They started out with just a few goats to show in 4-H -- now Country Winds Farm, Goat Share and Creamery in Ottawa County is drawing wide acclaim. You'll find their cheeses at some of the areas finest restaurants, but the back story might be what's most amazing about the Beaverdam farmstead.
Mary Windemuller credits goats with saving her life, "Without them I really don't think I would be here," she explained.
In 1997 she was diagnosed with a cancer so rare, doctors at Mayo Clinic named it after her. Then her husband started researching the benefits of drinking raw goats milk.
"I was down to 3 things and I couldn't even digest those, or keep them in. When I drank the goats milk I kept it in, and it settled my stomach. I looked at him and I said, this just might work."
The doctors told her she had a year to live. That was 20 years ago.
So what is it about goats milk that makes it a cancer fighter? According to Windemuller, many don't understand the scope of cancer cells.
"People don't understand that every body has cancer cells, but you don't want them to grow into tumors," explained Windemuller. "So you want to keep your alkaline/PH balance normal and the goats milk helps you do that so it wards it off actually."
Now she runs a private goat share program for other goats milk enthusiasts -- but that's not all. What began as a homeopathic remedy, is now an award-winning creamery.
"It will be five years in August this year that we have been in operation and we are growing like crazy," she said. "We started with chevre and other cheeses that didn't require molds and press. Then we decided to take it a notch up and got our presses, then we started with the gouda and the tomme and now we are doing more bloomy rinds and hard cheeses," Windemuller explained.
This small operation won big at the American Cheese Society contest last year, they got second with their tomme and third with their crottin. It's the world's largest cheese competition. They were shocked to place alongside some of the best creameries in the nation.
Their process is impressive -- and so is their cheese cellar, where the cheeses age to near perfection.
Hungry yet? The list of fine restaurants serving Windemuller's cheese keeps growing. "The first one was Aaron at Bistro Bella Vita. I just approached a few more, Butch's downtown Holland carries it also, Boatwerks on the Lakeshore, Reserve does it, Amway Grand, Brewery Vivant does it. I could go on," she laughed.
It's safe to say what started as just a few goats for 4-H is putting Beaverdam on the map.
Country Winds is doing a public tour on Saturday June 10 -- you can RSVP here. And yes, there will be samples.
You can buy Country Winds cheeses at Harvest Health, or their farm on 64th Ave in Beaverdam. The goats milk is by private contract.
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