Among foodies, interest in farming seems to have reached epic proportions. Aside from the growing number of farm-to-table restaurants, it seems as though you cannot dine with any well-known chef and not hear about the organic gardener who grew your tomato, the ethical farmer who reared your meat, or the local dairy producer who handcrafted your cheese. And honestly, it does sound rather romantic. Do you hear these stories and wistfully think to yourself, "I should start my own farm"?
If so, we have a guide for you. We spoke with JoJo Milano of Delilah's Dairy to get the inside scoop on how to start your own goat farm.
New Times: Let's start with the basics. What made you decide to get into goat farming?
JoJo Milano: It seemed so cool! I decided to get one goat. I kept her a year and half, then started milking her, and it all snowballed from there.
Which resources would you recommend to someone who wants to learn about dairying?
The internet. In the time it takes to buy a book, things can change quickly. The University of Florida and FAMU have great programs for ruminants on their sites. Also join associations: the American Dairy Goat Association, the Florida Dairy Goat Association, local clubs, forever goat club.
What's the best advice you could give for someone starting out?
Read. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Get to a farm and volunteer to help, to get some hands-on experience like trimming hooves, feeding protocols, birthing kids, etc. Reading is great. Hands-on is priceless. And go slow! What's the rush if you're in it for the long haul?
What about money? Financially, what does it take to start?
Not much. It's probably best to start with a pet goat. They cost about $75, but they won't be a gallon-per-day milker. A good milking goat runs about $150 to $400.
What sort of equipment is needed to start?
A milk stand, milk pail, and filters. You can find all of that online. But make sure you have a mentor with the same breed of goat and a good vet with goat experience before you jump in. If you find both of these people, they will help you to put together an emergency supply list for goat care -- which is extremely important.
Anything else we should know?
Don't go into this thinking you'll make money. It took five to six years for my goats to start paying for themselves. After eight years, I finally started making a profit. In terms of milk, don't sell it to anyone until you know what you're doing! Also, the goat is always right. Listen to the goat. You must always be willing to accept it's a never-ending learning curve when working with animals. And it's the hardest job you'll ever love!
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