A fondness for goats and a passion for agriculture keep Noble Springs Dairy’s Dustin and Justyne Noble busy on their 233-acre farm in Franklin, TN. A grade-A goat dairy and creamery, Noble Springs produces a variety of all-natural farmstead goat cheeses and other products from their high-quality goat milk. Around 150 goats roam their hills and valleys, and these young entrepreneurs hold a commitment to quality in both the process and products of their dairy farm, which was licensed in 2009.
A devotion to those curious animals sealed the deal in the beginning for the owners of this successful and growing dairy business. Dustin and Justyne met in 2003 at a goat show in Iowa, each of them showing goats they had raised since childhood. Dustin grew up in Williamson County, TN, and his parents discovered early on that he and his brother were allergic to cow’s milk. So, what was there to do but add some dairy goats to the family? The Nobles enjoyed the fresh milk and caring for the animals, and Dustin became interested in agriculture and showing the goats as he got older. “My parents thought it would be a fad for me, but I went and showed the goats at county and state fairs—I just really got into it.” He eventually earned a degree in Animal Science and Agriculture Business. Justyne hails from a small town in Kansas. She came to MTSU to study Public Relations and Marketing, a perfect complement to Dustin’s studies for their dairy business. Involved with 4-H at a young age, she began showing goats and learning how to make products from their milk. “When I was growing up, I went to all these classes learning how to make cheese, and I helped a lady in town at her goat-milk soap shop. But I didn’t think I’d be able to do something like this with goats. I didn’t know if I would be able to go in a sustainable direction. I’m really lucky I met Dustin and moved here. The local mood hasn’t really caught on the same way in Kansas.”
At Noble Springs, the dairy goats—Alpine, Saanen, and Toggenburg breeds—benefit from unlimited pasture grazing and special care. According to Justyne, “That’s what makes us unique, especially in the United States. In many places, goats are kept in more confined spaces, and that affects their general health as well as their mental state.” The Nobles believe the goats are more content and productive if their living situation is as natural as possible. Food may be labeled “organic” or “all-natural,” but this isn’t always the case concerning the animals’ living situation. “We try to keep them as happy as we can.”
A far cry from grocery store cheese produced in huge manufacturing plants, Noble Springs’ pasteurized cheeses are made in small batches at around 100 pounds at a time. Varieties offered include chevre—a fresh, soft cheese; feta—tangy, salty, and great for crumbling; Harpeth Fleur—a soft-ripened cheese with a bloomy rind; and a firm cheese similar to the Dutch-style gouda. Everything happens from start to finish on the farm, and Dustin and Justyne execute every part of the process. “We’re kind of control freaks,” admits Dustin. “We want to make sure we’re putting the best quality product out there for people. We take a lot of pride in that.” The Nobles are thankful that a local food scene is thriving in the Nashville area and beyond; you can discover their cheeses in several markets and restaurants in and around Nashville, and in shops as far as Paducah, KY. You’ll see a complete list of shops and farmers’ markets they attend on the “Find Us” portion of their website at www.noble-springs.com.
Protected by a conservation easement through the Land Trust for Tennessee, the Noble Springs farm will always be protected green space, safe from commercial development. Calvin and Marilyn Lehew, owners of the land, entered it in the Land Trust for Tennessee in 2007. They were looking for a sustainable farming operation to lease and use for a worthy cause when they learned of Dustin and Justyne’s aspirations to run a goat dairy. Since Calvin was an old friend of Dustin’s father, it couldn’t have been a more perfect pairing. Dustin, a Williamson County native, finds comfort in this conservation easement: “It’s a lot of land to be this close to a suburban area—we’re 6 miles from downtown Franklin. The Land Trust is really important, especially in Williamson County, where development and urban sprawl are wiping out green space and farmland. A lot of land right here in the Franklin/Leiper’s Fork area has been protected, and I think it’s great to preserve the history and landmarks, rather than see them turn into golf courses and shopping malls and apartments and townhomes. People who support our business and buy our products are helping support a farm that is protected and well cared-for and will be here forever.”
Justyne and Dustin couldn’t run this dairy business if it wasn’t a labor of love. “It’s like three or four different full-time jobs rolled into one,” Dustin muses. “There’s the farm and managing the animals and milking twice a day. Cheese-making is a full-time job, and then there is the marketing and distributing. We also feel like it’s important to be at the markets ourselves and educate people on what we do and what makes it unique. We’re committed to doing what we do. This was a passion of ours before it became a business, and we want to do everything in our power to make sure we continue doing what we love.”