Mary Ann Van Osdell, Hatch, Dora Ann | 1/4/2011 1:08:23 AM
News Release Distributed 08/26/10
MOREAUVILLE, La. – Besides saying cheese, visitors can taste it at WesMar Farms, a self-proclaimed agricultural respite owned by West and Marguerite Constantine.
“The ultimate goal is for them to buy, but we want them to come back and spread the word, to bring their cameras,” she said.
The Constantines say their full-time work in the National Guard taught them structure, commitment and hard work to begin WesMar Farms, the only Louisiana Department of Agriculture-certified goat dairy north of Interstate 10 and west of the Mississippi River.
Wearing a “No goats, no glory” shirt, West Constantine touted several ways the LSU AgCenter has assisted their goat farm. He and his wife mentioned MarketMaker – an online service to help producers connect with consumers – agritourism, the Louisiana 4-H Museum and mastitis research at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station.
MarketMaker will be effective because it will give younger and middle-aged consumers awareness of locally produced food, Marguerite Constantine said. “They are computer savvy. Older people are producers, and MarketMaker will fill the gap.
“MarketMaker will allow agritourism operators to market their value-added products such as cheeses, wines, salsas, jelly, jams and honeys,” she said.
WesMar Farms and the Louisiana 4-H Museum just a few miles away in Mansura have partnered for school group tours. “It is fun for the kids. We let them milk by hand,” said West Constantine.
A group tour is $5 per person, and up to 25 can be accommodated, depending on their age.
The couple also hosts a farmers market at their home every Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. “If they see the animals and the way they’re raised and interact with them, they’ll likely be customers and take pride in the connection,” Marguerite Constantine said of market visitors.
A gift shop includes artisan goat cheese, Grade A pasteurized goat milk, handcrafted goat-milk soap, reusable shopping bags and T-shirts. A cookbook gives Marguerite Constantine’s recipes for fig-and-goat-cheese flatbread pizza.
Their products also are sold in Shreveport, Natchitoches, Ruston, Lafayette, Alexandria and Monroe.
Trent Bonnette, chef and co-owner of Brown Bag Gourmet in Marksville, uses the cheese on burgers at his restaurant and sells the farm’s chocolate goat milk truffles for dessert.
“I’ve always been interested in a greener way of doing things,” Bonnette said. “Marguerite’s goat cheese is phenomenal.”
The restaurant’s beef is locally grown, and the bread comes from New Orleans.
“Agritourism operators can sell to local businesses like the Brown Bag Gourmet to increase their profit and allow the restaurateur to have that as his specialty,” Marguerite Constantine said.
Local foods create great niche marketing for restaurants, said Dora Ann Hatch, an LSU AgCenter agent who has recently assumed statewide responsibilities in agritourism for the LSU AgCenter and regional responsibilities with MarketMaker. “You have to be known for something. You go to the Brown Bag Gourmet because you know you’ll eat local produce,” she said.
Goat milk has more vitamin A, B, riboflavin, calcium, iron and phosphorus than cow’s milk and has less cholesterol, West Constantine said. “There is no cow’s milk in our house,” he said seriously.
At 6:30 a.m. every day, West Constantine milks 15 Nubian goats, collecting 7.5 gallons a day. The goats are not treated with hormones to increase milk production, he said.
Marguerite Constantine grew up with seven siblings on a farm in Godeaux where she milked cows. “The first five girls baled hay. As far as our dad was concerned, we were boys.” Her mother taught her how to make soap.
Goat’s milk has three times more beta-casein than cow’s milk, West Constantine said. Caseins are easily absorbed into the skin and allow for quick hydration of dry skin.
WesMar’s soaps are made with pure essential oils, not synthetic fragrance oils, the Constantines said. The soaps also don’t contain preservatives, dyes or colorants. Varieties include basil and mint, eucalyptus and mint, lavender, lemon and geranium, marjoram, palmarosa, patchouli, rosemary and mint, and unscented.
The couple also grows basil, figs, pears and garlic on their eight-acre farm.