CUMBERLAND — One of the marvels of making goat milk cheese is the sheer simplicity of the operation.

Add a quarter teaspoon each of rennet and culture to two gallons of goat milk, then let it sit for 12 hours and hang to drain for six.

“Cheese can make itself while we are sleeping and while we are working,” Hope Hall said.

Hall was speaking to the crowd of visitors who dropped by Sunflower Farm Creamery on Sunday, one of 15 creameries that opened their doors to the public for the Maine Cheese Guild’s 11th Open Creamery Day. The creamery is one of 72 licensed cheese makers across Maine, which is seeing an explosion of interest in hand-crafted cheese.

Together the creameries churn out 150 different cheeses on small goat farms, such as Sunflower Farm, and large dairy cow operations such as Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. Open Creamery Day allowed people to meet the animals, learn how to make cheese and sample some of the products.

At Sunflower Farm, the Hall family, including Hall’s husband, Chris – they are both teachers at Thornton Academy in Saco – and their daughters, Lila and Tess, with help from relatives and friends, welcomed hundreds of visitors to pet their herd of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. The herd gained fame last year when a video went viral on YouTube, garnering nearly 4 million page views.

The Halls’ two dozen or so nanny goats, or does, make enough milk to produce about 40 containers of goat milk cheese, or chevre, daily. The milk of Nigerian Dwarf goats has about twice the butterfat of other dairy goats and produces a cheese that is very mild. Sunflower Farm Creamery makes several different flavors of chevre, feta, caramels and Mexican cajeta, a caramel sauce.

Sunday’s open house also featured booths set up by other goat- and dairy-related ventures. Maple’s Gelato in Yarmouth dished out a chevre goat gelato with blackberry thyme swirl. Gregory Matthews, 5, of Salem, Massachusetts, pronounced it better than ice cream.

“It’s a tiny bit sweeter,” he said.

Blue Tin Farms in Edgecomb sold its line of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat milk hand lotions and soaps, while Charlie and Aimee Ely of Bradbury Mountain Berry Farm and Locally Sauced catering in Pownal served burritos with fresh Sunflower Farm chevre.

But the goats appeared to be the big draw as people crowded into the goat pens and goat barn.

“I actually told them no goat riding,” said Ryan Jacobson of North Yarmouth as he and his wife, Elizabeth, chased after their daughters, Taryn, 4, and Elise, 2.

Scott Rhodes of Milan, Ohio, was busy in the barn holding up his phone in front of some goats for a video chat with his son, George, 9, back in Milan. George had met the goats on a visit to Sunflower Farm last summer.

George said the experience taught him about the many fine qualities of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats.

“First off, the little beards they have,” George said.

But Hailey Rondeau, 9, daughter of Jim and Heather Rondeau of Westbrook, said she probably prefers the goat cheese to the knee-high goats themselves.

“I love it,” Hailey said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: QuimbyBeth

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