by Eric Bello
Goats are very inquisitive, and each one has a fun-loving personality. They are very intelligent, personable, curious, spontaneous, and very much, rascals. They will definitely make you laugh and bring out your frustration, but at the end of the day you just can’t stop loving them.
Sweet Land Farm, nestled on Oahu’s north shore in Waialua, is the island’s only certified goat dairy. Emma Bello along with her family started the farm back in 2010 when she was just 20. The 86-acre Dairy was once a pineapple field. The name Sweet Land Farm was developed based on the pineapple once grown there and because the land is constantly nurtured and improved by the goat’s rotational grazing.
Growing up Emma visited her aunt, uncle and cousin’s Dairy in Oregon, where they milked cows and sold milk to Tillamook Creamery. One summer at the state fair Emma first experienced and interacted with goats. At the time, she had no idea that goats would become her life’s work years later.
A few years later Emma was on her way in the culinary scene taking classes and working with high-end chefs in a work-study program. After feeling something was missing in her career path she decided to give goats a closer look. She arranged an internship with a goat dairy on Maui. Her plan was to stay for three months, come back home and continue her culinary schooling. After she immersed herself in goat husbandry and cheese making, she asked the owners to stay a full year on Maui. It wasn’t a total surprise to her that she realized her passion for cooking would also include working with goats and their exquisite milk.
Emma learned a lot about goat husbandry, milking, cheese making, customer service and living away from home. After leaving Maui in 2011 and going back to culinary school that fall at Leeward Community College she was given an opportunity to gain even more knowledge at a larger dairy in California, this time for seven months. During Emma’s time away her family started the groundwork to building the dairy. She was on her way!
After returning back to Hawaii in August 2012, Emma continued her culinary degree, planned out the dairy structures and equipment with her family, and acquired her first young herd of goats. Emma has always looked up to her parents for advice and knowledge about running a business. Emma’s brother Austin, who has a degree in AG Engineering, decided to move back to Hawaii and now plays an important role by growing forage for the goats. In early spring 2013 and 2014 a couple of Emma’s goats had little ones, slowly building the herd while the creamery was built to make cheese.
2015 was an exciting and busy year for Emma and her family. Baby goats were born, the first does, or female goats, began producing milk, Emma graduated from LCC and the creamery was certified and received the green light to begin operations. After settling into her own facility, making her first batches of cheese, and developing her craft, the first cheese went out to Alan Wong, Ed Kenney and Whole Foods Market. The customer list now includes many fine restaurants, specialty shops and markets.
Seven years later, Emma continues to grow the farm with her family, husband Sean and baby daughter Sage. You’ll see Sweet Land Farm’s cheese and caramel on menus across the state at restaurants and hotels. The public can experience the love they have put into the farm on open farm days and educational tours. Besides cheese, ice cream and caramel the farm also produces goat milk lotion and soaps. Future projects include bottling milk, yogurt and new cheeses!
A heartwarming story that was told to Emma years into her life as a goat farmer, was a time her aunt asked Emma what she wanted to be when she grew up. Emma’s answer was a farmer because she wanted to feed people. Well, it seems that has come true!