“Most farms keep goats to make cheese. I make cheese to keep my goats.”
This is Andrea Davis’ manifesto.
She is the inspiration behind Broken Shovels Farm, a working goat farm and cheese-making locale on Denver’s northeastern urban fringe. Both she and her partner, Brent Burkhart (aka Reverend Deadeye, leader of the gritty blues/gospel/punk band of the same name), share in the passion and hard work of tending to their Kids and Does and the making of cheese.
After meeting at a friend’s wedding in North Carolina, they decided to team up and head west to Colorado in an old van akin to a small Noah’s ark filled with 14 goats, a few coops of chickens and several herding dogs. On the edge of Commerce City they purchased their farm and called it Broken Shovels, as a nod to the shovel breaking labor it took to turn their land into something usable. Facing southward from the bucolic atmosphere of the farm is an incongruous view of an industrial oasis of smokestacks and the snow capped Rocky Mountains.
At the front gate of Broken Shovels, a sign reads “No Goats! For Sale,” which is the first clue to their sensitive approach of raising their animals. Andrea is a vegan and firmly takes a stand against the food industry. “There is something morally and ethically wrong with the way we raise food in this country as far as sustainability and husbandry. We believe that whether an animal is intended to be a producer, a pet, or food, it gets the same kindness and high standard of care.” They stand by what they believe in. Their first goat, Fiona, was the first to retire at the age of nine, and most of their goats are given Irish names. Unlike other goat farms, their does are bred once a year and are given two months off to be with their kids. In contrast, most commercial dairies breed their does three times a year and their kids are sold as by-products or meat. Broken Shovels is one of only two no-kill goat farms in the country. In the spirit of sharing her love of goats, Andrea will adopt out kids to worthy candidates who want to keep them for pets or to milk. Eleven goats went to a woman in Steamboat to help clear brush for fire abatement.
For Andrea and Brent, the farmstead cheeses they make are secondary to the operation, but they are what has most certainly put their name on the map. Every Sunday afternoon, the front gate of Broken Shovels is opened for an on-farm market where one can meet the goats and sample the European style, hand-crafted cheeses. Among the varieties is an Icelandic style of strained yogurt cheese that is creamy and rich and made with unique ingredients that Andrea combines that remind her of ethnic cuisines. Some of the flavors include Coconut Lime, Savory Fig, Kheer and Hacienda Lime. She also makes luxuriously fluffy and mild chevre, highlighting a French Cherry that is infused with sweet Colorado cherries and Herbs de Provence. One can certainly taste the “kindness and respect” she extracts from every spoonful of the goat’s milk.
When the weather permits, Andrea and Brent combine their culinary and musical talents with their community spirit on Thursday evenings with an event they call Makers and Dewars. The name is clever pun on a weekly gathering of local cottage artisans who can share their handmade products with other guests who enjoy an evening of homemade picnics and live music.
As Andrea puts it, “Animals have a way of feeding more than just bellies. Souls and spirits get their fill too, of the sincere and pure affection that a well-loved farm animal can offer.”