Not Just Kidding: What the Viral Power of Goat Snuggling Taught Me

By Gail Hobbs-Page as told to EdibleDC. Photography by Justin Ide. 030113_Kidding_115

After running a small farm-to-table restaurant at a local inn in Nelson County, I stopped cooking and started Caromont Farm in 2007. Since then my head and heart have been immersed in trying to make great cheese in the state of Virginia. We now tend over 150 goats, chickens, cows, peacocks and guard dogs, not to mention numerous interns and employees.

For the past two years, through our farm market community, I’ve done a call for volunteers to help out during kidding season. With a herd the size of ours we have more than 90 baby goats starting in early February, more than we or our mama goats can handle.

This year, we used our Facebook page to recruit volunteers, which got the attention of our local CBS affiliate reporter, who came out in early January to talk about our need for goat snugglers. The one-minute segment aired on January 8, and while that day my life as a farmer continued, little did I know that my world was going to change. During dinner, I started getting texts from friends telling me that I was “trending.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but my assistant, Izzy Zechini, who handles Caromont’s social media, explained that our story was going viral and that thousands of people had “liked” our Facebook page. Overnight, more than 2,000 people from all across the country had signed up to volunteer.


In 72 hours, our story had been picked up everywhere from The Washington Post to the Huffington Post to an ABC news segment that got 64,000 shares.

We obviously couldn’t accommodate all the people who wanted to be goat snugglers, so we thought, “Why not have a farm open house event and call it Goatapalooza?” We posted the event on Facebook and once again received an outpouring of interest. Thousands of people signed up as interested—more than we could ever host. So we put Goatapalooza on hold and set to figure out how to manage this tsunami of interest in baby goats and visiting our farm.

And it’s not over. We are continuing to book national stories and VIP visits with photo opportunities. Which is wonderful, and of course, as a cheesemaker I hope it will help us sell some cheese.

But clearly, our farm life in Virginia has touched something beyond just curious interest. There is a real and profound need out there to be with these baby animals. This experience has made me reevaluate a lot of things—and ask myself is there something bigger than cheesemaking and goats going on here? Clearly people need to snuggle goats more than the goats need snuggling.

One thing that has really touched me have been hearing from people who are suffering or dealing with major trauma. I’m talking about people who are terminally ill, women who had been beaten or raped, really sad problems. I’ve prioritized these folks to get in for a goat snuggling experience, to let them connect with the goats. And it is gratifying to see the positive effect on their lives and the happiness it brings.

And this has made me think about the piece of land for sale next to my farm—could it be an expansion of our farm that is totally devoted to goat therapy? Do I have it in me to run another crowdfunding campaign? And does it have anything to do with farming and cheese?

I don’t know. But, had we not “gone viral,” I would not have seen this as a potential path nor connected with people who would so greatly benefit from spending time with baby goats.


The viral experience has connected our sweet farm with the bigger world and has shown me that beyond seeing where their food is made, people want to come out to Caromont because they see it as a place of peace, safety and love. For me, being among the farm animals, being outdoors, making cheese—it’s my everyday life. But I know when the big world seems crazy, like during the Paris attacks, being at home on the farm feels safe and centering.

I’m feel lucky to have had the experience of going viral and our heads have definitely been spinning as we contemplate what’s next. But at the end of the day, I do know this: The internet can buzz all around us, we’re still going to be old-fashioned farming in Esmont, VA.


Caromont Farm is located 23 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia, in the heart of Virginia’s Piedmont region. We produce both fresh and aged cheeses using milk from Gail Hobbs-Page’s herd of Alpines, Saanens, and La Mancha goats. Caromont’s cow’s milk cheeses are produced from milk sourced from Nathan Vergins’ herd of grass fed Jerseys at Silky Cow Farm in nearby North Garden, Virginia. Their cheese was featured in our 2015 Holiday Issue. For information, go to






Purple Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

Words and photos by Amber Breitenberg, special to EdibleDC DSC_3535

I'm from Norfolk, Virginia, where, though we sometimes forget it, our roots run deeply Southern. I grew up quite familiar with the sweet potato biscuit, a classic southern side that goes perfectly with a thick slab of Virginia ham. This time of year sweet potatoes are quite ubiquitous in my CSA share and I had been planning to make a batch to go with some maple rashers we were saving from The Rock Barn.

