Goat Parties Bring Joy and Education
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By Aliya Hall
Whitney Beissner was struggling to balance life on the ranch with being in a University of Texas office. She brought her goats in one day as a surprise to spread some cheer and found it was a “blast” to connect her coworker with farm animals they never get to see.
“It spiraled from there,” she said. “I’d really like to be doing this all the time. How do I make it happen?”
Goat parties and events rose in popularity in recent years, and goat owners are taking advantage of the opportunity. Across the country, farms and sanctuaries are connecting people with goats to educate and spread a little joy.
“It literally makes someone’s day. They’re so excited and happy,” Beissner, owner of Goat Shenanigans in Texas, said. “You just never know what you’re going to show up and get, but to see everyone’s reactions and joy — if it were legal for me to wear a camera to get people’s interactions, it would spread smiles around the world.”
Although her customers include children and adults, she said most of her customers are adult men. She recently got a message that “‘All my husband wants for his birthday is to hang out with baby goats.’ It’s pretty surprising.”
Goat Shenanigans offers client experiences like goat yoga, Beer and Goats, Goat Pajama Party, Goat Grams, a Day (or night) with Goats, and consultations for people interested in offering their own goat events. Beissner bought the farm in 2017 after moving to Texas from New York City.
In Georgia, Red Wagon Goats serves metro Atlanta by offering land rentals to clear out invasive species, goat yoga, photoshoots, parties, one-on-one snuggle time, and consultations for future goat owners.
Megan Kibby said that Red Wagon Goats started with the land services but organically branched out into events like goat yoga as part of an IndieGoGo campaign. As a yoga instructor, Kibby planned a weekend-long fundraiser, which turned into a series of yoga events and expanded from there.
Although the idea was initially her ex’s, when they broke up, Kibby took over operations. She wants to make the rental business self-running to eventually go back to school and study therapy to incorporate the animals into therapy practice.
Beissner has also noticed an interest in people seeking goats for therapeutic purposes. She said that she’d had clients who will ask that the goats come out as comfort for families who have suffered a loss.
In working with animals, some of the challenges include mitigating injuries through having insurance, keeping the goats from escaping fencing, and managing their bowels. Beissner said she always walks the goats before taking them to an event or party, but she still hasn’t solved the problem.
“Sometimes we do put on PJs or diapers, and it kind of works,” she said.
Beyond small farms, sanctuaries like Sweet Farm in California offer virtual farm tours called Goat-2-Meeting to educate the public on their mission for a more compassionate and sustainable world.
As a nonprofit organization, they focus on the three areas of education, inspiration, and innovation. They want to educate the public on the issues in the food system and sustainability at large and inspire people to take action. Beyond education, they are also a farm rescue.
Their Goat-2-Meeting tours have completed 8,000 calls to people on all seven continents in the last year, including scientists on the South Pole.
“The feedback has been incredible,” Nate Salpeter, co-founder of Sweet Farm, said. “I haven’t been on a call where there was nothing but smiles.”
Goat-2-Meeting started due to the pandemic because Sweet Farm couldn’t have educational outreach activities on the farm with schools or corporate groups. A board member told Salpeter during a meeting that they were “Stuck in boring video calls all day, and I’d love if you joined the company’s happy hour.”
Salpeter put up the advertisement that night, and the next day they had their first booking. A week later, they were booked a week out, and three weeks later, they were covered in Business Insider. The meetings became so popular that Sweet Farm partnered with 10 other sanctuaries to provide around 300 meetings a day.
Meetings will start many ways, with some companies preferring it to be a surprise. The call starts, a goat face will appear, and then they introduce themselves and tour the farm.
“I, and our team, love getting feedback from folks after the tours and visits where they say, ‘We learned so much!’ It’s very rewarding knowing the impact on the animals of the farm but also the outreach component that allows for this next level of impact, creating change in people’s lives.”
Especially with the pandemic, Kibby said that she has gotten “so much good feedback” after every job. “People write and thank us, saying it’s the best thing they’ve done all year,” she said. “Early on in quarantine, it really brightened people’s weeks.”
For Kibby, the most rewarding aspect personally is sitting with the babies in the spring when they’re kissing her face, jumping in her lap, and fighting for her attention. However, she also loves being able to share the experience with other people.
“Just those moments when the community connects with our animals,” she said. “You seeing their countenance shift to something lighter is probably the most rewarding part.”
Originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.