HAWICK, Minn. — Tiffany Farrier knew next to nothing about farm life — and even less about raising goats — when she moved to Hawick, Minnesota, in 2017 and bought a 30-acre farm with her husband.
“I was kind of intimidated,” said Farrier, who relocated to Minnesota from Las Vegas.
But a few years later, she now runs Kandi Acres, a 500-person goat farm, the only one in the state to be halal-certified.
“If you give me a challenge, I will solve it,” Farrier said. “I’m a problem solver.”
When Farrier bought the farm she figured she would buy some chickens and a few goats, nothing crazy but just enough for a small hobby farm. By the end of that first fall she had about a dozen pygmy goats and weaker breeds.
“I didn’t know anything about what I was doing,” Farrier said.
A short time later, she received a call from a woman who was getting out of the goat business, and Farrier bought 10 Savannah Boer goats with the growing idea of raising and selling meat goats. The blacksmith’s herd was still quite small when her husband conjured up a Christmas surprise.
“‘I’ve finally found you the perfect Christmas present. I just bought you 43 goats,'” Farrier recalled of her husband, Ben.
On Christmas Eve, they made their way to South Dakota to pick up the goats. When they arrived, Farrier learned a few important things. First, she would have to make two trips because not all the goats would fit in the cattle trailer. Second, about half of the goats purchased were about to frolic or have babies.
The family quickly had to build enough fences and shelters for the new arrivals. Eventually, Hufschmied managed to get 15 cows into the heated garage, just in time. YouTube videos and Google searches helped Farrier give birth to more than a dozen goats, resulting in 16 new kids on the farm.
“It was quite an experience. I was a bit unprepared; farming is new to me,” said Farrier.
As the herd grew, Farrier learned more and more about raising goats. She learned what diseases to look out for, the types of feed and vaccinations needed to keep her goats as healthy as possible, and how to care for a large herd.
“I learned a lot of hard lessons and lost a lot of money,” Farrier said.
Those hard lessons weren’t enough to dissuade Farrier. She continued to look for ways to expand and began to delve into selling goat meat directly to grocery stores.
Goat meat production is still a very new agribusiness in the United States, and as a result there isn’t much infrastructure for a start-up. Right from the start, Hufschmied had to do a lot of work.
“There was this great idea, but there was no direction,” Farrier said.
This included finding a butcher who could and would conduct halal slaughter so that Muslim-owned and run shops would sell their meat.
Halal animal slaughter and production are carried out according to Islamic law. This includes how the animal is slaughtered, how it is raised and ensuring that no pigs have come into contact with any part of the process. Becoming a USDA Halal certified farm, producer or butcher can be a very complex and expensive endeavor.
Kandi Acres is the only certified Halal farm in the state.
“Everything has to be natural and humane,” Farrier said.
It’s been a very up and down journey.
Farrier found a butcher and talks with the shops went well. Then the coronavirus came and everything started falling apart.
There was a boost when Justice Walker, formerly of the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission and now the City of Willmar’s director of planning and development, approached Farrier about buying a goat and butchering it. The two began talking about bringing their meat to Willmar stores.
But again they encountered major problems. Goats aren’t considered livestock in the United States, and approving a loan for a brand new and female farmer seemed too big a risk for the financial institutions Farrier contacted.
“I was burned out and at my wit’s end,” Farrier said. “I have a big dream, but I can’t go on if I don’t get support.”
Then a friend urged Farrier to contact Compeer Financial, known for financing farm businesses.
Farrier was put in touch with a financial advisor who came to the farm to meet with Farrier and see what Kandi Acres was and what it could be. Compeer Financial eventually gave Farrier enough money to expand operations, including installing tire stalls, purchasing equipment, and buying 200 more goats.
“I burst into tears and cried; it even brings me to tears to talk about it now,” Farrier said.
Things finally seemed to be going well as the recent economy took hold. The prices for raising the animals and slaughtering them began to rise, and businesses began to complain about the cost of farrier meat. It was cheaper to buy frozen goat meat from overseas than to buy fresh, local blacksmith meat.
Relations between the farrier, the shops and the fabricator began to deteriorate.
“We walked away from the table and he was at a standstill,” Farrier said.
There could be a new option for Kandi Acres on the horizon.
Clean Chickens, an Elk River mobile poultry processor, is currently planning a halal-certified goat processor in Willmar. Farrier hopes she can slaughter her goats at a price that is acceptable not only for her own business but for the businesses as well.
“I love working for the stores; I’m such a social person,” Farrier said.
Although there have been challenges, disappointments and lots of work at Kandi Acres, Farrier still loves her goats dearly.
“Goats are so easy to bond with and bond with,” Farrier said.
Farrier is also a realist and isn’t afraid to tell people the truth when they ask for advice about goat farming. While they can be funny and loving, raising goats can also be filled with heartbreak and tears.
“I love goats, I love working with them, but I’m not the person to tell you to go for it,” Farrier said.
She has learned to be very flexible and willing to change her plans at very short notice. Farrier said there really is no such thing as an expert on goats because every single situation is different and requires a different plan to deal with it.
“Every time I think I’ve got it under control, something new comes along,” Farrier said.
It was quite an adventure creating Kandi Acres. Running a farm is more than a full-time job—it’s a lifestyle.
As well as her goats, Farrier also has chickens, sheep, dogs and a couple of large patches of asparagus. She runs a stall at local farmers’ markets, selling produce, jams, barbecue sauces, and goat soaps, lotions, and candles. Every October, she hosts a Halloween fundraiser for the county’s grocery store shelf.
While Farrier is unsure of what the future might hold for her and the goats, she’s glad she stuck with it as each individual piece found its place.
“It’s a blast, I love it,” Farrier said.
For more information on halal certified animals and products, visit extension.umn.edu/livestock-operations/halal-friendly-minnesota.