Hugo Wong/News staff
When Victoria Lavender owner Alan Mayfield was recovering from a stroke he suffered in November, he was looking for a way to sustain his business if he did not fully recover. A friend showed him a video of goat yoga on an Oregon farm and said to Mayfield, “You could do this.” So he did, and he was bowled over by the demand.
“I still don’t understand it,” said Mayfield, who has since recovered. “If you told me a year ago that people would come here dressed in sportswear and roll around on the floor in the goat paddock and pay me money, I would have said you were crazy!”
Mayfield, 72, used to work in the lumber industry, but as he got older, he was “looking for something peaceful and loving to do,” so he opened his lavender shop on Beacon Avenue in Sidney in 2005 and bought seven acres in North Saanich in 2008. There, he is surrounded not only by lavender but also exotic birds, four Great Pyrenees dogs who guard the goats (17-week old brothers and already 83 pounds each) and a nine-year old sheepdog.
He says he started raising the Nigerian dwarf goats about five years ago “just because they were cute.” He says they are not raised for meat, but for the fine quality of their milk. He also says they make good pets on small family farms, as they are gentle and friendly towards people. Judging from their popularity on Facebook, people love them, too.
“The babies were being born in April and we put an ad on Facebook that said we needed people to come and cuddle them … We got nearly 5,000 applications as volunteer goat cuddlers.”
He had originally planned to have goat yoga classes until Labour Day, but he ended the classes in July because the baby goats, who like to walk on participants, got too big (they are about 25 or 30 pounds now). However, he says he will be better prepared next year to meet the demand.
“This coming year, we will have over twice as many mothers and we’re going to breed them into two batches. The first bunch of babies will be born mid-April, so that will support the goat yoga for all of May and all of June. The second batch of babies born in mid-June will cover us from July and August until Labour Day.”
This summer saw 1,200 participants, but Mayfield admits that he was not one of them.
“I think I can get into any of those positions, but I’m not sure I could get out of them.”
For many local farmers, agri-tourism is an increasingly important source of revenue and Mayfield is no different. Since his farm is right by the highway and near Swartz Bay ferry terminal, he says he is well placed to get lots of exposure.
“We had quite a few people come over from Vancouver just to do the classes because they can come on as a walk-on passenger. It’s only two kilometres from the ferry terminal.”
The goat yoga season is over, but the work on the lavender farm continues. The big harvest was completed in August but workers are still drying and stripping the plants, making pots for gardeners, and replanting where necessary. But when classes resume on May 1 next year, Mayfield expects the crowds to return in force.