So much of the holidays, especially the days surrounding Thanksgiving, is about food. It’s a season of the year when not “just anything” will do. Here on the North Shore, we are lucky to have access to so many true farm-to-table options, from meats to cheeses, milk, eggs, and more.
You may well already be a fan of Dancing Goats Dairy. Avid readers of Northshore might recall when its owner, cheesemaker Erin Bligh, was first featured as a budding entrepreneur in these pages back in 2015. And the reputation of Dancing Goats chèvre often precedes it. But even as I counted myself among the dairy’s fan following, I found I had much to discover about cheesemaking.
Bligh isn’t afraid of hard work, which is a good thing given that it’s significant part of her job description. But her passion for this work all began when she was a college student studying abroad in Rennes, France. It was there that she fell in love with the notion that “food is precious” and began to fully appreciate the “art and technique needed to make and preserve good food,” she explains.
Soon after returning from France, Bligh started working on a farm in Vermont, where she eventually ended up as an apprentice in the cheese room. A desire to be back on the North Shore brought her home to Massachusetts, though—specifically, to Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, the same farm where she would later rent space for her two goats and open Dancing Goats Dairy in 2015. Fast-forward to today, and Dancing Goats Dairy sells its cheeses commercially, at local markets, through small retailers throughout the state, and at its own self-serve farm store.
Cheesemaking is indeed labor-intensive; a cursory look at the sheer number of goats or all of the equipment in Bligh’s cheesemaking room clears up any doubt about that. And while the work starts before sunrise, “the organic, tangible sense of purpose” remains, says Bligh, who describes her work as providing a sense of gratification that speaks to her in a way nothing else had before.
Two of Dancing Goats’ must-try cheeses are the Jane Goodall and the marinated chèvre, which took home second place in its category at the National American Cheese Society Competition in 2017. The Everything Bagel chèvre has what some might describe as a cult following, and the dairy’s flagship blend, the Sea Salt chèvre, is simple yet there is nothing “plain” about it.
Erin Bligh has made a career out of her passion for raising goats and cheesemaking.
Big things are on the horizon for Dancing Goats Dairy, which will find itself on a new farm in Boxford at the end of the year when it joins Lillooet Sheep & Cheesery, owned by Bligh’s friends and fellow cheesemakers Nathaniel Higley and Gillian Marino. Local is the name of the game for Bligh, who is excited for the change because of the new opportunities it provides, but also because it keeps her close to home and to the customers who have supported her (and her goats) from the beginning.