Story and photos by Amy Falkofske
This year hasn’t been easy for anyone, but you know what makes any day a little better? The company of a little goat. You can find some goat company at the Little Goat Farm at the Lake.
When you arrive at the farm, you’ll be led to a large fenced-in area where you’ll be given your very own friendly goat to interact with. That little goat will follow you around and seem to instinctively know that they belong with you. You’ll also be greeted by Marshmallow the funny alpaca who will stare — and maybe even
spit at you. You might be approached by the very laid-back little Sicilian donkey meandering around the property. After you’ve spent some time with your goat, including feeding it a bottle, your group will get its very own bunny to snuggle.
Like most businesses, the Little Goat Farm has had to make some changes due to COVID-19. You now need to make reservations. Also, each family gets their own dedicated goat, and the goats are sanitized between families. Co-owner Susane Marsh says the changes have actually been positive for family and group connections.
“It restricts us, but we’ve also found from the pandemic some positive things. We’re going to continue pairing groups and families with their own goat for more enriching time together. This is one way we can safely provide really great entertainment for families and groups and continue with much of our practice that we’ve learned as a result of this COVID,” said Marsh.
The Beginning of the Little Goat Farm at the Lake
The Little Goat Farm sits on 25 acres right on Lake Manassas. Marsh bought the property with her husband, Dr. Bob Marsh, while it was in foreclosure. She said the area was really overgrown with spikes, ticks and predators when they first took ownership of it, but that didn’t deter the native Minnesotan.
“It was like going into the settlers on a prairie, but I’m from Minnesota, and like anywhere you go in the world, it’s a walk in the park weather-wise,” she said.
The Marshes’ decision to have goats was born out of wanting products that were pure for skin, without chemicals. They found that the pH of the goat is very similar to human beings in that it’s absorbed into the skin and filled with naturally high amounts of vitamins and minerals. They now offer a variety of soaps and
lotions, including products for facial care.
Goat Yoga and Gardening Classes
Marsh, a PhD, is also a yoga instructor and a Master Gardner. The Little Goat Farm was the first in Virginia to offer goat yoga. It’s now in its fifth year. Yoga classes are currently limited in size and scope due to COVID-19. Marsh pointed out that goat yoga is very different than your usual more serious yoga. “Goat yoga is joyful,” she said.
Marsh also said that “goats are all about the party” and that they love to be touched and snuggled.
“They’re very therapeutic. Animals have been used for many years for therapy, and when you combine that, which is a snuggle, holding an animal versus the full experience of a goat jumping on you, laughing, cuddling a goat, it’s all about you. This time is meant to be your time,” she said.
The Little Goat Farm has been partnering with parks & recreations and George Mason University’s Environment Science and is in its sixth year of offering farm-to-table classes, such as cooking with herbs, how to grow tomatoes and strawberries, and cheese making.
Camping, Fishing and Private Parties
If you’re the outdoors type, the Little Goat Farm is definitely a place that you want to check out. You can camp and fish on the land by reservation. There’s also a big access area for retreats. Companies like Amazon and Prince William County government have held picnics and baseball games at the farm. If you’re
looking for a wedding venue, the Little Goat Farm is available for that, too, with indoor space also available to rent.
“We’re always open to private parties,” said Marsh.
The Marshes started the Little Goat Farm to give back to the community. “We hope to put a smile, just a smile, on a stressed-out community. Goats don’t know if you’re a Democrat, Republican or an Independent. They just love you,” said Marsh.
One of the things that the Marshes do regularly is host Marines from Quantico suffering from PTSD and boys and girls from Youth for Tomorrow. Marsh said it seems to have a genuinely positive effect on them.
“It’s fun for us to see that snuggling that these groups get when they come over and that rage, anger in many cases and plain depression turns into a little laugh and then a giggle and full joy. It’s truly wonderful for my husband and me,” she said.
Marsh teaches Hatha yoga, and she spoke about how that approach takes into account what’s psychologically beneficial to the participants.
“We really wanted more of the eight yoga limbs of animal therapy to help create harmony within. With goats, you’re laughing at something so crazy and funny that a baby goat did next to you, or to your partner that came with you, and that laughter along with stretching, breathing and mindfulness is a big part of
reducing stress and anxiety, helping your heart and internal organs and helping you live longer,” she said.
Unique to Prince William
The Little Goat Farm is really a unique experience in Prince William. Where else can you find goats, yoga, organic goat’s milk products, cooking classes, camping and fishing all in one place and also feel like you’re no longer in the city?
“We’re told we’re the closest farm to the D.C. area, but still very pristine. You look out across the lake and you see two bald eagle nests, to the right a blue crane and her nest. Your view doesn’t include a single house or car. That direct contact with nature along with animal therapy and Hatha yoga, provides stress reduction, a sense of belonging and a broader sense of community,” said Marsh.
If you’d like to make a reservation to visit the Little Goat Farm at the Lake, visit littlegoatfarmatthelake.com.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.