A Conversation with Andre of Sunnyfield Farm

This story was originally shared from San Juan Islands Agriculture Guild and is re-shared here with permission. Sunnyfield Farm, LLC is a small, family-run goat dairy providing wholesome, high-quality goat milk products to their Lopez Island community and neighboring islands.

Do you have a moment that inspired you to become a farmer?

Well, not so much, but I do remember being about 21 or 22 and reading about Buddhism and specifically a book written by Osho, and in it was described the slaughterhouse and how all the cattle could be shot one after the other and all that fear/adrenaline coursing through their bodies is then ingested by us. Wow! I’m sure there were a few other things I read about factory farming, but that was a big one to make me think about where my food comes from and to make choices about it.

Then later on, way opened and my obsession for goats had a place to manifest right here on Lopez. I don’t know how that obsession started. I have some ideas….

Is there anything you’d like to share about your experience working with goats or in a dairy?

I wanted a routine, and there might not be any more of a regular one than to milk animals twice a day, even on Sunday morning. Goats have some pretty incredible personalities (I’m getting in to dairy sheep lately and find I like them more than I thought, but they have more of a tricky to read personality). The goats, the milk and the cheese all work their romantic magic on me when I let it and helps remind me I’m a part of an old school practice.

Traveling to France definitely helps with my inspiration when I get a little down trodden trying to make enough money to keep going with an almost 100% goat dairy income. But France is expensive, so I mostly watch as many fromage de chèvre videos I can on YouTube and read. And you can’t beat having a piping hot black coffee waiting in hand when the first string of goats comes in the milk parlor ready for a real Cappuccino. Straight stream of milk directly in the cup makes a nice foam. The original foam mind you…

What is a challenge you have overcome working in the islands?

My challenge that I have only partially overcome is my idealistic hopes that people in San Juan county will buy our cheese (if they like goat cheese) first, and not shop at Costco, so then I won’t be so dependent on visitors. I’ve partially overcome it because I’ve accepted the reality somewhat that what we have to sell our cheese for is just not in the budget for many locals, and it’s gotten even worse since the pandemic. That put an extra wrench in the economy and has affected buying habits. So in some terms it’s hard to admit that our business might not be sustainable. It needs those outside inputs…

What rewards do you find in your work?

The biggest rewards I get is the feedback and appreciation from customers at the farmers market. Those people that have gone ahead and expressed their bliss at our delicious cheese has been such a boost to what I do. The market has it’s difficult side: having to say nearly the same thing and look enthusiastic for every customer for 6 hours straight. But the PR and the genuine interactions make up for all of it.

Another one is the absolutely stunning visual moments I get around the farm coupled with the emotions that come with it. It’s a beautiful place I get to work and I can just stroll home 200’ and have coffee with my wife and see my kids run up the driveway after school. Couldn’t beat it (unless my farm was in California so I could surf before milking….)