Goats are friendly, cuddly animals and if you don’t believe me, visit Goat Joy. It will be easy to see how the farm got its name. It is located off of Beaver Dam Road in Harbeson.
It all started in 2015 when Laura Ritter’s daughter Amanda brought home the first goat as a two-hour old bottle baby. Amanda was a Junior at Cape Henlopen High School. It was part of her Future Farmers of America project. The family fell in love with the animal, says Ritter. Amanda is now finishing her schooling to become a veterinarian.
Like alpacas, goats are herd animals, so the family concluded that they had to get more! “That first year we purchased four more to be her companions,” said Ritter. “Then some of those companions were adults that we bred for the next spring leading us to have 12 the next season.”
After having goats for a couple of years, milking them, showing them, and making things with their milk, the family decided to make a business out of cheese. They purchased some Lamanchas and Alpines – two goat breeds – from a friend with a dairy in Georgia and started growing the herd in that direction. The farm soon added Nigerian Dwarf and Oberhasli goats.
Meanwhile, Amanda had gone on to college at the University of Delaware. As a fundraiser for her sorority’s philanthropy project, they decided to do goat yoga. “We did three classes in our front yard as a one-time event,” said Ritter. It sold out very quickly and we kept getting requests to keep doing goat yoga as an ongoing thing. By the spring of 2018 goat yoga and goat socials (cuddle/interactive sessions) were born.
Turns out, Ritter is a savvy businesswoman who has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Delaware and a Master of Business Administration from Wilmington College. She worked in vaccine research and production for a while, then for family businesses.
Nowadays, her fascination with goats is the driving force behind her business prowess. Here is how she describes the farm’s Goat Yoga experiences especially in the Spring when there are many baby goats: “We bring a group of our youngest and most playful goats into a grassy fenced in area. We supply the yoga mats and have a certified yoga instructor lead a light practice suitable for all levels of experience (or lack thereof). The baby goats’ natural curiosity typically causes them to interact with the guests. As the class goes on, often the babies will hop up or we will bring them around and place them on the guest’s backs for plenty of photo opportunities. Many times, the babies will snuggle up with guests on their mat. The yoga is optional – if you want to follow along, that is great, if you choose to sit on the mat and play with the babies, that’s great too! It’s all about the experience and you relaxing and enjoying yourself and the babies. We end each class with our ‘goat walk.”
Sounds relaxing! According to Ritter, Goats are excellent pets since they are typically minimal maintenance and quiet yet bring much peace, love, and joy. Their veterinary needs are low compared to cats and dogs. Their feed and upkeep is relatively cheap in comparison as well.
“Goat for it!”