Terrace has become home to the first licensed micro-dairy farm in all of British Columbia. Graham Acres Homestead & Creamery became the province’s first and only licensed dairy plant in northern B.C., adding another feather to Terrace’s agricultural cap.
Dena Leier, who operates Graham Acres with her husband and their two children, revealed that their farm, the first west of Salmon Arm, B.C., processes approximately four gallons of goat’s milk daily. The Leier family’s journey into farming began serendipitously when they inherited Nigerian Dwarf goats with the purchase of their new farm.
“It wasn’t what we wanted to do initially, but it made us realize we like goats,” explained Leier. “So, we got Oreo and Snickerdoodle and they got pregnant. The rest is history.”
From owning goats to operating a micro-dairy, the Leiers’ agricultural journey has been a learning curve. After three years and one month since Leier first inquired about milking goats and selling cheese with the BCCDC, Graham Acres was finally licensed.
“There was a lot of back and forth to meet the Milk Industry Act standards, the BCCDC standards, Northern Health’s Food Processing standards,” Leier explained.
“I’ve never worked in a dairy plant before, so this was all new to me.”
Despite the challenging regulatory landscape, Graham Acres’ dairy production is already making a local impact.
“It’s enough to produce fresh cheese that we can sell locally, something I think the region needs,” said Leier. “It’s bringing food security and, potentially, food sovereignty back to the north, where we’re lacking in it.”
The farm, being a micro-dairy, produces artisan cheese in small quantities. It isn’t Saputo or Dairyland, as Leier quipped, where huge volumes are processed daily. Instead, Graham Acres stands out for its unique processes and emphasis on freshness, holding the milk below four degrees Celsius and processing it within 24 to 72 hours.
The response has been positive so far, with customers praising the freshness of the product.
“The biggest comment we get from the people who are eating it right now is it doesn’t taste goatee — and it shouldn’t,” said Leier.
The farm also prides itself on its unique pasteurization process and a strong emphasis on a healthy, happy herd. This approach brings back the seasonality of food production, which according to Leier, we have lost touch with as a society.
The journey doesn’t end here for Graham Acres. Leier disclosed plans to expand into cow dairy and to provide pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk to the community within three to five years.
She acknowledges the challenges, but remains hopeful and driven by the community aspect of food. “Food security and sovereignty, one, being able to access it and, two, being able to produce it, are so important in today’s day and age.”
Reflecting on her farming journey, Leier said, “What’s nice about being a farmer, though, is that you always have food to provide your family and get to see how it’s produced first-hand.”
Graham Acres is a nine-acre sanctuary brimming with life on the south side of Terrace. Home to 22 baby and 17 adult goats, three cows, five pigs, 75 chickens, 20 ducks, and 40 rabbits, it also practices environmentally friendly farming methods such as rotational grazing.
Farm products, which include goat cheese, are available at the Skeena Valley Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at George Little Park.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.