Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 5, 1984
The Lady And Her Five-Acre Goat Farm
By Thea Jarvis
For as long as she can remember, Julie West has had a natural affinity for animals.
Growing up in Decatur, she remembers dreaming of one day shepherding her own live menagerie. At St. Thomas More School, where she was a student, she vividly recalls the primer stories that took the ubiquitous Dick and Jane to grandmothers farm.
By the time she was 15, she had cajoled her parents into adding a horse to their city lot. They gave in, absolutely certain that the hard work and responsibility attached to animal husbandry would dampen her youthful enthusiasm.
Twenty-one years later, I still have the same horse, Julie laughs, stroking Shamrocks mane and surveying the five-acre spread just off Lawrenceville Highway in DeKalb County where she raises Nubian goats.
Westwinds Farm fresh eggs, milk, cheese, is a true fish out of water in the sea of subdivisions and traffic tangles that surround it. But to Julie West, with her spanking white overalls and perennial smile, it is a dream come true.
She discovered the property, hidden at the bottom of a narrow, winding street, in 1972, just six months after her first husband died as the result of an automobile accident. The land, an overgrown mangle of junk cars and old tires, included a solid stone house dating to 1935 that had been added to over the years. The whole package was a challenge Julie took on easily, despite her recent loss and the care of a two-year-old son.
I saw a real future for it, she says of the ugly duckling homestead most friends and family had discouraged her from buying. Ive always been a frustrated farmer.
When she met David West, a structural engineer whose only brush with nature had been a plastic philodendron gracing a dark corner of his bachelor apartment, she had been living on the farm for four years. They turned out to be kindred spirits.
David and Julie married eight years ago, and from that time on their farming enterprise took off in new and untried directions.
He knew how important it was to me, Julie says with affection. He really took to it.
It was David who ambled off to cattle auctions in search of cows and pigs, encouraging Julie to follow her natural bent. He implemented the ideas Julie entertained in her actively agricultural head, turning out milking stands and animals sheds that eased the daily workings of the farm.
When a lost cow successfully defeated the combined strength of local police and fire departments, Julie and David together took a fresh look at their livestock.
There was $1000 worth of meat running up and down Lawrenceville Highway, Julie grimaces. The petulant beast turned the tide in the present direction. The Wests got rid of their cows and set about learning to breed goats.
Today, their little farm is a pleasant cross between hobby and business. It is also a real lifesaver for area families needing an alternative milk source for special diets and allergy-related illnesses.
Because there are no licensed grade A goat dairies in Georgia, goat milk products are hard to come by. Fresh goat milk is available only at farms where goats are bred and raised. Westwinds, with its mini-herd of one buck and nine does, falls into this category, and is especially attractive because of its close-in location.
Julie is currently milking two of her goats twice a day, often assisted by her oldest son Michael, now 14, and his brothers Travis, 7, and Egan, 5. One doe is nursing two orphaned kids and the other females are in a rest period, readying for growth or new birth.
After milking, a fairly quick and simple process that is usually timed for morning and evening sessions, the raw milk is filtered into sterilized mason jars and placed immediately into a freezer for cooling.
The cooldown is crucial, Julie says, explaining that this step prevents formation of bacteria. She feels the taste and quality of her milk is preserved by its quick trip to the freezer.
When cool, the milk is transferred to a large refrigerator purchased especially for its storage. Lodged in a high-roofed barn amid newborn kittens and sturdy farm tools, the humming white icebox is a signal that twentieth century efficiency is alive and well down on the farm.
Julie and her family couldnt be happier with their goats, who now share the property with some 50 chickens and assorted rabbits, ducks, lambs and roosters. They are having a good time and, since focusing their energies on goat-raising, helping others as well.
Local allergists and natural food store operators often refer patients and customers to Westwinds, and Julie is glad for their patronage.
I realized there were a lot of people who really did need this milk, she says. I feel really good that I can do something for other people.
Those who benefit from Westwinds special brand of dairy products include a two-year-old girl who is so sensitive to cows milk that just a drop or two on her skin will raise welts, a family of five whose oldest son is allergic to cows milk, and a three-year-old girl who cant tolerate cows milk but doesnt like the taste of soybean milk.
I think she really liked playing with the goats, Julie smiles. Many of her customers enjoy visiting at the farm because it offers a closeness to natural things often lost in big city living. She frequently entertains school groups and even brought some of the animals to St. Thomas More Schools bazaar this year. Her boys were proud to share the animals with their classmates.
The Wests animals are treated with affection. Because of the smallness of the Westwinds operation, the family is able to add a personal dimension to their care.
Each of the goats has a name, and Julie claims their personalities are distinctive. Sunrise, a sassy know-it-all, was Julies first goat and enjoys a special place on the farm, particularly since she is expecting her kids very soon.
She has the personality of a goat, Julie jokes, explaining that Sunrises babies might sell for $50 while more mature lactating animals run $125 and up.
Chickens are valued for their eggs and their disposition.
We dont eat the chickens. I like them too much, says Julie. Theyre real nice.
Inside the Wests old stone house, a visitor is treated to a draft of rich creamy goats milk, drawn from quart jars in the house refrigerator.
Nubians have a really high butterfat content, Julie explains. Up to seven and a half percent. Her own family has been spoiled, she claims. They wont drink store bought milk.
Over the past six months, Julie has tried her hand at making cheese from surplus milk and now turns out blocks of hard and soft cheese about twice a week. The cheese is tangy and delicious and, she insists, quite easy to make.
In the quiet of her home, Julie talks of her future on the farm, admitting that she frequently re-evaluates the path she has chosen. More often than not she finds herself reaching the same conclusions.
I thrive on this, she says. Her enthusiasm makes an onlooker want to jump up and milk a goat. Never mind that everybody else is reading the Ladies Home Journal while Im reading the Dairy Goat Journal, she says goodnaturedly. She is quite content.
Julie West has realized a childhood dream the farm that allows youngsters and friends to learn about nature through first-hand experience; a place that helps others through the fruits of its labor.
As for her part in all of this, Julie is self-effacing. Ive always been the black goat in my family, she says with a modest smile.