, who came down from Virginia to visit the farm for over a month. “They are very eager to teach,” said WWOOFer Laura Sherry from Maryland. “I learned about building, quilting, canning, dehydrating, soap making and caring for animals . . . I recommend visiting to anyone interested in small scale farming and general self-reliance.”

Dawn’s advice for young greenhorns interested in starting a farm of their own? “Try new things, learn as you go, and be flexible,” she advises. “We have turned our yard into an edible sanctuary, but it didn’t happen overnight.” 

Dawn has chronicled her journey, from personal hardships and beginning farm failures to the first small triumphant victories and her now flourishing business, in her first (and newly published) candid memoir, The Thankful Goat: An Unlikely Partnership Between a Woman and a Goat.

As the seasons and challenges change on her small family farm, one thing remains the same: Dawn’s undying love not only for her sweet goats, but for her family, her WWOOFers from around the country, her community, and the life she has built from the ground up.

Recipe from the Farm: Dawn’s Blueberry and Goat Cheese Crostada

1 pie crust
1 half pint blueberry jam
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup goat chevre
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
cinnamon to taste

Roll out the crust onto a large cookie sheet or jellyroll pan.  In the middle half of the crust pour out the jam and blueberries.  In a bowl mix the chevre, egg, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon well.  This is the cheesecake filling.  Drop dollops of the mixture into the middle of the crust.  Fold several inches of the crust over leaving several inches of the filling showing.  At this point you can use an egg wash with one egg mixed with a tablespoon of water on the crust and some coarse ground sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour until the crust is brown and the cheesecake is set.

Where to Find Dawn and The Thankful Goat products

Downtown Hickory Farmer’s Market

Now through the end of October: Wednesdays 10am-3pm & Saturdays 8am-1pm.  (Dawn would LOVE to meet you!)

For more pictures of Dawn’s farm, The Thankful Goat, please click here

To order Dawn’s book, The Thankful Goat: An Unlikely Partnership Between a Woman and a Goat, please click here.

Are you interested in visiting and experiencing life on an organic farm?

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (WWOOF-USA) helps visitors from around the world link up with 1,900 organic farms across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. WWOOF-USA is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farms, promote an educational exchange, and build a community conscious of ecological farming practices.

For more information, or to find organic host farms nearest you, please visit the WWOOF-USA website