A few years into her career in New York City, Annelise Hagen decided she really wanted to work with plants and animals. She experimented at first, volunteering on farms in Norway and learning about dairy goats.
Fast forward a few years, she now operates Straw Pocket Farm in Lansing with her partner, Patrick Branigan, and mother, Rebecca Hagen. The farm offers goat cheese and yogurt, along with eggs, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Available cheeses are chèvre and catkin with others planned. Yogurts offered are plain and a seasonally available raspberry.
“Currently, we have nine does in milk, three yearlings (year-old does, not yet bred), four doelings (does born this spring), and three bucks,” Annalise said. “Our kidding season this March was our largest yet, with 32 baby goats born!” Straw Pocket sells some of their baby goats (kids) to vetted customers, mostly homesteaders and other small farmers.
She describes each of the goats as “uniquely charming.”
“Obie likes to give high-fives. Ginny grins when you scratch her on the chin. Lorine screams when you’re even a bit late for milking. Audre rules like a queen, grumbling at younger goats, but loving human affection,” she said.
Choosing Tompkins County because of its vibrant small farming community, the Hagens purchased the farm in 2016 and have always had a goal of stewarding the land to encourage biodiversity. “Put most simply, our aim is to farm in a way that enriches, as opposed to depletes, the land,” Annalise said.
After four years of learning, designing, and building, Straw Pocket Farm received its license from New York state to make and sell dairy products a year ago.
Neither Rebecca nor Annalise has formal training in agriculture. Originally from the Bay Area in California and then Oregon, Rebecca worked most of her career as a special education teacher near Portland before retiring and moving to New York state.
Annalise left the West Coast in 2007 to study and work in New York City, including her last position as a librarian at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Branigan grew up on a dairy farm in Greene, NY. “He’s the only one of us who actually has legit farm credentials,” laughed Annalise.
Lack of formal training hasn’t held the mother and daughter team back from learning about growing produce, raising dairy goats, and operating a creamery. “Rebecca is a wonderful, self-taught gardener, and developed a beautiful garden of native plants at our last home in Portland,” Annalise said. “We always had pets, even if it meant keeping them out of sight of landlords.”
The team generally divides up the work, with Annalise tending the goats, including rotations, health checks, and twice-a-day milkings. She also oversees cheese and yogurt making. Rebecca handles the gardens and chickens and works on building restoration. Branigan is a talented woodworker who manages construction projects, including a new mushroom house.
In the off-season, when the goats are not giving milk, the farmers work on further building out the farm’s infrastructure and handling maintenance. The barn dates to the early 1800s and the farmhouse to 1890.
Cleanliness and animal health are a central focus. “In order to produce and sell milk products for human consumption, we had to be legally licensed by New York State Agriculture and Markets,” Annalise explained. “Our Ag and Markets inspector visits on a monthly basis, testing the quality of our milk and resulting products, and assessing the sanitariness of our facilities.”
She cites proper nutrition, exercise, observation, and a relationship with a good veterinarian as key to keeping the goats healthy. “Dr. Jess McArt from Cornell’s Ambulatory Clinic has made a huge difference for us,” Annalise said. “Our learning curve would have been a lot steeper.”
The yogurt, cheeses, eggs, and vegetables are available on Saturdays and Sundays during the season at their farm store, located at 1388 Ridge Road in Lansing. Cheeses and yogurts are also available in Ithaca at GreenStar and Ithaca Coffee, and in Trumansburg at Main Street Market.