Central Minnesota farm raises its hundreds of goats by following the tenets of halal
Kandi Acres of Hawick, Minnesota, is home to nearly 500 goats, most of them raised for meat production. Owned by Tiffany Farrier, it has been a labor of love. It is the only halal-certified goat farm in the state, meaning the goats are raised in a way acceptable to Islamic tenets.
HAWICK , Minn.— Tiffany Farrier knew practically nothing about farm life — and even less about raising goats — when she moved to Hawick, Minnesota, in 2017 and purchased a 30-acre farm site with her husband.
"I was kind of intimidated," Farrier said, who moved to Minnesota from Las Vegas.
Yet, a few years later she now operates Kandi Acres, a 500-head goat farm, the only one in the state that is halal-certified.
"If you face me with a challenge, I will figure it out," Farrier said. "I am a problem-solver."
When Farrier bought the farm, she figured she'd purchase some chickens and a few goats, nothing crazy, but just enough for a bit of a hobby farm. By the end of that first fall, she had about a dozen goats of the pygmy and fainter breeds.
"I knew nothing about what I was doing," Farrier said.
A short while later, she got a call from a woman getting out of the goat business and Farrier purchased 10 Savannah Boer goats, with a growing idea to raise and sell meat goats. Farrier's herd was still on the tiny side when her husband sprung a Christmas surprise.
"'I finally figured out the perfect Christmas gift for you. I just bought you 43 goats,'" Farrier recalled her husband, Ben, saying.
On Christmas Eve, they made the trip to South Dakota to pick up the goats. Once they arrived, Farrier learned a few important things. One, she'd have to make two trips because not all the goats would fit in the livestock trailer. Two, about half of the goats purchased were about to kid, or have babies.
The family had to quickly build enough fencing and housing for the new arrivals. Farrier ended up moving 15 does into the heated garage, and just in time. YouTube videos and Google searches assisted Farrier through the birthing process of more than a dozen goats, resulting in 16 new kids on the farm.
"That was quite the experience. I was a bit unprepared; farming is new to me," Farrier said.
As the herd grew, Farrier learned more and more about raising goats. She learned about all the illnesses she had to watch out for, what kind of feed and vaccinations were needed to keep her goats the healthiest and just how to care for a large herd.
"I learned a lot of hard lessons and had a lot of money lost," Farrier said.
Introduction to halal
Those hard lessons were not enough to dissuade Farrier. She continued to find ways to expand, and she started looking into retailing goat meat directly to grocery stores.
Goat meat production is still a very new agribusiness in the United States and, because of this, there isn't a lot of infrastructure in place for a start-up. Farrier had to do a lot of the work from the beginning.
"There was this great idea, but there wasn't a direction," Farrier said.
This included finding a butcher who could and would perform halal slaughter, so Muslim-owned and operated stores would sell her meat.
Halal animal slaughter and production are done in accordance to Islamic law. This includes how the animal is slaughtered, how it is raised and making sure no pigs have come in contact with any of the process. Becoming a USDA halal-certified farm, producer or butcher can be a very complex and expensive enterprise.
Kandi Acres is the only certified halal farm in the state.
"Everything needs to be natural and humane," Farrier said.
It has been a very up and down journey.
Farrier found a butcher, and conversations with stores were going well. Then the coronavirus hit and everything started falling apart.
There was an upturn when Justice Walker, formerly from the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission and now the Planning and Development director for the city of Willmar, approached Farrier about purchasing and butchering a goat. The two began talking about getting her meat into local stores in Willmar.
But again they ended up running into major problems. Goats are not considered livestock in the United States, and approving a loan for a brand-new and female farmer seemed to be too much of a risk for the financial institutions Farrier approached.
"I was burnt out and at my wit's end," Farrier said. "I have a great dream, but I can't go any further if I can't get any backing."
Then a friend told Farrier to contact Compeer Financial, known for financing agricultural businesses.
Farrier was put into contact with a financial adviser who came out to the farm to meet with Farrier and see what Kandi Acres was and what it could be. Compeer Financial ended up giving Farrier enough financing to expand the operation, including installing hoop barns, purchasing equipment and buying 200 more goats.
"I broke down in tears crying; it even makes me tear up now talking about it," Farrier said.
Things looked to have finally been going well when the recent economy hit. Prices for raising the animals and butchering started to rise, and stores began complaining about the cost of Farrier's meat. It was cheaper to buy frozen goat meat from overseas than purchase fresh, local meat from Farrier.
The relationships between Farrier, the stores and the processor began to sour.
"We walked away from the table and it has been on standstill," Farrier said.
There might be a new option for Kandi Acres on the horizon.
Clean Chickens, a mobile poultry processor from Elk River, is in the process of planning a halal-certified goat processor in Willmar. Farrier is hopeful she'll be able to butcher her goats at a price point that is acceptable to not only for her own business but to stores as well.
"I love working for the stores; I am such a people person," Farrier said.
For the love of goats
While there have been challenges, disappointments and a lot of work put into Kandi Acres, Farrier still really loves her goats.
"Goats are so easy to form a bond with and a relationship with," Farrier said.
Farrier is also a realist, and isn't afraid to tell people the truth when they ask for advice about raising goats. While they can be fun and loving, raising goats can also be full of heartbreak and tears.
"I love goats, love working with them, but I won't be the person to tell you to get into it," Farrier said.
She has learned to be very flexible and willing to switch her plans on very short notice. Farrier said there really isn't an expert on goats, because every single situation is different and will require a different plan to overcome.
"Every time I think I have a handle on it, something new comes up," Farrier said.
It has been quite an adventure creating Kandi Acres. Running the farm is more than a full-time job — it is a lifestyle.
In addition to her goats, Farrier also has chickens, sheep, dogs and a few large fields of asparagus. She operates a stall at local farmer's markets selling produce, jams, barbecue sauces and goat soaps, lotions and candles. Every October she holds a Halloween fundraiser for the county food shelf.
While Farrier isn't sure what the future might hold for her and the goats, she is happy she kept at it as each different piece fell into place.
"It is a blast, I love it," Farrier said.
For more information on halal-certified livestock and products, visit extension.umn.edu/livestock-operations/halal-friendly-minnesota.