Save the Icelandic Goats!

(If you don’t want to read the whole post, and just want to jump to the goat-saving, see here.)

As many of you who know me are already quite familiar, I have a bit of a thing for goats. Goats yelling like people. Goats balancing on steel ribbons. Goats as “vegetation control.” Goats, goats, goats. I can’t exactly explain why this is: as a child, a goat chased me around a petting zoo, caught me, chewed on my shirt, and generally terrified me, so it’s not because I have some particularly warm memory of these creatures (although I did really love the book Gregory the Terrible Eater). But somehow, their general cleverness and mischievousness caught my fancy and seriously charmed me.

I say this by way of introduction to a cause that is close to my heart: a family-run Icelandic goat farm called Háafell is in danger of foreclosure next month. This farm—which you might remember from a post last year—is home to 400 goats, nearly half of Iceland’s native goat population (there are only 820 Icelandic goats in existence all total). And—for reasons which admittedly, are not entirely clear to me—if the family loses their farm, all of the 400 goats there will be slaughtered.

I accompanied a couple friends to Háafell around my birthday this year, when one of them was writing an article about the farm and its proprietor, Jóhanna Þórvaldsdóttir. It was such a lovely day: we came right as many of the goats were giving birth to their kids, got a tour of the barn and goat fields, and not only got to try out the goat milk soaps and lotions that Jóhanna makes herself, but also her homemade goat-meat jerky (it’s the ‘circle of life’ approach) and the goat milk feta that she marinates in oil and rose petals from her very own rose garden.

(More goat visit photos here.)

Jóhanna knows all her goats by name, and they trotted around us like puppies the whole time—curious, friendly, and really attentive. As I learned while we were there, goats are very independent animals and quite nurturing—a few of the females were actually fostering lambs who for one reason or another couldn’t be raised by their own mothers or even other sheep. We were also told that goat wool (at least that of the Icelandic goat) has an almost cashmere-like quality when spun, and that Icelandic goat milk is not only very nutrient-rich, but it can generally be drunk by people who are otherwise allergic to cow’s milk.

So yes, I really, really want this lovely farm and these lovely animals to be saved, so that Jóhanna can continue to grow and preserve the dwindling native population, as she has been dedicated to doing for so long.

To that end: an IndieGoGo campaign has been started to not only raise awareness that Háafell is at risk of being lost, but also to help raise money so that the family can keep the farm (and the goats!). But $90,000 is a lot of money, and my small donation is not going to do much good on its own, so if you can donate and feel compelled to, please do so here. I’m happy to add that this is a special sort of crowdfunder, in that all of the funds collected will be kept by the recipients—it isn’t like one of those Kickstarter campaigns that only gets any funding if the total funding goal is met.

Lastly, if you want to foster a goat or schedule a visit to the farm to meet the goats yourself (for a small fee), that can be done! See the website for more details.

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