Years in operation: 9
Annual revenue: < 10k
(Average over last three years)
The Dancing Goat is one of the pioneer purveyors of raw goat milk in the state of Florida on a 3 acre example of progressive agriculture. In the trickle down of 9/11, Pam and Jim Lunn lost their jobs in the transportation industry and had to reinvent themselves. With a few goats for the children for their FFA fun, Pam decided that small urban farming was the future of agriculture and began to build the herd for 5 years until obtaining a license to sell the milk “for pet consumption only” in August of 2007. Pam, a 70's hippie, turned corporate yuppie, finally found her happy place as a dairy farmer. Until the children were grown, they were an integral part of the farm in milking, maintenance, herd health and showing goats in three states. Hope is held that at least one will want to come back and take over the farm after graduation from college in a few years. The milk line consists of 30-35 lactating goats at any one time from a herd of approximately 60 Lamanchas, French Alpines, Saanens and Recorded Grades. In addition there are several hundred chickens, quail, a few guineas, turkeys and chuckars. With a few emu eggs in the incubator, they plan to add emus to the chicken tractor area as a predator deterrent. This diversification has provided an array of products for local markets and retail outlets providing a safety net that when one product isn’t available, there is another to help maintain a steady income source. Goat milk soap under the name Dancing Goat Soaps has become popular in local stores and the farmer’s markets. This farm also serves as the Farm Branch of National Humane Society, raising a number of kittens each years with the help of neighborhood children and providing a home for cats that are not warm and fuzzy candidates for adoption. It also takes in numerous farm animals for National Humane as space and funds allow. The labor pool is one full time volunteer, the Farm Foreman, his intern assistant (a new position added in June), all complimented by homeschoolers and FFA youth that milk for the dairy as well as local community volunteers that want a taste of the farm without the financial or long term investment. The farm added a Cheese Chef in April of 2015 due to growing demands. Pam manages all aspects of the farm from the cheese production, milking and farm team, market sales, soap making and other farm duties, an 18/7 endeavor. Pam’s husband, Jim is disabled and while no longer able to physically take part in the farm activities, he drives for the supplies that are needed to keep the farm running and is the farm’s greatest cheerleader! The Dancing Goat runs a Goat Nanny program that spans the kidding season and recruits volunteers that learn to deliver goat babies, process newborns, bottle feed and care for the four legged kid’s needed. It requires a three month commitment and many in the Goat Nanny program come back year after year. As the Mission Statement outlines, The Dancing Goat is associated with the local high schools and colleges, providing educational opportunities in it’s commitment to “mentor the next generation in responsible agriculture”. In addition, Pam has served as Youth Dairy Goat Superintendent for over 15 years for the Florida State Fair. The dairy started turning a small profit in 2014, and looks forward to continuing increasing profits in the years to come. Relying on their savings and meager earning to maintain the farm for 7 years, Pam and Jim strongly believe that their farm is an important part of the community and this sacrifice was a necessary bridge to the future. As Pam states “we made every mistake possible”, the dairy has grown to a size where future earnings are realistic through continued implementation of a sustainable plan. The Dancing Goat has been featured on the front cover of Edible Tampa Bay in January 2015, numerous articles in the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune. It was also voted as Favorite Farmer’s Market Vendor in the Creative Loafing Best of the Bay awards 2015, and the respect gained in the last few years has put The Dancing Goat into the front of the local food scene. Located in an agricultural-zoned, equestrian neighborhood, every inch of the property has been strategically planned for optimum utilization from duck pens in the drainage swale that floods 6 months a year to attached lounging paddocks that are connected to the barn stalls. The dairy had to invoke the Florida Right to Farm Act protection in 2015 to maintain it’s existence after a complaint from an unhappy neighbor. The Florida Right to Farm Act provides support for small farms that have been in existence without complaints for one year and protects them from nuisance lawsuits, providing an avenue to expand without resistance when best management practices are used.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
The Dancing Goat’s approach to farming is distinctly different than traditional farming with the limited acreage. The efficiency of the farm depends upon setting into practice sustainable methods with a goal of providing at least 25% of the livestock feed right from this property. This sustainable provision will provide a substantial increase in income and reduce outside dependency. While the farm has considered feeding commercial organic feed, the current cost is prohibitive (it must be trucked into Florida). In a poll with the customers, the increase in the price of milk would put it out of reach for many families and the decision to continue status quo was made. Instead, the farm is implementing innovative feeding sources used in third world countries to supplement the feed. Over the past 5 years, a banana grove of over 100 banana trees has been developed, moringa and red hibiscus are growing and a fodder system is under construction to provide feed for horses, goats and poultry. Reuse, recycle and repurpose is the farm’s motto with many of the animal pens and roofing tastefully crafted from roadside finds, dumpster diving adventures and left over donations by local tradesmen. Innovation has been key for the development of this farm. The farm is at a cusp that some protocol that worked on a smaller basis is struggling to maintain with the current production level like the "chilling tank" devised from a large cooler where milk is chilled in stainless buckets surrounded by frozen ice bottles and ice water. It is important that the waste stream is diverted when usable items are sourced/repurposed. In addition to the sustainable aspects, one big difference in this farm is it’s commitment to humane animal welfare from