In 1994 the USDA counted 1,755 farmers markets in the United States. At last count, there were 4,685. Across the nation, direct marketing is increasing twice as fast as total agricultural sales (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service). President Obama just announced that he wants to start a farmers' market at the White House. So, what's all the fuss about farmers' markets? One of the main reasons is that farmers and consumers actually get to meet each other. Food usually travels hundreds, even thousands of miles to get from farm to table, making face-to-face contact between eaters and growers an all-too-rare event. However, the recent wave of farmers' markets opening across the nation is changing that.
Nona and Jeff Cullen raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) goats at The Abandoned Dog in Lansing, North Carolina. As a Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW source farm for goats, The Abandoned Dog is approved to raise and sell goats to other AGW-certified farms. Farming is not new to Nona, as she lived on multiple farms as a child. “We had everything from dairy cattle and dairy goats to chickens, geese and horses,” explains Nona. “I have always enjoyed farm life and I always knew that when I retired, I wanted to be back on a farm. My husband, Jeff, grew up in the suburbs in Wilmington, Delaware. Farm life is new to him, but he’s enjoying it!”
The farm consists of 20 acres of pasture and hilly terrain with mountain browse, and it’s located in the Northwestern corner of North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains—in an area known as “the coolest corner of the state.” Currently Nona and Jeff have approximately 7 acres fenced for their goats—broken up into 4 paddocks. “Quality of life for our animals is key,” says Nona. “We strive to make sure food, browse, housing, health and breeding practices are all achieved to the best of our ability. We truly believe a happy goat is a healthy and productive goat. We use rotational pasture and mountain browse based management through multiple paddocks because it’s the more natural food source for our animals. We say that we want to breed hearty, parasite resistant, healthy Kikos that are able to thrive with minimal human interference.”
Nona and Jeff manage a herd of approximately 30 Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW goats on the farm. “Our goal here is to breed exceptional quality 100%, purebred and percentage New Zealand Kiko meat goats,” says Nona. “We maintain 15 adult breeding does and 2 breeding bucks. Because of our terrain, the goat is a perfect fit for our farm. As a kid, one of my jobs was to milk the goats, and I knew I didn’t want that job ever again, so we decided on the Kiko meat goat rather than dairy goats.”
The Cullens are firm believers in high-welfare treatment of animals from birth to slaughter. “In our opinion, when you take on the endeavor of ‘domesticating’ an animal—whether that’s for a pet, for the utilization of a product of that animal, or specifically the slaughter of that animal, you take on the responsibility of the welfare of those animals which includes health, food, water and hygiene,” explains Nona. “We run our farm with that mindset.”
The Cullens chose to pursue certification with AGW to help potential buyers see that they have managed their animals according to the highest standards in the industry. “We work hard to keep meticulous records of birthing, culling or death, health, parasite issues, feeds, pasture rations, hay and soil quality and disease testing,” shares Nona. “We use those records to help with our criteria when we evaluate future breeding stock that we sell to other farms to enhance their herds as well as continuing to increase the successfulness of our own herd. Having the certification and label of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW helps to identify to potential buyers the hard work that we have put forth into our farm and animals.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW goats are sold direct from the farm (open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM) and at Kiko breeder sales. Jeff and Nona have strict criteria that they’ve formulated for future breeding stock, so what is offered may change from year to year. Contact the farm for detailed information about goat sales. For more information, contact Nona Cullen at email@example.com and 336-384-1045 or visit theabandoneddogkikogoats.com. You can also follow the farm on Facebook.