Steve Tate has long been one of the visionaries of local-food production and farm-land protection in North Carolina. So it caught my eye quickly Tuesday when I got this email: “FOR SALE: GOAT LADY DAIRY.”
Goat Lady Dairy, started by Steve, his wife Lee and Steve’s late sister, Ginnie Tate, in 1995, was one of the state’s earliest and is now one of its best-known local-food brands. Besides the cheeses produced by the dairy, it’s also a local-food destination, with seasonal dinners held on the farm in Climax in Randolph County, about 90 miles northeast of Charlotte.
As soon as I saw the announcement, I called Tate to hear more about it: Tate and his wife are ready to retire, but they want to make sure the farm and the dairy continue to go on and grow. So he’s looking for someone who is both passionate about local food, and a smart businessperson. Starting about 4 years ago, Tate started working with a small-business organizer through the state university system to develop a plan that would keep the land in production.
“There’s a reason we’ve done all this work, so there’s a Goat Lady Dairy in the future,” he says. “We could have just retired and turned it off.” That’s happening in many places, he says, as Baby Boomer farmers get too old but don’t make transition plans to keep farmland going.
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In this case, Goat Lady has a trained staff, but it’s not certain they’ll be the buyers. Tate also has kids, but they all have lives of their own and none wanted to run the dairy.
So here’s what’s for sale:
▪ 41 acres of farm land and organic gardens with 30 acres of hardwood forest.
▪ A 200-year-old log house with three bedrooms.
▪ A 9,900-square-foot creamery for cheese production, with aging, packaging and storage, and a staff.
▪ A 3,000-square-foot dining room and licensed commercial kitchen.
How much? Tate would prefer not to say. If you have a serious interest, you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement, to keep competitors from using the sale to get details on the business.
If you are the seriously interested person, you need to contact Tate, through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by phone (336-540-4401), or online (www.goatladydairy.com). Here’s hoping Goat Lady goes on for another 20 years of great cheese.