Bonnie Blue Farm Brings Divine Cheese to Tennessee
This is the story that almost didn’t happen. For as I was researching it, a goat tried to eat my notes.
I don’t believe Princess (the goat) was trying to sabotage my deadline (“Dear Editor: The livestock ate my homework.”). To the contrary, she had manners as regal as her name, greeting me the moment I arrived at her home on Bonnie Blue Farm in Waynesboro, Tennessee; escorting me around the place; eating raisins daintily from my daughter’s hand.
I imagine Princess nibbled the notes because she was insatiably interested in my work; certainly because she was doing what goats do. On Bonnie Blue Farm, that means eating, sleeping and contributing to the best goat cheese around.
Wild-flowered dirt roads deliver you here, where storybook Saanen and Nubian goats roam and chickens lay pastel eggs. Farmers Jim and Gayle Tanner move through the tableau, milking and caring for the goats; crafting and selling the cheese. When you see Jim at the Memphis Farmers Market or Chattanooga Market with his goods, buy some. When you see Bonnie Blue at restaurants and specialty grocers across the state, order some. And when you’re ready for a rural road trip, just ask – with advance notice and $10 per person, Gayle will give you a tour complete with scrumptious samples.
We spent our visit petting goats, gathering chicken eggs, smiling at squirmy piglets and following Gayle everywhere – from the pasture to the barn to the spotless milking suite; into the cool cheese cave; back out to the bright of day and her gleaming cheese studio. It’s here that we tasted Bonnie Blue’s Tanasi Tomme goat cheese, though Gayle makes fresh and aged varieties onsite – anything from logs of chevre to hunks of feta and marinated selections, too.
I thought it ironic at first – these structures Jim and Gayle built by their own hands; this dance they do day in, day out – the work they call “retirement.” Then I have a long, slow chat with Jim. He’s cradling a sleeping baby goat in his lap the entire time. As I shadow Gayle, she introduces me to every goat we meet. There are 75 of them. She not only knows their names, but their lineages (Princess, at age 12, is related to nearly all of them). Like so many Tennessee farmers I’ve talked to lately, Jim and Gayle are cultivating a passion.
My daughter and I visited between milkings, but if you’re on property at 5:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m., Jim and Gayle will welcome your help. Hint: Reserve a stay at Bonnie Blue’s cozy log cabin – perfect for two people, it features a full kitchen, wide-open view of the farm from its front porch and easy access to the barn and milking room (which makes pitching in at that 5:30 a.m. milking a little more palatable, no?).
To schedule a tour or cabin stay at Bonnie Blue Farm, call 931-722-4628 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And by the way, Princess wasn’t the first animal to attempt eating my notes during a research trip. More on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, tell me about your favorite Tennessee farm adventures!