On this trip, I was lucky enough to be able to make a stop through my home state of Connecticut for a few days. Although once a highly agricultural state, Connecticut today isn't really well known for it's agricultural production, so I was really surprised and excited to be in touch with gay farmer Paul Trubey of Beltane Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut- just one town over from where I grew up.
Beltane Farm is a goat farm producing delicious artisanal goat cheeses like Chevre, French style ripened cheeses and Feta. They sell at farmer's markets all over the state, wholesale, and have cheese tastings every weekend at the farm.
Paul told me that the name Beltane Farm comes from the old Mayday celebrations of Northern Europe- cheese and other dairy products were central to these celebrations as a way to welcome a renewed milk supply and honor the successful kidding and lambing of the early spring. Coincidentally, Paul and his husband Mark purchased the 8-acre farm on May, 1- about 14 years ago.
This is Beltane farmer Paul, who I was able to spend the afternoon with. Here he is with 16-year old (thats really old for a goat!) goat Maddie. I loved the way that Paul related to the goats- he knew each individual goat and many of them responded to him by name, especially one baby goat named Milagro (or Miracle in English) that Paul had nursed back to health from an infection inside his house, literally propped up with pillows on the couch.
There is also an old house on the property, which Paul estimated had been around since 1840. When I asked about the history of the land, Paul told me that there was a pretty large population of Jewish folks who began settling in rural portions of the state, such as Lebanon. Paul said he had uncovered some old bottles with hebrew writing on them in his attic. This was a part of my home state's history that I never knew about. I did a bit of further investigation and found out that Jewish farming in Connecticut is actually a really important part of the state's agricultural history. Jews began fleeing crowded New York City to return to the land and began farming initially for subsistence, and later for profit as demand grew from growing urban cities like Hartford and Willimantic. Many Jews also used their farms as tourist destinations for fellow Jews to escape the extreme heat of New York in the summer time. Jews even started the first farmers' credit union in the United States in Fairfield, Connecticut. Who knew?
Here is the beautiful old barn at the farm where milking and cheese making happens.
This is where the milking magic happens goes down twice a day.
Paul cares for two kinds of goats La Mancha and Oberhasli. Here are some photos of the Betlane Farm goat superstars:
Oberhasli Boy goats.
The La Mancha's look like they don't have ears.
These kids melted my heart!
These kids melted my heart!
This goat was scratching her booty like this in the barn the entire time I was visiting.
And some shots from around the farm...
Overlooking one of the goat pens, a lovely place to relax.
Beltane Farm was a terrific example of successful small scale food production. The farmer was happy, the animals were happy, and the people who buy his products- many straight from the farm are happy too. It was really refreshing to meet a gay farmer in my old neck of the woods- and especially interesting to talk to someone living rurally. Compared to most queer city farmers, Paul's experience was dramatically more isolated and lacked a sense of greater queer community. The intricacies and distinctions in experience amongst queers in agriculture are surfacing with each farmer that I meet.
On to Tennesse!