June 16, 2014. Longmont, Colorado. An article by Jennifer Alsever in the June 16th online edition of Fortune magazine contained some misleading, factually inaccurate statements about Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy’s partnership with the Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) inmate-run goat dairy in Cañon City, Colorado, leading to incorrect suggestions about fair practice, cheese production, and the treatment of inmates.
Key facts relative to the Skyline Correctional Facility’s goat farm and dairy operation include:
● Ninety-seven percent of inmates who participate in the voluntary program will eventually rejoin society. Haystack Mountain’s partnership with CCI’s animal husbandry programs plays a small but vital role in rehabilitating inmates so that they can contribute to society in meaningful ways upon their release.
● Haystack Mountain pays a competitive market rate for goat milk.
● Inmates volunteer to work at the dairy and they must pass specific milestones before they are granted the opportunity to work. The waiting list is long because the goat dairy is a popular program.
● Haystack Mountain does not have an exclusive deal with CCI, which also sells milk to other Colorado dairies and cheesemakers.
● One hundred percent of the proceeds generated by the dairy are invested in CCI programs which reduce the cost of incarceration saving Colorado state taxpayers millions annually.
“Haystack Mountain pays a competitive market rate for our goat milk, and I confirm that fact on a regular basis with other producers,” said Chuck Hellmer, Haystack Mountain’s President and General Manager. “We’re a small-scale, hands-on, traditional cheesemaker. To meet the high standards of our customers, our product demands high quality milk, the quality work being done at CCI’s Cañon City dairy creates good for all involved, and we’re proud to help keep this venture up and running.”
Haystack Mountain’s touts its partnership with CCI through promotions, its website, and articles like “Doing Time Together” (Culture, Laurel Miller and Barry Staver, December 3, 2012) and “Goat Cheese: from the pen to the plate” (The Denver Post, Douglas Brown, July 15, 2009).
“The following statement from the Fortune article is particularly misleading,” said Scaggs:
After non-inmate employees cultivate the cheese at a company facility, it’s sold in Whole Foods.
“‘Company facility’ in fact refers to Haystack Mountain’s privately owned and run boutique creamery in Longmont, Colorado. The ‘non-inmate employees’ referred to here are Haystack Mountain expert cheesemakers in Longmont, including award-winning, self-taught head cheesemaker Jackie Chang. Distributors and consumer outlets such as Whole Foods purchase handmade cheeses directly from Haystack Mountain and their distribution partners, not from CCI or the Skyline Correctional Facility.”
“Goat milking, herding, hoof-trimming, birthing and rearing takes tremendous care, dedication and very hard work, whether on a private pasture, at a commercial dairy, or on a prison farm,” says Hellmer. “We make regular visits to Cañon City to monitor herd health, working conditions, and to plan for the milk forecast. On these trips we often have discussions with the inmates who care for the goats, and we have always come away as impressed with their resolve as with the quality of the milk they produce.”
Research shows that animal husbandry programs, just like the one in Cañon City, have profoundly rehabilitative effects, especially with respect to creating trustful bonds and reducing recidivism. In these ways the far-reaching benefits of the CCI program are very real.
“We face our challenges fairly,” says Hellmer. “We strive to pay respect to all of our stakeholders at every stage of the game. And it’s why our cheeses and our operation have an outstanding reputation.”
We invite you read these articles written by cheese industry expert Laurel Miller for one of the most well-respected publications in our industry, culture: the word on cheese.