Growing up in Maryland, I never imagined my family would one day live in Tennessee, let alone own goats and run a business out of the family home. Before my mom did what seemed like the most random thing ever, bring home two baby goats, I would have considered myself a city girl. However, since bringing our first two does home, I have spent enough nights birthing baby goats and nursing them back to life to know better! As crazy of an idea as getting Nubians was, I thought making cheese was even more so. It’s not that I don’t love cheese, I just didn’t see the need for it, but then again, not everyone has my mom, Paula, in the kitchen at home. Sitting in the living room making the first couple of kits for my mom to give away at her first cheese class, I never imagined that we would end up here: a legitimate business with employees! I have had to take a step back from the business a few times over the years to pursue my own career and go to college, but kidding season, kid’s classes, and the holiday kit rushes always bring me back, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m excited for the direction our once tiny family business is taking; It’s amazing to see my mom in her element and to see and read reviews about our clients’ homemade cheese successes.
There comes a time in life when one decides to leave the rat race. In 2007, I got up from an office desk and went to work on a boat. I was hired as the Tour Manager on the legendary 1920’s era Delta Queen, the last original overnight steamer. I loved being on the river, and it was the most unique experience of my life, and the perfect environment for me to expand my love of photography. However, in 2008 the steamer was grounded due to an expiring exemption. In November of 2008, I left Texas and followed my daughter’s family to TN. In February of 2009, the Delta Queen was moved to Chattanooga to become a small boutique hotel. I loved that old boat, and I made a mad dash to Chattanooga, determined to be a part of taking her into her new life. For 9 months I worked day and night, living on board in Chattanooga while working to get her set up to function as a hotel. My knowledge and love of the boat, as well as my administrative and bookkeeping background proved essential in setting up the hotel financial systems, and marketing the hotel. Had I lived in Chattanooga I would not have needed to leave, but I lived 3 hours away. With a heavy heart, I left the boat in new hands and moved back home to find a job closer to where I lived. I completed an H & R Block income tax course, and started job hunting. I spent 3 years doing taxes for Block, and working for a small bookkeeping firm. In 2012, I bought a house in Gallatin to be near my daughter and my grandchildren. In 2013, I was asked to return to the Delta Queen as the assistant manager. I did not hesitate to leave my bookkeeping job and resume commuting down to Chattanooga to live and work onboard my beloved vessel. Unfortunately, the mayor of Chattanooga did not appreciate the historical value and tourist draw of the Delta Queen, and the police began targeting our clients with parking tickets, and doing everything they could to make it difficult for clients to stay on the vessel. In January of 2014, the hotel closed. When I left the Delta Queen that last time, I knew I could not go back to another desk job working for somebody else, so I decided to start my own bookkeeping business and find a few clients to keep me busy.
In September of 2014, I was on Craig’s list updating my business ad, when I saw a job listing for a small goat farm in Gallatin, looking for someone to spend a few hours a week doing administrative tasks. I sent Paula my resume, along with a letter filled with personal detail and highlighting my administrative and financial background, and telling her about how much I loved to drink goat milk. When Paula contacted me, she sent me an email stating, “I think we are a good fit. Come see me.” Well, as they say, the rest is history, because Paula and I just hit it off. We often found ourselves saying the exact thing at the same time, to the point where sometimes Paula would tell me to get out of her head! What started as a little business relationship has blossomed. When I took the job, I was so excited about all of the new things I could learn, and as Paula said when she bought her first goats, little did I know.
Over these past few years, I’ve learned so much about taking care of goats, and I’ve even helped a couple of does give birth. I’ve given shots, helped babies learn how to nurse, and bottle fed a few. I’ve learned the sound of a goat bleating when they want more hay, and I’ve learned the sound of a goat in distress. Wow! How did that happen? Then there is the cheese making. I was already heading towards a more healthy diet, not eating processed food, reading labels, and avoiding all of the chemicals in food, when I met Paula. I never really thought about making cheese, but then I started reading the ingredients in store bought cheese, and I knew that I had to learn to make my own. I’ve stood beside Paula in so many cheese classes. I do not care how many times, I hear Paula’s stories as she guides her students through the process of making cheese, I am entertained. She is such a wonderful story-teller. Through her, I learned about Kefir and I’ve added making probiotic drinks to my diet, along with the homemade butter sitting in my freezer. We’ve made thousands of cheese kits standing side by side laughing and telling stories. I laugh so much when we are together which just makes being at Standing Stone Farms that much better. And, as for my photography, some of the pictures we use are mine. I love knowing that I have been a part of helping a small family farm build an internet business that has become so successful. And yes, I still do bookkeeping and administration for the business, but that is just a small part of all I do. I love driving down that winding shady road to Paula’s home to go to “work.” It is such a wonderful place to work, and just like my time onboard the Delta Queen, it is a unique business opportunity.
I have always enjoyed working in non-traditional environments. Throughout my life, I have been a whitewater rafting guide, a lifeguard, a massages therapist, and have spent many seasons working at Bonnaroo and various other festivals selling Tye Dye.
When I replied to an ad for seasonal help here at Standing Stone Farms, I thought it would be a fun way to make some extra money and learn new things about cheese making. I never would have guessed how much I would actually learn from being a part of this team.
I enjoy working at a place where one day can be spent making cheese kits and preparing orders, while the next could be spent helping with the birth of the newest additions to the farm. If one thinks baby goats are cute on video, it does not begin to compare to seeing them in real life the instant they are born. Every day I learn something new, whether it be a new recipe for cheese, or something about caring for the goats. I never know what a day here at the farm will hold, and that is why I love working here so much.
Paige Harbison grew up in the Washington D.C. area, where she resides now. It’s no surprise she’s got a love for great food—her mother is a published cookbook author, and her father’s family catered to seven presidents!
Over the last decade Paige Harbison has worked in the restaurant industry from the fresh-seafood docks on the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Washington DC, where she currently bartends part-time at the world-famous Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel. Most recently, Paige was also purchaser for a high-end wine and spirits shop, for which she attended wine school.
When not drinking wine, mixing cocktails, or eating cheese and charcuterie boards, Paige is a Young Adult author with three published books so far.