Califonia Bountiful

New dessert gaining fans

Goat milk ice cream in Petaluma uses all local ingredients.

Got goat milk? Laura Howard does. She's the brain behind a truly unique California business: La Loos goat milk ice cream in Petaluma. While the product may be unusual, how Laura got into it is even more surreal. Just a year ago, she was living in Hollywood working as an executive producer of commercial and music videos. But after doing that for many years, she found it unrewarding and unfulfilling. So she left LA for La Loos and life on a farm. Laura says she finds making ice cream a lot like producing films—"You get up really early, like 4:30 a.m., before anyone else is up. You have to be creative, adept at multitasking and able to work with many people."

One of the persons she works with is Donna Pacheco of Pacheco Farms. Pacheco Farms produces goat cheese under the label Atchadinha, an award-winning cheese that is well known across the state. When Laura decided she wanted to start making the goat milk ice cream, she literally got in her car and drove to where the goats were: Petaluma. The first ones she saw were Donna's, so she contacted her and the two instantly hit it off. Donna runs quite an operation. She and her husband raise goats on nearly 350 acres of pristine rolling hills in Petaluma. Laura has a few of her own goats as well, since she "wanted to know firsthand what it took to raise them." She spent summers on her grandparents' farm in West Virginia, where they raised cows and sheep, so she says farming "was in her blood from an early age."

But why goat milk? Laura says she started experimenting with it after her yoga teacher suggested going on a cleansing diet that cut out certain foods, including cow's milk, for one year. She found she loved goat milk and knew she could make an even better product with it than there was on the market. One way she does that is by using all local ingredients, including Scharffen Berger chocolate, Laura Chenel chevre and Valley Growers black mission figs.

Besides being unusual, the goat milk ice cream does have other reasons for being so popular. People who are lactose intolerant love the stuff. "People hug me and say, 'I can have real ice cream again. Thank you.'" Laura is also trying to organize a comprehensive study of the health benefits of goat milk with researchers at Cornell, UC Davis and Penn State.

Laura also believes in helping out her community so she has contracted with Redwood Empire Industries Human Development Corp. in nearby Sebastopol, which provides vocational training for disabled adults, to put labels on the pint containers. She says whatever she can do to help people and put a quality product on the market, she's all for!

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