I happened to end up with a couple purple sweet potatoes and thought how cool it would be to make the classic sweet potato biscuit with a purple hue. I never would have guessed how vibrant and beautiful they would turn out, and obviously delicious. I love simple recipes that will make your guests say "that must have been so hard to make!" and then of course I get to explain that in fact it was quite easy--even bettter-- most of the ingredients came from our local farmers.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use a Gluten Free substitute like Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup baked sweet potato
  • 3 Tbs honey


Preheat over to 400°F. Poke holes into sweet potato using a fork. Place sweet potato on baking sheet covered in aluminum foil in center of oven. Bake for 1 hour or until a fork can be easily inserted into the center of the sweet potato. Once cooked, scoop out the insides of the sweet potato and discard the skin. Place in refrigerator to chill.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Place in refrigerator to chill.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and honey, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add the sweet potato and continue whisking (I prefer to use a hand mixer or you can throw everything into a food processor to make sure everything is well mixed)

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until moist (you may need to add one or two additional tsp of buttermilk if the dough seems too dry).


Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour.

Fold the dough in half twice and reroll to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Combine edges and reroll dough until all of the dough has been used.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Place dough rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until you can see the dough beginning to flake.

Remove biscuits and let cool for several minutes before eating.

*These are best served right out of the oven and in my opinion do not store very well. So when you make them plan to have friends over to enjoy them with you or be prepared to bring a few to your neighbors.

Amber Breitenberg-Finished-0024Amber Breitenberg is a food and lifestyle photographer living in Washington, DC. Through her blog, A Little Terroir, she shares the stories of our local farmers and producers and offers some lessons she has learned along the way about living and eating with a sense of place. @alittleterroir

Five Pick-Your-Own Apple Farms Not to Miss in the DMV

By Raisa Aziz, special to Edible DC AppleHand

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning color and we get to be cosy without the actual cold. What better way to kick off the season than with Fall’s most perfect, edible love child.

Apple varieties will soon take over your local farmers market but you can easily pick your own apples for a sweet farm-to-table (or belly!) experience. Meander through the orchards and fill up your bushel to take home for pies, jellies and snacking later on. Here are our top picks for the season. Be sure to always call the farm ahead of time and bring your own containers.


Milburn Orchards

Milburn Orchards is located in Elkton, Maryland and has been family run since 1902. They offer a pick-your-own adventure every weekend throughout the harvest season. Royal Gala, Honeycrisp and Orange Honey varietals are already available with more to come as the season picks up. Milburn Orchards also has delicious light lunch and sweet treat options (did someone say homemade ice cream sandwiches?) on the Orchard View Deck to refuel after apple picking. Pro tip: Get a freshly-baked pie from the market to take home after apple picking.

Hollin Farms

About an hour from DC, Hollin Farms is located in Delaplane, Virginia, and specializes in grass-fed Angus beef alongside the pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. Apples and pumpkins are available for picking with Fuji, Empire and Golden Delicious apples already in full swing. Pro tip: bring cash on the weekends to avoid the credit card line.


Larriland Farm 

Larriland Farm is a family owned and operated farm in Western Howard County, Maryland. Always the crowd pleaser, Larriland Farm has hayrides and a straw maze to get lost in once you’re done picking apples. Next to ripen are the Empire apples and there are 14 more varieties to follow after that. Pro tip: best to go in October when other Fall favorites (pumpkins and squash) will be ripe and ready too.

Butler’s Orchard 

Pick-your-own apple season has kicked off at Butler’s Orchard. Located in Germantown, Maryland, Butler’s Orchard is perfect for a family adventure. Their famous Pumpkin Festival means pumpkin picking, hayrides, jumps in the hayloft and the Pumpkinland exhibition (a display of fairytale characters built from pumpkins) along with your pick-you-own experience. The bakery also has fresh bread, baked goods and jams and jellies available. Pro tip: Butler’s Orchard will be closed September 21-25 to prep for the Pumpkin Festival, which begins September 26-27 and continues through weekends in October.

