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Sometimes life takes the strangest turns; we end up doing things we never imagined and finding out we were destined for them at the same time. That’s what happened to Connie Rieper-Estes and her husband, Jason. In 2004, they bought a small hobby farm in Northwest Arkansas with thorny blackberry bushes covering the back 2 acres. By 2015, they were in the goat business.
The first three goats arrived in 2010 after Connie Rieper-Estes did some reading on the benefits of using goats to clear overgrowth. It only took a few years for the goats to clear the acreage as she’d hoped. “I didn’t realize goats reproduce so quickly,” Estes said. By 2015, they had 20 goats. By chance, the farm was actually already suited to house goats. It had once been outfitted as a goat dairy. Estes had no desire to milk the goats, but as her husband put it, “If they could pay for themselves, it would be better.” This sent Estes into more research, this time on all the ways to use goats.
Ruling out dairy goats and selling the animals for meat (“I didn’t want to eat my goats!”), Estes landed on vegetation management. Coincidentally, the city of Fayetteville already had guidelines in place for goats to manage vegetation. The Esteses bought portable electric fencing and started a business – Greedy Goats of NWA. The first year was a little slow, but the goats were certainly noticeable. The couple would set up portable electric fencing around the unruly areas of vegetation and then transport the goats to the site to feast all day. By 2016, the company was off and running.
Connie and Jason Estes also looked for a way to give back to the community and realized the goats could help clear out invasive species in Wilson Park. Beginning in 2016, they’ve brought the greedy goats to Wilson Park three times a year. The first year, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce dubbed Greedy Goats as Volunteer of the Year. Two of the goats traveled to the ceremony to accept the award. “The goats have a rider,” Connie explained. “It’s a broom and a mop person.” In 2019, they won the Sustainability Award from the city.
Connie Rieper-Estes at a recent goat yoga event. The company follows all guidelines for Covid-19.
Another unexpected opportunity cropped up as the goats cropped down the overgrowth – the chance to let children see the goats and learn about them in a natural environment. Area schools had the chance to bring young students to the park where Connie and Jason gave educational talks about vegetation management.
Demand for Greedy Goats continued to increase, however, setting up the electric fences for the goats proved to be demanding work. The Esteses had to negotiate deep overgrowth, uneven land and heat and humidity. Connie began to worry about their health and once again began looking at other ways to use the goats. Enter goat yoga, an activity increasing in popularity.
The practice of goat yoga began in 2016 in Oregon. In 2018, Greedy Goats experimented with a little goat yoga. “You need a special instructor to do yoga with goats running around,” Connie explains. By 2019, they felt they had the right instructor in place and moved the company into a goats’ entertainment business. The Esteses began looking for the right venues to host goat yoga. “It’s always outside. The goats are not house-trained,” Connie says with a laugh. The Esteses will set up the same electric net fencing they used for vegetation management to give the goats an area to roam in. They leave an entry gate for the yoga participants. Upon arrival, yogis lay down their mats and then have a meet and greet with the goats. After 15 minutes, class begins. As the yogis practice, the goats wander among them.
Each participant gets a small cup of pretzels to share with the goats, who love this crunchy treat. They know the sound of pretzels shaking in the cup and will visit anyone who’s offering the snack. Greedy Goats usually bring four Nigerian dwarf goats as their main yoga goats. They are small enough for that fun interaction associated with goat yoga. Some of the larger goats are available for petting and brushing. After the practice, participants get another chance to mingle with the goats. Classes last 90 minutes, with half of it pure yoga practice and half having fun with the goats.
Greedy Goats is currently securing venues in Northwest Arkansas and offering classes at their farm as well. The best way to find out where the goats will be is to follow Greedy Goats of NWA on Facebook. Some upcoming goat yoga locations include SpoonMoon gym in Fayetteville and Saddlebock Brewery in Springdale. The goats are also available for pop-up petting zoos and birthday party events. The Esteses host petting events on the farm also. The goats are currently not being used for vegetation management as the Estes family sees how the goat entertainment business goes.
“Five years ago, we would not have predicted where we would be now,” Connie says. “It’s been a fun, fun, fun journey.” For Greedy Goats of NWA, that journey continues, and if you have a desire to try out goat yoga or just feed and pet a cute goat, Greedy Goats is a great bet.
All photos courtesy of Greedy Goats of NWA.
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