by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Grace Ison, 8, received smiling praises from her mom and grandparents after milking a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat at a farm outside Logansport Saturday afternoon.
This summer, she will show the same breed of goat in the Johnson County 4-H Fair. Grace’s mom, Mindy, said the family has boer-cross goats, but wanted something easier to work with, like a smaller, calmer Nigerian Dwarf, for her daughter’s first year in 4-H.
The Isons made the two-hour drive to the Twin Willows Farm for its inaugural spring open house to learn more about the goats and pick up two of their own, one of which Grace will enter in this summer’s fair.
By midmorning Saturday, more than 30 people of all ages filled the goat barn of the farm, which is northwest of Logansport on 400 West. Throughout the day, they learned everything about how to take care of the animals to how to make products from their milk.
The farm, which started in May 2011, is a family business run by Brandon and Erica Hopkins and Erica’s parents, Larry and Kathie McCarter. Erica, who manages the farm, said the property was originally purchased for its ponds to accommodate the bullfrogs her father wanted to raise. They got 100 tadpoles and put them in the ponds. The only thing left to do was wait two years until they reached adulthood.
“We needed something to do in the meantime,” Hopkins said.
Her husband raised goats while living in Colorado, so they started doing research and narrowed down their breed of choice to the Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat for their manageability and a docility they felt would mix well with their young children. The farm started out with a buck and a doe and has since expanded to produce 20 to 30 kids a year.
“It’s fun,” Hopkins said. “You get so close to the goats that they become like your family.”
The bullfrogs didn’t work out because of what Hopkins suspects to be bass and birds getting to the developing tadpoles along with the drought that scorched the area shortly after starting the endeavor.
Their side project has turned into a full-time gig. It is an undertaking the family prides itself on by providing the goats with high quality hay and feed, registering with national agencies and regularly testing their animals for disease.
Saturday’s open house included demonstrations on bottle feeding, milking, hoof care, showmanship and tattooing. After each session, Hopkins would help others have a try at the skill she demonstrated while making her way through the crowd answering questions.
Randy Fairchild came out with his family wanting to learn more about the goats and how to take care of them. He’s intrigued by all of the benefits their milk has in comparison to cow milk, he explained, and all of the products that can be made from it.
Those products were illustrated throughout the day through workshops for goat cheese and goat milk lotion.
Melanie Shepherd attended the open house with her daughter, Lilly. The family raises dairy goats and chickens on a farm near Walton and Shepherd said she’s interested in finding out how other farmers in the area conduct their activities. She describes family agricultural operations in the area as a cooperative effort in which neighbors help each other.
“Everyone kind of sticks together,” she said.
Hopkins shared a similar sentiment, adding that she learns something new about the goats every day and that she encourages her clients to contact her with questions.
“The sale is not the end of the relationship, it’s the beginning,” she added.
More information about Twin Willows Farm can be found at twinwillowsfarm.net.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that one Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goat buck and doe on Twin Willows Farm produce 20 to 30 kids a year. The kids born on the farm come from several sets of parents. We regret the error.