N.Y. emergency physician finds happiness with goat dairy farm

After a lot of trial and error, his work leads to awards and a thriving cheese business.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted May 7, 2012

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: Michael Catapano, MD

Specialty: Emergency medicine

Location: Peconic, N.Y.

Company: Catapano Dairy Farm

Annual revenue: $300,000

Why he started the business: Dr. Catapano had cut back to practicing medicine half-time in 2003 when a local farm with about 15 goats and cheese-making equipment came on the market.

“I had a lot of time, and this came available,” he said. “We bought the whole thing.”

He and his wife, Karen, had spent time on farms as children and were attracted to a more rural life, although the challenge of doing so turned out to be significant. They had to learn from scratch how to manage the goats and turn their milk into something edible.

“We knew nothing,” Dr. Catapano said. “It was a lot of trial and error. I think we underestimated how much work it would take to get it to the point to where we wanted it to be.”

The farm, which has grown to more than 80 goats as well as a handful of other animals, now has three employees who take care of much of that. It also has expanded beyond cheese into yogurt, fudge and skin care products, all made from goat milk.

Soaps and moisturizers are available from the farm’s website (link). The food items can be purchased from the farm, area farmers markets and speciality stores.

Dr. Catapano returned to practicing medicine full time a few years ago, but he’s not giving up cheese-making.

“Making the cheese — that’s the fun part,” he said. “For my wife, it’s taking care of the goats.”

The farm’s cheeses have won several awards. The American Cheese Society gave the peconic mist cheese a first prize in the “blue-veined made from goat’s milk” category in 2008. The society awarded Catapano’s chevre first place in the goat milk category in 2005.

Why he still practices: “I like doing both.”

Words of wisdom: “Do it!”

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