NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Catapano Dairy Farm is a Long Island destination with much to offer.
"Primarily, we're artisanal cheesemaking. But it's also a beautiful place to come and just visit with the goats, and just kind of a place to see where your food comes from," said Karen Catapano, who owns the farm with her husband Michael.
"People enjoy coming here. They just love to be here. So we created something that just dances. They can look at the goats. They can buy cheese. They can sit. They can come and go."
The Catapano family opened their first small farm in Mattituck in 2003. Two years later, they moved to their current location, a larger farm in Peconic.
Formerly working as a nurse, Karen met Michael at Southampton Hospital, where he was a physician.
"I left my job one day, and the next day, I woke up with goats outside my kitchen window. And we never looked back. That was it," she said.
"In the spring, all the babies are being born, and it's milking season and cheesemaking season," Michael said. "And then it's breeding season. And then it's gestating season, and everything is quiet. And then the cycle begins again in the spring. So it's very seasonal. You feel like you're in touch with natural cycles."
The couple had little cheesemaking experience. Even so, their goat cheese gained early acclaim.
"[In 2005], we entered the American Cheese [Society] contest and won for best chèvre in the United States," Michael said.
Their cheese won awards again in 2008, 2009, and 2013.
In addition to cheesemaking, the Catapanos found a use for goat milk in skincare. They developed a line of soaps, creams, and balms, infused with the milk from their goats.
"Goat milk is very nourishing. It's very moisturizing. It's good for all skin types," Karen said.
Over time, they became familiar with the personalities and habits of their goats.
"Goats are very fussy eaters," Michael said. "If a piece of hay drops on the ground, they'll move on to the next cleaner piece."
"They're very smart. A lot of them know their names," Karen said.
"When we bought the farm, I just thought it would be milking them and making cheese. I didn't realize that you could have a real relationship with them, and that they would know who you are. So they're more dog-like than I ever thought," she said.
"And they also have an order. There's always a lead goat. She's the first to get milked, the first to get to the food. It's like a hierarchy. They have a social club."
For Karen, sharing her space with visitors is its own reward.
"I love my garden. I love being with the animals," she said. "But so do other people, too, and that's nice."
Catapano Dairy Farm
33705 County Road 48
Peconic, NY 11958
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