The 8th Annual Ross Faris Award presented at this year’s Dinner in the Garden, went to Mike Hoopengardner from Caprini Creamery Farmstead Goat Cheese.
Mike is the husband of cheese-maker, Kristy Kikly. Mike is also the farm manager, tending to all the goats and milking (with Kristy’s help); and he staffs the booth at the Market.
Kristy is an extreme talent in her own right, (She took her cheese to national competition earlier this month and came away with a Gold Medal for her Feta!), but she is as introverted as Mike is extroverted. It is in part Mike’s outgoing personality and passion that drive him to be a vocal promoter of both the farmers at our market and local farmers in general.
At last year’s State Fair, Mike and Kristy were selected as the Featured Farmers, committing a week of their time to participate in Panels and meet with Fair attendees and high ranking officials from around the state. Mike spent that entire week educating audiences about the hard work, challenges and dedication required to farm successfully on a small scale.
Since they started raising goats and making cheese, Mike and Kristy have also served as mentors to aspiring goat farmers from all over the state – sharing their experience and expertise with potential competitors. They are active advocates of Future Farmers of America as well.
When approached about participating in Baby Goat Yoga, Mike first talked it through with Kristy, and then enthusiastically jumped on board. On Goat Yoga days, he gets up at 3:30 a.m. to get the milking and feeding done so he can bring the baby goats with him to the Market. But he doesn’t stop there. At each event he speaks to the attendees to be sure they know how special the BRFM vendors are, and encourages them to check out the Market when their yoga session is done.
If you watch Mike on any given Saturday, you’ll see people come up to his booth like they are family. Humble doesn’t begin to describe his demeanor. He is gentle, kind and unafraid to tell it like it is. In short, he’s a great ambassador for the Market, for farmers, and for fresh local food. That’s why he is our recipient of the Ross Faris Award for 2019.