A few years ago we decided we would "value-add" our farm a little more. For us, value-add means to upscale any product or project the farm is currently involved in.
We took a look at the farm to see where we were paying out but not taking in equally. That would be the goat herd. Our goat herd was a "work in progress". Our initial plan for the goats was to get the herd Animal-Welfare Approved and then try to get approved for a micro-dairy.
Well, as things often go, it was going to take time and money to get our milking parlor up to par. We were Animal-Welfare Approved (AWA) and audited yearly. During this time, our herd of dairy goats grew. We were also keeping the wethers. We were practicing rotational grazing for the health of our goats, as well as staying up with our AWA requirements.
As I said, looking at the growth of the herd and the expense, and asked myself what else we could do to bring income to the farm. The answer hit me when I decided to apply for a grant through AWA: goat rentals! It was the perfect solution. Take the wethers out to provide the rotational grazing they needed and that would leave enough pasture for the dairy herd to be moved around more.
So, I worked up a plan and submitted it for the Animal Husbandry grant. I was so excited. I had done my research, and I knew this was doable and was promoting another way farmers could have access to additional pasture to implement rotational grazing.
Well, I waited and I waited — finally, I got an e-mail! I opened it up and..."we're sorry..."
That was all I needed to read. I couldn't believe it. I just knew I had this. Well, if they wouldn't help me, I would figure out a way to downsize the expense and Alan and I would put our plan in motion, Goats on the Go would become a reality!
Well, we would have to decide which goats would be taken out. How would we haul them, and how would we make sure they stayed safe after reaching their destination? So many questions, but eventually we came up with answers.
Advertising was the next issue. Advertising had to be free starting out. When starting any new venture we try to stay small and low expense until we see where it takes us.
We advertised in www.GoatFinder.com, which lists rentals by state and is free. We utilized the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) free classified, Facebook, and our online store through www.localharvest.org.
We were also doing workshops on goat owning, sort of like a Goats 101. So, we would let our students know and it was word-of-mouth advertising.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about when things start to go baaah'd.
Susan Tipton-Fox continues the farming and preserving practices that had been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, North Carolina, and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm (extending the farm experience). Find Susan on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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