Homestead Farm 

An easy 45 minute drive from DC, Homestead Farm is located in Poolesville, Maryland, and is run by the Allnut family who have  been farming in the area since 1763! They offer pick-your-own fruits and veggies throughout harvest season. Fuji, Crimson Crisp and Jonagold apples are already ripe for picking. Their pumpkin patch (and pumpkin picking) is open from late September on. Homestead’s market offers a ton of fruits and veggies alongside delicious jams, hot sauces and honey. Pro tip: bring your camera - between the pumpkins and the tiny children playing amongst the pumpkins, it’s an overload of insta-worthy moments.

Apple, Cheddar & Rosemary Galette Recipe Here

RaisaRaisa Aziz (@raisaaziz) is a food stylist, photographer and writer in the DC Area. When not cooking, baking or eating, you can find her bopping about town in search of local adventures.

Food and Dirt: A Day of Learning at the Rodale Institute

Rodale group By Melissa Jones, special to Edible DC

A group of eleven gardeners, farmers, foodies, and environmental advocates from the DMV took an August road trip to Pennsylvania to visit a one-of-a-kind research institute that has been on the forefront of organic farming since 1947. “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People” has been the Rodale Institute's motto since 1947. I'm the founder of Good Soil Events, a developing social enterprise that celebrates sustainable agriculture, advocates healthy soil and raises awareness through food-focused experiences. Considering that the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization declared 2015 the International Year of the Soils, this was an important trip for me to host and make available to others.

We kicked off our journey with a farm-fresh meal prepared by The Market Café at the Rodale Farm with a spread of Mediterranean sandwiches, fresh gazpacho, cucumber and tomato salad, kale salad, and a refreshing fruit salad. The attendees shared their food stories at the table – because food is an event, a connector and everyone has a food story to share.

Dr. Kristine Nichols, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute farm, greeted us during lunch and led the tour. Dr. Nichols is a Midwesterner who grew up in the heart of farm country. An expert on soil, she holds a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Maryland. She was the perfect tour guide for our trip.

Rodale soil

Our first stop was the soil pit at Rodale’s Farming System Trial (FST), America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. As we stood in the pit – Dr. Nichols pointed out the different layers or horizons of soil, so we could see the differences in soil that has been managed organically and conventionally. The organic and conventional crops are grown side-by-side, so we saw firsthand the differences between the two. We also had the opportunity to run soil tests.

The tour was an ongoing education about soil as we moved throughout the farm. We saw their impressive composting site, an on-farm experiment designed to combat stink bugs and more. Time and time again we were reminded that Mother Nature has her own answers to many of the challenges we face.

Rodale_donkey2Other experimental projects are their Tree as a Crop program and The Honeybee Conservancy. Rodale was designed, operates and evolves as an institute to meet the needs of modern day farmers, so the scientists there utilize and try to maximize output on all their farmland for growing food or other crops that could be used by farmers to generate income to continue to learn more. Rodale studies the entire food ecosystem which includes animals. From raising organic and heritage breed hogs to roosters and chickens, Rodale farm even had two rescue donkeys – Rodale is an environmental sanctuary for all things in a farm's ecosystem.

Rodale field

Our trip ended with a visit to Rodale’s farm shop that many of us visited. We walked out with fresh preserves, maple syrup, soil, educational books, t-shirts and more. On the bus ride back to DC, everyone had a chance to reflect on what an amazing day they’d had. They also dug into the road-trip goody bags we’d put together filled with snacks and other travel-friendly items from local D.C. artisans including Baklava Couture, Goldilocks Goodies, KateBakes, Karmalades, FruitCycle, and Watusee Foods.

The Rodale experience was truly remarkable – an opportunity to connect the dots of their great work with something we all love - food.

Savvy Shoppers Support National Farmers Market Week in the DC Region!

by AJ Dronkers, EdibleDC Associate Publisher & Digital Editor MAIN

Did you know that August 2-8 is National Farmers Market Week? We are half way through it and in case you haven't visited one yet, we wanted to give you some quick tips to support your local farmers market!


There are over 200+ farmers markets across our region. Find one near you easily with this handy tool from The Washington Post. Just enter your preferred day and region and the they will quickly filter the results. I entered Wednesday & DC and the map displayed the below graphic and list:

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.31.07 AM

Okay, great now I know where my closest farmer market is but aren't they more expensive? First, if you haven't been in a while you should check out the prices - they are probably better than you expect. Second, you are paying for quality, freshness and hand grown food--not industrial farmed stuff--doesn't your body and taste buds deserve the best, most fresh seasonal produce? Of course!


