Best part of the Job
The best, best, best part of the job is getting out to the farms and working with farmers, trying together to figure out ways to help them keep on a’ farming when they are faced with challenges. Sometimes we connect with the farmers though direct outreach at fairs, festivals and the farm show. Sometimes they find us.
A couple of months ago I got a call from Tom at Vivian Acres, who called himself the Goat Man from Colchester. For those from away, Colchester is in the Northern half of the state, by Lake Champlain. Goody- good! Its a road trip on a nice fall day, out by the lake to see a bunch of fiber goats. And I get paid for this too? To confess, I am a fiber junky and used to raise sheep, alpacas, llamas and the occasional goat, all for my own spinning and knitting. We set a time and out I went.
Tom is a disabled Veteran who has a dream to have fiber goats, Angoras specifically. He is raising Angoras for their mohair to make yarn, thinking of milking a few to make cheese or soap, and is also researching bee keeping. Tom is a bit limited by the size of his land and has never farmed before. He had joined the movement of small niche farming and was looking for some support from UVM Extension to be able to get to where he wants to be. Part of my job was to hear what his needs were and to steer him in the right direction. I also took a peek at his barn and the penning area and we talked about basic goat care done safely. He and I talked some more about preventing injury, then I told him about the RAVR program and made the referral to my colleague, Sue Powers. His connection with the program led to a business plan that will help him with his first spun up yarn, now at the mill and due back just before Christmas.
I also encouraged him to connect with Chet Parsons our small ruminate specialist and shearer extraordinaire. Chet holds a beginning shearing class in the spring that Tom plans to go to. There are LOTS of things to think about when you are first starting out: What to feed them, how to vet them and how to maintain a safe environment for the goat and for the herder. There is also the bit about the fiber: how to get it to the mill, how to shear, how to skirt and then how to market the product. Niche marketing though social networking seemed to be a good direction for Tom as he had a background in computers, so I introduced him to the world of Facebook and blogging.
Turns out this was a great fit for Tom who has been nothing less than a phenom in this area. He has also managed to get Froggy 101, a local VT radio station, to come and do a live remote November 12th, as they muck out his barn. Wish I could get credit for that, but he has just taken off with marketing his farm. Just check out his blog for yourself.
I just love it when you can connect with a farmer and give him the information he needs to be able to continue and thrive at his chosen vocation. It is, without doubt, the very best part of our job at Extension.
Farm on Goat Man, Farm on!