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Local Flavor

At times, it seems as if our food comes from a far-off place, finding its way onto our dinner plates from parts unknown.

Photo by Stacey Hedman


Before the word “mama” ever exited the lips of 14-month-old Vivienne Alves, she said something else: goat. “It was kind of heartbreaking, actually,” says her mother, Caroline Alves. But in another way, it was exactly what she wanted.

Over the span of four years, what was once a yard with a few raised beds has become the Casual Goat Family Farm, a one-and-a-half-acre spread in East Falmouth populated with chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, a pig, a dog, a cat, three kids, two parents—and, yes, four goats. The farm is both a playground and a classroom, where Caroline and her husband, Michael, teach their children lessons in work ethic, explain the joys of the natural world, and instill the importance of compassion for animals—even the ones destined for the dinner table.

It’s also where the family gets most of its calories. Michael and Caroline have always valued healthy eating and organic food, and they wondered if they could grow their own. Before the farm’s inception, Michael—who grew up picking tomatoes outside his childhood home in Teaticket—saw diminishing returns in his construction company. So after Charlotte gave birth to their son Liam and their first daughter, Charlotte, Michael became a stay-at-home dad. With Caroline as a counterbalance to his most ambitious plans, Michael transformed the land around their home. And last winter, Caroline relented: She would allow goats into the backyard menagerie. Today, two Lamanchas named Eleanor and Josephine and an Alpine named Agnes commingle in a corral, nibbling the hands and elbows of passersby.

Goat milk is a tasty, high-fat, lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk that’s ideal for baking and making cheeses, Caroline says, and a goat can provide a gallon of milk per day at its peak. This fall, Eleanor will be bred to become the family’s first milker. If all goes well, Agnes and Josephine will follow suit next year. (The fourth goat, a neutered male mutt named Marshmallow, is exclusively a companion.) Strict regulations make selling the milk itself a difficult proposition, but the Alveses say goat cheese could be their entrée into local farmers markets.

They still consider themselves “farmers in progress,” and Caroline, an English teacher at the Lawrence Middle School in Falmouth, tracks the victories, mistakes, and day-to-day discoveries of life on a farm on her blog. But they are successful where it counts: The children come back inside with dirty feet, and the family pushes further into every passing winter on what they grow themselves. “We’re obviously not going to be totally sustainable unless we have sheep on the front lawn,” Michael says.

“You’d probably do that if I let you,” Caroline replies.

“I probably would,” Michael says. “But the neighbors would hate us.”

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