KIMBERLY, Idaho (KLIX) – A controversial goat farm is underway in Kimberly.

It started when Jim Primm and Dave Skinner purchased the former Rock Creek Growers property last fall after talking with Twin Falls County about plans to build an artisan goat-cheese facility. The county suggested the 30-acre parcel, which had gone into foreclosure, and Primm and Skinner started meeting with Kimberly City and the State Department of Agriculture. All of the agencies approved of their plans.

But not all of Kimberly’s residents.

“At first we were told it was a county problem, and then the county said it was a city decision,” said resident Keith Strolbert. “It’s been a back-and-forth thing trying to get information. We don’t know if it’s a good deal for the city or a bad deal. We really don’t know what’s going on.”

The property is located near a residential neighborhood at Maxine Lane and Irene Street. Sixty-eight-year-old Strolbert has lived in the neighborhood since the early 1980s and in Kimberly his whole life.  He’s farmed in the community and has worked in other aspects of agriculture. He shares concerns with his neighbors about the farm causing odor, insects, additional traffic and property values going down.

“I don’t want to be completely opposed to the program, especially if it winds up being something good for the community,” he said. “But right now I just don’t see it. … I believe in agriculture and the right to farm. But the city is saying they (the property owners) have the right to do this without our blessing; but how can that be right if it’s impacting our part of town?”

Sandy O’Dell, another neighborhood resident, said there’ve been a lot of rumors going around about the farm because the city hasn’t allowed the residents to be a part of the process.

Image courtesy of the City of Kimberly
The goat farm is planned for the area numbered 28. (Image courtesy of the City of Kimberly)

According to Kimberly City’s Planning and Zoning Department, however, the business partners are in compliance with state, county and city laws, said Community Development Director Rob Wright. The property already is zoned for agriculture use. As such, he said, there was no need for a public hearing.

Still, he understands that some people might have concerns about the potential smell or noise from the farm.

“If I was a neighbor I’d want to know what was going on,” Wright said. “But this is not a CAFO and will have far less impact than a dairy cow farm.”

Residential wooden fences line the western and northern portions of the property. Leading up to the fences will be grass where the goats will pasture. Primm said his own fence will be several yards away from the residential properties, so the animals won’t be right up against the neighbors. At the south end of the property, away from the houses and trailer park, will be a breeding shed.

Primm nodded to the eastern fields beyond his property, where a herd of cattle roamed. “Our goats will have less impact than those cows,” he said.

The centerpiece of the property will be an artisan cheese-making facility. Primm said the farm will start with 200 white Saanen goats, a breed from Switzerland. Instead of water, brooms will be used to clean the facility. Since goat manure is in the form of pellets, he said, they’ll be easier to clean up.

Each goat produces about 1 gallon of milk per day. That equals to about one pound of cheese per goat per day, Primm said. The cheese will be sold to restaurants and culinary experts across the country, some which already have taken an interest in the products. The facility will produce five soft cheeses and one hard cheese. Eventually, he’d like to install a visitor-friendly spot for wine and cheese tasting.

He hopes to start production in about 45 days, but recent inclement weather has put him behind. On Thursday morning, Primm was in a bulldozer, covering the sprinkling system on one of the farm’s two future pastures. Outside the vehicle, a light breeze kicked up. Another machine could be heard in the distance, but all else was quiet.

“This will be the noise level when we’re open,” he said, noting there also will not be any male goats on the property, which will lessen the chance of extreme odor from the farm. Male goats are more odorous than female goats.

While some residents are unhappy about the goat farm, others say they don’t have a problem with it.

Steve Nutting, who can view the farm from his front porch and has spoken with the property owners, said he’s excited about what they have in store for the area. There will be green grass instead of the dirt and weeds that are there now, he said, and it’ll be better to have a farm than having the property zoned for more housing.

“If houses were going in there I’d really be upset,” he said. “But I don’t have a problem with the farm at all.” What he is upset about is that he believes the city didn’t do enough to inform residents; some neighbors said they felt like they were given the runaround when trying to get information. “It might be zoned agriculture but this is still the impact zone. The city should have notified citizens.”

Wright in the Planning and Zoning office, however, said he’s had several calls and some visits from residents inquiring about the farm and has provided them with information about the zoning laws.

Barbara Davis, a homeowner whose fence abuts the property on the west side, said she’s OK with the farm as long as things are quiet and kept clean. She said the last property owners were noisy with their big trucks and a dog that barked all hours of the night.

“We’ve been here a long time – 26 years,” she said. “We’ll respect them, but they need to respect us.”

Primm, who over the years owned two homes and raised his family in Kimberly before moving to Twin Falls, said he plans to be a good neighbor.

“I don’t blame people for having questions or being concerned about what kind of an impact this might have on them. But at the end of the day we did our homework,” he said Thursday morning, standing outside his rented bulldozer.

“We’re investing in this. We plan to stay here for the long haul. People can come over anytime to visit with me and see what this all about. … This will be something unique to Kimberly, an artisan cheese factory right here.”

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