the day an animal is born to it's final days. Once an animal is retired, they are allowed to live out their lives at the farm in luxury. The goats served the farm giving milk and babies and are given back a “caprine assisted living facility”. It would be cruel to move an elder goat that spent it’s entire life with Mom, sisters, cousins to a strange environment and thus the concern for their retirement years. With a lifespan of 12-15 years, there are numerous goats that are still “working” at over 10 years old. Once a goat freshens (gives birth), management techniques are put into place that secure at least a 2 year lactation with many going up to 4 and 5 years. With breeding for long lactations, it reduces the number of babies produced and also does not wear out the does with multiple pregnancies. Chemical anthelmentics (dewormers) are not used on any lactating goats, instead practicing good management and copper bolus which creates an environment inhospitable for parasite infestation. In addition, antibiotics are only used in life threatening situations where there is no time for holistic options.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
By developing an easier way to produce/supplement the feed for the animals, The Dancing Goat will enjoy higher profit margins as well as contribute to a smaller carbon footprint. While the farm cannot exist without commercial feed, the needs will be greatly reduced with the continuous implementation of sustainable feed produced right on the farm in harmony with the environment using organic practices. The most recent additions are two homemade Black Soldier Fly Larvae Harvesters which will provide up to 75lbs of protein weekly for the poultry, cutting the use of commercial feed by almost $20 per week to start, more as additional harvesters are added. The fodder system will provide fresh greens for both poultry and goats, again, translating to a savings of over $50 per week. The bananas are currently being used to supplement the goat feed and once a chipper is purchased, the leaves will also be chipped daily for feeding - an additional savings! Plans include over 100 moringa trees and red hibiscus bushes for daily harvesting to reduce the use of costly hay and add fresh greens in the livestock diet. In Florida, this is possible for up to 12 months of the year due to the sub tropical climate. In the quest for supporting local farmers, the farm’s hay, both perennial peanut and grass hay, comes from within 30 miles of the farm. All of the farm’s sustainability practices reduce the carbon footprint of hauling in hay and feed from all corners of the US and will provide a model for small sustainable agriculture in an urban environment
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
There are several items needed by The Dancing Goat that could elevate the farm’s efficiency and contribute to a superior product. 1) A 30 gallon chilling tank - approx $3000 (with shipping and accessories). This tank would allow the milk to be chilled to under 38 degrees in less than one hour. Currently the system of a large cooler and frozen ice bottles floating in ice water is used to place the 5 gallon stainless steel buckets to chill. The current cooling is more than adequate but the chilling tank would allow filling jugs right from the faucet as well as a completely closed system preventing contamination.. 2) A wood chipper and collection cart - approx $3000 for a commercial model - this chipper and cart would be used to harvest the banana/moringa/red hibiscus daily in an efficient fashion to be used for feeding the animals. 3) Expanding the fodder facility - approx $2500 (materials and labor) - the current fodder facility is about 10' x 8'. One twice this size with water included would dramatically increase the production of fodder and again, reduce the feed bills while providing highly nutritious feed of sprouted grains for the livestock. This gives the option of using non-gmo barley and other grains for sprouting. 4) Hoeggers milking machine with dual buckets - approx $3000 - The dairy is using an inherited 35 yr old milking machine that requires a high level of maintenance. It is torn down weekly to clean and oil and the dairy lives in fear it will die at any time. A new system comparable to the existing machine, and keeping the existing machine as a supplemental or even back up machine would be a prudent measure. 5) Cheese molds and additional cheese press - approx $1000 - Fresh cheese is an important part of the dairy but the production of aged cheeses will require molds and draining boards that are specific to the variety of cheeses. 6) Labor and materiels for repairs / renovations - approx $ 7,500 - portions of the farm fencing is in poor shape and gives a tattered appearance to the farm. The implementation of solar electric wire as well as repairs to many rotted posts and spliced fence boards would create a major facelift for the farm and reduce electric usage. Since this would be work additional to the current labor of running the farm, temporary help would be utilized to make these repairs.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
The future of our nation depends on the self sufficiency of the citizens. Most residents do not have the facilities to maintain goats or chickens and depend on farms to provide those products. If the cities take into consideration the reduction of carbon footprints, they must plan on hubs of agriculture that are in short distance to the markets. Consumers like to “know” their farmers, visit the animals and let their children see that milk comes from animals, not just a jug in the grocery store or eggs are laid by chickens. The Dancing Goat provides an educational facility not only for the customers, but for local volunteers and agriculture students. While factory farms will feed the masses, those who want good quality food will seek out and patronize local family farms. The small farms do not enjoy the luxury of subsidies like the large factory farms and depend on community support through purchase of products to succeed. The Dancing Goat has the support of the community but needs and extra “lift” to help it continue developing a sustainable venture into responsible, modern agriculture with a profit potential to comfortably support the farmer. Currently, The Dancing Goat, is at a plateau but has sound, research based plans for improvements, but a lack of funds to implement these plans. If this farm was awarded the Mortgage Lifter, it could enjoy increased profits and become a model of urban agriculture for others to see and follow.
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