When Americans Byron Walker, 72, and Ruth Mitchell, 70, decided to retire to Jamaica, a country they loved and often visited, they founded the Ruby Goat Dairy to produce milk, yogurt and cheese products from the goats which are an omnipresent presence. on the island but are raised primarily for their meat. During their visits, the couple were surprised that they could not find goat dairy products in local stores in a place where the animals are so commonly raised. After about eight years, Walker and Mitchell lead the growing goat farming movement in Jamaica.
Ruby Goat Diary – its name derives from the first syllable of Byron and Ruth – now employs nine workers and sells goat’s milk, yogurt and cheesecake made from goat’s milk to local Jamaican shops, hotels, restaurants and many individual customers. They have found that the demand for their products is far greater than their ability to meet it. So they train other goat herders in collecting milk from their goats, which they then sell to Ruby Goat Diary. The newspaper currently has such an arrangement with five farms.
Before becoming goat herders, Walker and Mitchell both had professional careers. Walker worked on Wall Street as a technology analyst and Mitchell was a nurse and head of a home health agency. They wanted a plan for their retirement so they could be productive, and as Walker noted, they’re both “professionally driven” and “a bit competitive.” They expected to operate a hobby farm with a few goats, but as the business grew they became enthusiastic and interested in expanding.
In preparation for their new venture, Mitchell worked as an intern at a Connecticut goat farmer and learned how to make cheese from goat’s milk. Once back in Jamaica, Mitchell and Walker “borrowed” a goat from a farmer and started making cheese at their home in Trelawny. The first challenge was making cheese without air conditioning in 85 degrees, Mitchell said. They continued to learn about goat farming through advice from their veterinarian, local farmers, books and YouTube videos.
Ruby Goat Dairy now has 45 goats, and more and more people became interested in their products as word of their business spread. Lactose intolerant people are particularly interested in products made from goat’s milk. Their success inspires other goat farmers in Jamaica and leads them to diversify their businesses. According to Trudy Wilson, co-owner of Cabra Ranch, one of Ruby Goat Dairy’s suppliers, the American couple have “definitely sparked interest” in a previously overlooked market.