By Rebecca Gulick
I’ve been thinking a lot about dairy goats. For the past couple years, I’ve fantasized about keeping a couple here at my home in Benicia, not only for the fresh milk and the cheese and soap we could make, but for their complement to our family as gregarious pets.
Every time the Solano County Fair rolls around, my children and I make a beeline for the livestock barn, and every year we end up experiencing a special bond with one of the goats. Their demeanor is gentle and kind and—those eyes! Their amber eyes are so expressive and mysterious. Turns out there’s a reason we feel such a connection. Goats and humans living side by side is one of the most ancient continuous relationships between mammals. Goats still play a major roll in many cultures as integrated members of the household, providing companionship as well as food.
My yearning to have my own goats has intensified lately, as I’ve discovered that perhaps urban goats are not such a crazy idea. Just up the road in a Vallejo residential neighborhood is the quarter-acre Dog Island Farm, with a menagerie of farm animals, including its own line of diary goats! Another Vallejo neighborhood hosts the delightful, education-focused Loma Vista Farm. I found out goats are now legal (with some limitations) in many California cities, including Alameda, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Oakland, Pasadena, San Diego, San Francisco, and even Walnut Creek, as well as in major cities across the nation.
After considering the facts—goats are quieter than dogs but just as affectionate; they’re not smelly; their manure is a valuable fertilizer; they eat invasive plants; they do not attack people; and they produce delicious milk that can be enjoyed fresh or made into fabulous chèvre—after considering all of this, these cities concluded: Why not let citizens keep dairy goats?
I’m thrilled that there are more opportunities for people in urban areas to rediscover goats and integrate them back into their lives, and I hope we can enjoy that privilege here in Benicia some day. Goats are not for everyone, of course, but for those few Benicians with the desire and ability to keep them, why not?
If you’re interested in goats, too, here are some of my favorite goat-related websites, books, and videos:
- Dog Island Farm, an informative blog by Vallejo-based urban farmers Rachel and Tom
- Goat Justice League, the website of Jennie Grant, who worked with the city of Seattle to allow the keeping of dairy goats within city limits
Jennie also wrote the book City Goats: The Goat Justice League’s Guide to Backyard Goat Keeping.
- Ghost Town Farm, another informative blog, this one by Oakland-based urban farmer Novella Carpenter
Novella also wrote a great book, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farme
- One of my all-time favorite books, Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese, by Brad Kessler
- Two of many brilliant videos by homesteading maven Jenna Woginrich: