In high school, Pamela Barry, owner of Hidden Creek Farm and Dairy, wanted to be a veterinarian, but her life took a different turn. She went to nursing school, specializing in cardiology, and for 18 years journeyed across the country as a travel nurse.
“My father died six years ago, and I came back to Union County to help my mom,” says Barry, who owns Hidden Creek Farm & Dairy LLC, an award-winning artisan dairy in Blairsville. “We had all this acreage, so I thought I could settle down here and make a living. We thought about several things, including alpaca, but settled on goats.”
She purchased her first LaMancha goats in 2014 with the intention of milking them and making cheese. “I experimented with recipes and brought together chefs, restaurant owners and foodies I knew in the county as tasters,” she says. “In 2015, we did blind tastings, and everyone gave their feedback. Even the people who said they didn’t like goat cheese beforehand said they liked our recipes.”
By July 2017, she had settled on her recipes and had received the coveted Grade A Certification from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Then her marketing began.
“I made signs and handouts and went to area farmers markets to talk to people about my cheese and our goats. People in Union County were really excited that our county had a creamery, especially since there are less than a handful in Georgia,” Barry says. “Goat cheese is really healthy and a good source of protein. People who have issues with dairy products can certainly have goat cheese, because the proteins and sugars are different. Goat milk is naturally homogenized, and people find it easier to digest.”
Georgia prohibits the sale of raw goat milk for human consumption, but sellers can become licensed under commercial feed laws to distribute it as milk for pets. Called pet milk, it is used as food for animals.
“We do sell pet milk, and we also make related products, such as goat-milk soaps, local and infused honeys, plus eggs from our grass-fed chickens,” she says. “We have an on-site market here on Sundays from November until Labor Day.”
In the summer and fall, she takes her products to Georgia farmers markets in Union County and Alpharetta. She also travels year-round to the Marietta Square farmers market. “We rarely have any product to bring back from the markets,” she says. “I sell out every weekend.”
She has expanded her product line, developing a fresh, creamy, spreadable chèvre with nine seasoning choices from dill to garlic; a crumbly goat cheese that can be served on salads, in omelets and in mashed potatoes and that can be used for stuffing burgers; and a house-made ricotta. She also sells paneer cheese, which is grillable and fryable and is often used in Indian cuisine.
For Barry, becoming a dairy farmer has been a life-changer. From her initial purchase of two goats, she now has 50, all does or doelings, except for two bucks and eight bucklings. “Goats can be milked for up to two years after giving birth before they need to be bred again,” she says. “We keep some of the female kids and find forever homes for the males and some of the other female baby goats.”
Her two adult sons, Michael and Andrew, help out with the farm, and she has seasonal part-time help. Twice each day – morning and evening – they milk 20 goats. Then it’s time for making the cheeses and pasteurizing them to 145 degrees and then adding cultures and cooling the cheese and separating the curds and whey. She adds various flavors and spices to the curds, mixing them in small batches that are then packaged for resale.
“For our goat-cheese ricotta, we use the whey for a very flavorful cheese,” she says. “It’s excellent for stuffed shells or lasagna. And some people just like it served on artisan or French breads paired with fresh fruit or a favorite wine. It’s very versatile, and the ricotta we make puts the ricotta you’d buy in the grocery to shame.”
Her cheeses have been recognized nationally by the American Dairy Goat Association. In 2017, her Garlic Dill Chèvre won Reserve Best in Show, and she was awarded first place for her Plain Chèvre and second place for her Lemon Thyme Chèvre. In 2018, the Garlic Dill Chèvre won first place, and her Plain Chèvre received third place.
Barry also received a USDA grant in 2018. “That grant allowed me to do some work I never could have done here at the farm,” Barry said.
In addition to her full-time seven-day-a-week job as a goat farmer and cheesemaker, Barry actively gives back to her home community, doing programs in schools for the Future Farmers of America and the 4-H Club and participating in farm-to-table events for Union County Middle School.
“I have a great passion for what I do and want to share it with people,” Barry says. “Even though I work really hard, it’s not hard work because I love it.”
Hidden Creek Farm
279 Robin Ridge