Shoppers at various valley markets, from Kraay Market and Garden in Bellevue to NourishMe in Ketchum, may have recently noticed missing stickers in the dairy aisle.
According to Gail Ansley, co-owner of Picabo Desert Farm, the small family farm nestled on the south side of the Picabo Hills recently made a tough call to cease operations.
Since 2015, the Picabo Desert Farm has been producing and processing its own goat’s milk into yogurt and cheese. Loyal customers at the Ketchum Farmer’s Market, Atkinsons in Ketchum and Hailey, the Village Market and other shops have long described the farmhouse’s feta, goat and yogurt as’ addictive ‘,’ decadent ‘and’ the best I have ever had, ”Ansley mentioned.
Picabo Desert Farm’s Seven Herb Encrusted Cheese Flavors and Eight Yogurt Flavors made their last appearance on shelves last week.
“If you don’t think I didn’t cry about it, well, it was very, very difficult,” Ansley said. “We had no choice but to leave, unfortunately.
Family drama, disease and the exceptional drought conditions this summer are some of the factors that led to the farm being closed. In March, Gail and her husband Calvin received a call saying their daughter, Laura, had been killed in a head-on collision near Rigby on her way to work. The accident culminated in years of hardship for the Ansleys. Just over four years ago, Calvin was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and continues to struggle with everyday symptoms. Gail is still recovering from surgery earlier this year and suffers from chronic ankle and knee pain, she said.
Their adopted teenage granddaughter tried to compensate for Gail’s limited mobility by hand-milking around 30 goats a day. But the family knew that the tasks had become too heavy.
The ongoing drought has not helped. Because the 800-acre farm depended entirely on water from the Magic Reservoir, the Ansleys knew it would be difficult to maintain the herd this summer. When Magic Dam closed after just over three weeks of operation, Gail said she decided to speed up the farm’s closure.
“I knew we had a tough season ahead of us, that we should have bought hay for the first time and hay would be expensive. We have always grown our own hay, ”she said. “If I’m being honest, we’ve probably only had a half cut this irrigation season.” Last month, the family made the heartbreaking decision to load their three dozen plus goats into trailers and sell them.
“Looking back, I’m so grateful to have started the business,” said Gail. “That’s what kept the three of us going,” said Gail.
The herd represented a “plethora” of different breeds of goats, Gail said: Nigerian Dwarves, Saanens, Alpines, Nubians, Oberhaslis, Golden Guernsey and many hybrids.
Her favorite goat, in terms of personality and milk production, ended up being a cross between the English Nubian breed, known for their high fat yield, and the rare Oberhasli breed from Switzerland.
“They’re over gallon girls!” she said laughing.
The small family farm started in 2015 as a hobby. High school sweetheart Calvin and Gail previously operated an elk farm in Hazleton from 2002-2012, but Gail said it wasn’t very profitable.
“We looked for something new and found this beautiful property here [in Richfield] with an unfinished floor. In my head, I was imagining a bed and breakfast, ”she said. “That’s actually how we started, with a farm stay – I wanted to put our own food on the table to serve to the guests, so we got down to the goats.”
Gail said it was a long journey to get to this point in their lives.
“Calvin and I both come from very poor families in the small town of Ramah, New Mexico, with no real inheritance. But we really wanted a farm, ”she said. “By the time we were able to use everything we could to buy a farm, our children were grown up. “
After their daughter passed away, the couple began to think more about their priorities, Gail said. One hope is to visit Texas and Alaska with their granddaughter.
“As a dairy farmer, it is difficult to travel. Maybe it’s time to tighten your belt, to see the family, to try new things, ”she said. “As much as I wanted to continue, I just can’t take it anymore.
“What I have learned, however, is that if you want something bad enough, you can do it.”