Villa Villekulla Farm Barnard, VT
After a career in music journalism and wine, Lauren Gitlin decamped from Brooklyn to Vermont in 2014 to learn to make cheese from the legendary Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady Farm. It was there that she truly fell in love with goats and decided that, were she ever to start a dairy of her own, she would work solely with these creatures. After stints at Twig Farm and Consider Bardwell, Lauren had an opportunity to pursue her dream when a chance to rent a creamery and barn fell into her lap. She took three of her favorite goats from Lazy Lady’s herd and struck out on her own in 2019. She chose Pippi Longstocking, a childhood hero, as her business’s mascot, owing to Pippi’s strength of character, vision, playfulness and independence. She wanted these values to infuse all that she did and made as she built her business, which takes its name from Pippi’s fictional home.
The goal starting out was to make the country’s first commercially available farmstead goat butter. But with the low volume of milk and the limitations of processing equipment, Lauren had to pivot while she grew her herd. She had stumbled on a recipe for skyr in her research and became enamored of it, primarily because it was traditionally made with skimmed milk, a byproduct of butter making. She saw this dairy product as a way to make her dreams of producing a low-yield product (goat butter) financially viable. While she worked to build her herd, she began experimenting with whole milk skyr, using the milk from her beloved herd, whom she allows to browse on wild scrub and brush on the mountainside where she lives. Lauren was committed to using only plant-based rennet for her skyr and has found some success using one that is derived from cardoon thistle, though she plans to experiment with fig sap-based rennet in the future.
While her glass packaging makes each pint of skyr more expensive, Lauren feels strongly that plastic has no place in her creamery. Doing things the right way, with care and consideration, costs more. A lot of love and labor goes into each pint.
Lauren got into the dairy business because of an abiding love for delicious things. And while crafting delicious things is still a critical pursuit, those things have become a means to an end. The end is the privilege of living amongst the goats she loves so much. "Handmade skyr from hand-hugged goats" is not just a tagline, it's a mission statement. The beloved goat gals are fed with organic grain, alfalfa pellets, pumpkin seeds, rolled oats, rosehips and raspberry leaves, plus whatever delightful plants are growing in the forest (they're extra partial to sumac and wild blackberry!). Lauren does her very best every day to repay these excellent beasts for the incredible work they do and the companionship and affection they provide.