Also, fresh food lasts longer - ever buy something at the grocery store and the next day it goes bad? Don't be afraid to ask your farmer the best way to store their food to get maximum shelf-life.


Discover exciting new vegetables and fruit varieties that will inspire your home cooking and entice your kids.


Did you know Chipotle Mexican Grill and ShopHouse are sponsoring a bunch of FreshFarm Markets across our region? They are giving out $5 currency tokens redeemable at any of the stands (read: FREE MONEY).

  • Wednesday, 8/5 3-7 PM @FreshFarm Foggy Bottom (Chipotle)
  • Thursday, 8/6 3-7 PM @FreshFarm Penn Quarter (ShopHouse)
  • Saturday, 8/8 9 AM - 1 PM @FreshFarm Silver Spring (Chipotle)


Some area farm markets such as FreshFarm and Arcadia Mobile Market also accept nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP (EBT/Food Stamps) better yet they even offer matching dollars program. If you take your SNAP EBT card and ask for $15 dollars in credits, they will give you an additional $15 dollars through their program for a total of $30 of farm fresh produce.


Some of our favorite area farmers markets:

Saving Summer - 10 Top Tips for Freezing Summer's Fruits

DSC_0040By Deb Moser, special to Edible DC. From our Summer 2014 issue.

It is a sure sign that spring has arrived when the first local strawberries make their appearance in farm markets—bursting with flavor, bringing vibrant color at the end of a drab winter. We dream of sun-drenched days full of delicate red raspberries, overflowing cartons of juicy blackberries and blueberries bursting with flavor.

As spring eases into summer and fruit-filled menus intrigue us, now it is the perfect time to start thinking about next winter. Freezing our abundant fruits and berries now to later add to breakfast dishes, entrees, soup desserts and smoothies will make your recipes sparkle long after summer is just a memory..

Freezing fruits picked at their peak is a must as it will give you the best chance of preserving the integrity, nutritional value and, of course, the intense flavors. Frozen properly, most fruits can maintain their quality for eight months and up to one year. To maintain that quality, fruits should be stored in a freezer at zero degrees F. or colder. Higher temperatures can cause them to deteriorate. Investing in an inexpensive freezer thermometer can help you maintain the correct temperature, especially if your freezer is not a chest freezer.

We talked to our berry experts at Westmoreland Berry Fruit Farm in Westmoreland, Virginia, and Moody Blues Farm in Windsor, Maryland, for their freezing techniques that will help you keep your fruits in perfect condition to enjoy throughout the long winter months. So head out to the local farmers’ market and start dreaming of the blueberry cobbler you’ll savor next January.DSC_0136


  1. Talk with your local farmers at the farm markets. They can tell you when the fruits will be at their peak. This is the best time to load up for freezing, especially if you have a chest freezer. With deeper freezers it is possible to freeze several flats of berries at a time.
  2. It is important to freeze your fruits right away to maintain their flavor and nutritional value.
  3. Gently wash and dry your fruits and make sure that they are completely dry before freezing. Do not soak the fruits in water as this will cause a loss of nutrients and flavor.
  4. For strawberries, it is best to remove the green tops and make sure there are no blemishes or moldy spots. For cherries it, is best to pit them for later use. Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries can be frozen whole.
  5. Stone fruits such as peaches, plums and nectarines should be peeled, pitted and can be sliced before freezing. Apricots can be pitted, halved and frozen.
  6. Place berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. You can line the sheet with parchment paper if you like.
  7. For smaller freezers, you can skip the baking sheet step and put the fruit right into airtight, zip-locked bags.
  8. When the berries are frozen, roll them into a zipper-top freezer bag or other heavyweight air tight containers.
  9. Because they are individually frozen, the berries won’t stick together and you can grab any amount you need quickly and easily.
  10. If using frozen berries in baking, gently toss the frozen berries with a little flour before adding to your batters.


Deb Moser is the co-founder and of Central Farm Markets and Meatcrafters, a food photographer, writer and trained pastry chef.