Goats Gaining Attention for Cheese, Milk, Yoga and More
Jun 30, 2019 11:53AM
● By Kathleen Ganster
Freedom Farms' goats. Photo by Amy Paterline
Tucked in the woods in Indiana Township is a 130-acre farm that folks drive past every single day without even knowing that it is there. Goat Rodeo is a dairy farm and artisan creamery owned by India and Steve Loevner, which is home to approximately 140 goats.
“We’re proud to be part of an amazing group of farms from this area. Not everyone realizes the unique, premium farmland we have here in western Pennsylvania. We consider ourselves very lucky,” said Goat Rodeo's cheesemaker Katie Geise.
By why goats? The answer is two-fold, according to Geise.
“First off, goats make fantastic milk for cheese. Their milk has a unique personality compared to cow’s milk. It’s a little lighter, sweeter and has a wonderful citrusy zip. Second, goats are very well-suited to the landscape of our area,” she said.
Geise explained that goats do not stress the land as much as cows. Because of their size—approximately 140 pounds compared to a cow’s weight of 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, goat herd traffic doesn’t cause as much damage to the pastures.
“Goats are also browsers as opposed to cows being grazers—cows go for the grass while goats would prefer to browse on thorny shrubs, tall grasses and dead leaves which all makes it easier to maintain a healthy pasture at ground level,” Geise said, “And that allows us to maintain a healthy, happy farm.”
Plus, there is the cute factor.
“They have huge personalities. Goats are inquisitive, mischief makers, and very friendly,” she said.
Goat Rodeo produces several types of artisan cheeses and fresh goat milk caramels. Both are sold from the farm’s online store and at local markets and stores. Their products are also served by several local restaurants.
Their friends and fellow farmers at Freedom Farms not only offer Goat Rodeo products at their market, but they also have their own goat herd and plan to continue growing it, according to Events and Marketing Coordinator Amy Paterline.
Realizing the appeal of goats, Paterline recently convinced farm owners Pete and Tim King to allow her to host a goat yoga class.
“Tim said that is sounded kind of odd, but thought that if I could sell tickets to go ahead and do it. Not only did we sell them, we sold out of 100 tickets pretty quickly, so we added more dates,” Paterline said.
Goat yoga may sound a little different, but it is growing in popularity and can be quite relaxing, according to Maggi Aebi, owner of Yoga on Mars, who teaches the classes.
"One woman after class was sitting on a bench by the lake in the sunshine, quiet and reflective. I mentioned how relaxed she looked. She said to me, ‘This was so nice I don't want to go home,’" Aebi said.
Not to mention how much fun goat yoga can be.
“Between the goats and the laughter of the participants, a fun evening was had by all,” Aebi added.
Goat farms are also an important part of the agricultural economy and our region, Geise said.
“Every time someone eats a piece of our cheese, they become the last link in a chain that connects them to so much: our land, our animals, our neighbors, our vendors, and countless others. We think supporting honest, quality food is one of the best ways to take care of your community,” she explained.
While neither farm is open daily to the public, Freedom Farms offers group tours and both farms often host special events such as goat yoga and farm-to-table food experiences.
“We’re also happy to have interested volunteers schedule a time to learn milking and/or kid feeding,” Geise said.
For more information about Goat Rodeo, visit http://goatrodeocheese.com. For more information about Freedom Farms, visit https://www.freedomfarmspa.com/goat-yoga. Follow their Facebook pages for notices on special events.