After a price crisis disrupted their cow’s milk operation, Gérard Digard and his wife, Nathalie, converted their dairy into Chèvrerie du Lunain. They now keep a small herd of goats and make fresh and aged raw goat’s milk cheeses just an hour away from Paris.
Interview + photos by Alecia Wood
Interview translation by Stephanie De Lorenzo
How long have you been farming for?
There was nothing here before we came, we built everything. I was in cow milk with my brother until 2006, but there was a crisis with the price of milk, so we left that and then we renovated the property here. I manage the animals and my wife, Nathalie, makes all the cheeses.
Why did you decide to go for goats?
There are less and less cows in this region, and the milk processing facility was quite far away. I still wanted to stay working with milk, but my wife was sick of the work she was doing, so we decided to do this here together. It’s been a difficult change, but I’m happy we did it. Now I’m my own boss, and I like that better!
Tell me a bit about your farm.
We have two kinds – brown Alpine goats, and white Saanen goats from Switzerland, and some that are a mix of the two.
We grow our own alfalfa, triticale [a hybrid of wheat and rye], peas, rye, wheat and barley. We make a pulp from the plants, dehydrate that and press them into pellets for the goats to eat. They also eat the hay that we grow and prepare.
We like to grow our own feed for the animals because it means we can control how the plants are grown. We are basically organic, we only use one type of chemical. If you put chemicals on the plants, then the goats eat it, and then it’s more likely it’ll be in the milk and the product.
The goats are milked by machines right here, and we make the cheeses in the building close to where the animals live.
What type of goat’s cheese do you make?
They’re all raw milk cheeses. Most of them are popular types of cheeses, a couple of them are our own creations. For some of them, Nathalie took a course, and for others she taught herself how to make them.
We have a palet, buche, pyramide, tomme – an alpine cheese… We make our own version of reblochon, which is usually made with cow’s milk, but we do it with goat’s milk so it becomes a roblochèvre. In winter, we stop the cheesemaking because the mothers’ milk dries up.
We sell 80% or more of the cheeses from here, and there are a couple of fromageries nearby that stock our cheeses. I don’t know why people like our cheese, but they eat it and they come back!
What is it like to run a farm so close to Paris?
In this region, the clients aren’t far, so that’s good. On the weekend, children and families come. We like showing the farm to people, giving them a little tour. They can see the animals and how it all works from the animal all the way to the cheese – you can’t see that in a supermarket.