It’s quite a sight to behold – 27 tufty-tailed goats out for a scenic stroll, each tethered to their human guides by brightly colored leashes. Hooves and boots move forward in tandem, bar one spirited gal who is relentlessly pogoing upwards, demanding treats from farm owner and hike leader Karla Simmons.
“Annie Oakley!” Simmons hollers with a mix of affection and exasperation, pausing to feed a handful of grain and point out her single horn. “I call her my magical unicorn,” she says, beaming. “She brings the chaos!”
In the goat community, there are as many personality types as coat hues, and guests are invited to make their selection from an eager cluster of volunteers. “We need willing participants; otherwise they put on the brakes and you’re not moving them!”
Luckily, the majority relish the opportunity to take a mile-long jaunt around the 120-acre family farm, while guests enjoy taking in views of the bay and the bridges en route. “The goats get to be part of the party and receive love and cuddles, plus goats are firm believers that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence – and at least two or three times a year, it really is!”
Several goats insist on joining every hike and repeat visitors even request goats by name. “Last week, a group of young women were crushed to hear that Philip was busy at the Kid Corral,” recounts Simmons, “and pleaded to have him join them. ‘This will be our third time; we first walked with him when he was just a baby!’”
The twist here is that Philip is typically the last to get picked – with his long legs, big horns, and dramatically black, shiny fur, he can look intimidating. “Goats are a great reminder to not judge a book by its cover,” Simmons says. “Philip is actually the easiest to walk – slow, steady, majestic, even.” On the other end of the spectrum, you have petite cutie Twinkie, a bottle-fed diva who used to insist on being carried, until she reached 50 pounds!
The goats at Simmons Farm grow accustomed to human interaction at a young age, joining the petting zoo at just one week old – not to mention goat cuddling sessions, which begin mid-February.
The hikes, however, have become the farm’s most popular offering. “Before we launched them in 2019, my husband Brian and I were close to being at the end of our rope,” Simmons confides. “Farming will always be a struggle, but these hikes have made a significant difference to the prospect of continuing our 146-year-old legacy, as well as bringing so much joy.”
It really is a win-win, for the farm, the goats, and the visitors, who get the added bonus of rounding off the hour-and-a-half educational walk with a steamy hot chocolate and a visit to the Simmons Farm stand. Wares range from organic vegetables, fresh eggs, and pasture-raised pork to yummy honey, cheeses, and butter. And don’t forget the goat milk soap – a great daily reminder of this mahhh-velous experience! SimmonsFarmRI.com
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