Kate Johnson in Longmont, Colorado
It’s hard to know where to begin when you’re talking about Kate Johnson. It’s like trying to do a still photograph of a train as it speeds down the tracks. If she would just stop moving forward with her life for one minute, you could get a grip on the situation. But, that’s not going to happen!
We’ve known Kate since she first began teaching cheese making classes in 2012 and we’ve posted numerous blog articles about her adventures as a a goat owner, 4-H leader, cheese maker, author and the founder of a “brick and mortar” cheese making school – The Art of Cheese 5 years ago.
When she first started her school, we had every reason to doubt that it would be successful. Cheese making schools are few and far between because they cater to a highly specialized market. But, with her hard work, her indefatigable optimism and her good instincts, Kate has managed to succeed.
The Art of Cheese
Her school is a warm, friendly place where her students become part of her large home cheese making family.
She offers a full schedule of classes…
…all kinds of after-hours events, and a certification program so her students can climb the ladder from being bronze level to platinum level cheese makers.
She has also produced a 2 hour DVD including printed recipes…
…4 online courses including a free, 20 minute Cheesemaking 101 class…
…and live webinars.
She even manages to host her own annual amateur cheese making contest, which we don’t think any other cheese making school in the U.S. does.
Briar Gate Farm
Kate’s school is located on her small farm (she calls it a farmette), within view of the Rocky Mountain foothills, 20 minutes north of Boulder.
She has 17 goats (11 does, 2 bucks and 4 wethers) – most of whom are daughters, granddaughters and even a great great granddaughter and great grandson of her very first doe, Skittles. She also has 2 horses, 9 hens, a llama (to guard the goats) and 4 cats. Her husband even raises honeybees!
The farm in winter:
Her new book
Running a farm and a school would be more than enough for most of us, but Kate has recently written her third book – Tiny Goat, Big Cheese, A Farm-to-Table, Hobby-to-Career Odyssey.
In it, she tells the story about how she managed to parlay a small farm with a few goats into a cheese making hobby and a teaching career.
She shares her love for her animals in short vignettes throughout the book.
She describes the pitfalls and triumphs involved in becoming a cheese maker. The book also includes 9 of Kate’s detailed recipes for making different cheeses.
Her story is compelling and fun to read. Anyone who is thinking about following their dream of living on a farm, raising goats, starting their own business and/or making cheese will find her experiences inspirational.
The adventure began 15 years ago when Kate and her family moved from their suburban home to their small farm (Briar Gate Farm). At the time, Kate was still working as a Life Coach (she has a B.S. in psychology and an M.A. in counseling). She had 2 young children and she was just starting a new way of life.
One of her main challenges was to somehow generate income from the farm itself. She had a horse so she began offering riding lessons and eventually farm camps to local kids. She even started a Saddle Club.
Soon, Kate’s young daughters decided they wanted baby goats and Kate negotiated a deal with them in exchange for getting them each their own goat.
That started Kate on her path to becoming a 4-H leader, a member of the Colorado Dairy Goat Association and the Utility Goat Superintendent for the Boulder County Fair.
Of course, when you have goats, you have milk and when you have too much milk to drink, you make cheese. But, at first, Kate was too busy to take the time to learn and she was actually throwing her extra milk down the drain!
When Kate finally made chevre for the first time, she was astounded by how easy it is to do and she describes it as a “game changer.”
She began making other cheeses and teaching a few classes here and there.
At one point, she and a friend went to Texas to take an advanced 3 day cheese making course with Linda and Larry Faillace (3 Shepherds Cheese). That inspired her to start making a wide variety of cheeses.
Back then, she thought if an aged cheese got mold on it, you had to throw it out!
In 2014, she went to the Colorado Cheese Festival where she saw hundreds of people standing in lines to sample cheese. She realized how important cheese is to people and she decided she wanted to open a cheese making school. Being the bundle of energy she is, she did, in fact, open one of very first cheese making schools in this country.
As you might guess, that wasn’t easy. She had to move the school 4 times before she finally created her own space on her own land.
Now, she is still running her farm and her school and a million projects!
In February, she’s offering cheese making retreats in Hawaii. Last winter she went there for a much needed vacation and she had the idea to offer a Cheesemaking in Paradise course. She advertised it a few months ago and the first retreat sold out immediately. So, she added a second one (Feb 27th – March 4th) and there are still a few openings.
This coming April, David Asher, the author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking will be teaching a week long course at her school. It will be his first big tour in the U.S. (he’s from British Columbia).
She’s doing book signing/reading events. She’s also starting to branch out into more public speaking opportunities and she’s hoping to be a keynote speaker at a number of conferences and events this year. She’s even applying to do a Tedx Talk in 2020. The theme will be “Cheese, Goats, & The Pursuit of Happiness!”
The Art of Cheese
11227 N 66th St
Longmont, CO 80503
(by appointment or class registration only)