June 2012: Our Interview with Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
Redwood Hill Farm is truly a family affair. Started in 1968, by Kenneth and Cynthia Bice, the business today is run by their children, siblings David, Scott, Sharon, and Jennifer, manufacturing a range of dairy products available both online and in grocery stores nationwide (find a store near you here).
“For our parents the goal of the farm was to provide fresh, raw goat milk for our family and community,” says Jennifer. “That’s still our goal today, along with educating the public on the benefits of goat milk and expanding the line of healthful products made from the milk.”
We asked Jennifer to tell us more about Redwood Hill, the goats themselves, and the farm’s energy ‘hoof-print.’
Green America: What does your business do and what isyour most popular product?
Jennifer Lynn Bice: Redwood Hill Farm operates a grade-A and Humane Certified® goat dairy and we manufacture natural goat-milk yogurt, kefir, and artisan goat milk cheese. We recently added a second brand, ‘Green Valley Organics’ which is lactose-free, organic and Humane Certified® cow milk yogurt, kefir, and sour cream. Our most popular product is our 32 oz. plain natural goat-milk yogurt.
Jennifer: Dairy goats have a ‘smaller hoof print’ on the environment than cows, and most goat dairies are small in size, so that’s a start. Then, in addition to using solar power to run our creamery and farm:
We provide electric vehicle recharging stations at our creamery, and use a hybrid company vehicle.
Manure and straw/hay stems from smaller barns are composted and used for the vegetable gardens.
Manure and straw/hay stems from larger barns are used as mulch around our fruit trees and then worked into the ground to provide nutrients for the trees.
Reclaimed water is used to clean areas wherever it is acceptable.
A reuse and recycle culture permeates the creamery, the farm and all of its residents.
We have redone our lighting system to a more efficient T8 flourescent system with motion sensors.
We have an employee reward program for new ideas for re-using and recycling that keeps everyone on the alert for new ways to protect our environment.
We are a woman-owned, family-run, organic and GMO-free business, and we are committed to fair business practices with all of our business partners, providing them fair prices for their products and services.
Besides above practices, our plastic cups are recyclable and we encourage reusing by our customers. A couple of years ago we eliminated the plastic tops on our yogurt, replacing with a foil lid that is recyclable. We also use minimal secondary case packaging saving on even more resources.
What are the health benefits to goat milk products?
Jennifer: Goat milk products are different in several ways, making them more healthful for some people. First, the butterfat particles in the milk are very small, causing them to stay interspersed in the milk rather than rising to the top. This makes it easier to digest for babies and those with sensitive stomachs. Second, the lactose in the milk is less and of a different make-up so that many who are lactose intolerant can use goat milk products successfully. Third, the protein is also different so that for those who are allergic to cow milk can use goat milk products most of the time. And, lastly, goat milk products taste great!
We are against GMOs and firmly believe in labeling for the food supply. We are not able to label our products GMO free because of the rules which require that all feed for the animals be tested for GMOs. Since goat dairies are smaller and buy feed in smaller quantities, it is not economically feasible for us to afford this testing. At our creamery we use only ingredients in all of our products that are GMO-free and require GMO-free certificates from all of our suppliers.
What is it like working with the goats on a daily basis?
Jennifer: Well, that is really why I have my business! Goats are incredible animals: smart, sweet, and engaging. They are very much like dogs in their personality but then give the wonderful milk for our products. All of our goats have names and distinct personalities. As children, we loved the goats as our favorite animals, which is why my parents originally started the dairy as we had quite a herd!
Is there a story behind the Redwood Hill Name?
Jennifer: Our parents’ original farm site was located in an apple orchard in the western hills of Sonoma County and bordered a redwood forest. One evening, our parents gathered us together to vote on a name and Redwood Hill Farm was our choice! (interview continues below photo)
Left to right: David Bice (events, tours, and tastings), Sharon Bice (communications, photography, and package designs), Scott Bice (organic farm manager), Jennifer Lynn Bice (owner, CEO, and head cheese maker).
What is the most hopeful sign you have seen recently from the green economy?
Jennifer: So many things! Ride share programs cropping up, more people committing to riding bikes, public transportation, more efficient fuel burning vehicles like scooters, motorcycles, and alternate fuel vehicles . In addition, we are fortunate to live in Sonoma County which is ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change and has multiple projects underway which will serve as a model for other communities in the future.
Jennifer: The day our creamery solar system went online. It now provides 100-percent of our energy needs.
What advice would you give to other green entrepreneurs just starting out?
Jennifer: Believe in yourself and your vision. Commit to the highest ethical standards and communicate that to your employees and your customers. Create a ‘culture’ of those beliefs for your company.
What’s the next green step you’re working on right now?
Jennifer: We have two projects on the horizon: Insulation of our yogurt and kefir incubation room, which we expect to complete this in August of this year, and we are also looking into a new, biodegradable yogurt cup.
What are you most excited about going forward?
Jennifer: I am most excited by the continued increased awareness of “green practices” and healthy foods, both dear to my heart. I see this as a positive step in the healing of the planet and hope to see the continued momentum.
What green product(s) can you not live without?
Jennifer: We’re loving our PRIUS hybrid company vehicle!