After twenty-six years as a teacher, Kendal Privette traded her classroom for farming and raising animals–a lifestyle she wasn’t sure she would even like, much less love. She told people before retiring that they were her husband’s goats. And now, she can’t imagine her life without them.
Nestled off a mile-long dirt drive in the Hunting Creek community is Land of Canaan Goat Farm, owned by Chris and Kendal Privette. The Privettes began farming on their 50-acre tract three years ago and raise ADGA registered Nigerian Dwarf goats. Along with caring for their goats, Chris is a gifted wood-worker, owner of Fish Sticks, and Kendal is a self-taught soap maker, creating natural soaps from the goats’ milk, year-round.
“My husband wanted livestock and decided we would go into farming,” Kendal says. “He wanted something that was more manageable than large livestock like cows. We bought a herd of goats in 2019–thirteen goats…. I was still teaching at the time…, and didn’t pay a lot of attention to them, and then COVID hit. I didn’t even know all their names because I couldn’t get out here (to the barn) enough to know what was going on.
“We had some does that were going to kid in the spring of 2020, and then I was home teaching so I was able to really get involved with the goats at that point. Our first kids were born in 2020 and then I retired after that year.”
Walking out to the pasture and goat barn, Kendal and I are quickly greeted by their guard dog, “Brown,” an Anatolian Shepherd, a Turkish breed referred to as the “shepherd’s dog.”
“His instincts are amazing,” Kendal explains. “We have only been doing this for three years and have learned so much about animal instincts. We are just floored by what God has created. Just amazing, their instincts.”
Land of Canaan Farm is a controlled breeding farm, and in order to do this, Kendal points out the girls are at the barn and in the pasture area, while the bucks are kept separate in a nearby wooded area.
“If you want controlled breeding, the boys and girls have to be separated, even at eight weeks old,” explains Kendal. “Right now we have five bucks. We don’t like to have that many–around three is a good number. We are half-heartedly trying to sell two of them. We mostly sell to people who want one or two does so they can get enough milk for their families. It’s harder to sell boys because (people) don’t need as many–especially on a relatively small farm.”
At the barn we are greeted by Dixie, Agnes, Nellie, Esther, Matilda, and more of the ladies, and they hover–loving on Kendal. A few come over to greet me, the stranger–their curiosity piquing as they sniff around my camera. Kendal points out how some of the expecting mamas, and one in particular so big that she breathes differently while lying down.
“Matilda is my favorite,” says Kendal as she rubs Matilda’s fur. “There is absolutely nothing special about her except she is really laid back. She doesn’t nibble clothing or paw at me. As far as a milk goat goes, she’s nothing special, but she’s a nice pet. We love our Matilda.”
Kendal goes on to introduce more of the ladies. Some are sisters, and she explains, “They love their family lines. They stay together most of the day with their family. They won’t fight one another in their family lines, but they will absolutely knock someone (an animal, not a human) out of the way–head butt them if their hormones are raging.”
As a goat farmer, Kendal has had to learn many new roles–none of which related to her days as a social studies and language arts teacher.
Kendal explains, “I have learned everything through research and experience. And we do have a mentor from the Taylorsville area. I have learned a lot from her, too.
“I think when Chris got the goats, we had the impression we could just put them out in a field and not pay too much attention to them. But their nutrition is much trickier than that. And to have really healthy goats that are not succumbing to parasites…, we have to really pay attention.
“So I have become a microbiologist. I will collect poop and put it on a slide and look for worm eggs and treat them accordingly. I am a nutritionist. I put together what I think is the healthiest feed for them. I’m a CNA–I give shots.
“I’m a midwife–I help with births. We are really hands-on when they are giving birth. We have seven bred right now and they will kid in late October, early November. I have probably overextended myself though–within 10 days, seven of them will go. We have cameras and lights in our barn and we can watch through the night. I can get up and see what’s happening. Once they only have a few days to go we will put them up in the stalls in the barn, just for the night. They don’t like to be put up during the daytime. I come out a lot and check on them and I know the signs of birth - whether it will be a few days, a few hours, or it’s happening now.
“I have ended up more of a scientist than I ever, ever anticipated with my training in language arts and social studies. But it’s great. I do love them very much and I just want them to be healthy goats.”
The beautiful timber-framed barn at Land of Canaan Farm, built in part by Chris Privette includes separate kidding–birthing stalls, a milking station, and ample storage space for feeds and hay.
“Chris found a timber frame teacher and he has been to our farm three times for timber framing workshops,” says Kendal. “We pay for the materials and get a skeleton of a barn out of the workshop. Everything else Chris has done himself. Roofing, paneling–all of that. It’s pretty exciting. There’s still a lot to do to finish this barn, but Chris has been injured. He’s well now, but he works through the summer with his woodworking business going to sell at festivals, and he hasn’t had time to get in here to finish.”
The goats are quick to line up at the door–seniority first–when they hear the sounds of the milking station getting set up for milking or health care such as giving shots, checking weight, or trimming hooves.
“They know the sounds of the milking station,” says Kendal. “They like to be milked because they know if they are on the milking stand, they are going to get a snack. And they get really excited about coming in here. They all know if they get up on this stand, something good is coming, and they learn that quickly. It’s all about the snacks. It’s not about love for the owner. But there is trust involved. If I hold something for them to eat almost every time they are going to take it because they have come to know I’m going to give them something good. Or if I try and grab ahold of them and take them somewhere they are going to trust me because they know me.
“…There’s definitely a hierarchy, a pecking order in the herd. The older ones are the bosses and they will work out the order. Let’s say I’m milking three goats, they will work out what order they are going to come in, and it’s definitely the older, bossier ones that will be first at the gate and knock the others out of the way.”
The Privettes chose Nigerian Dwarf goats for their farm because of their milk quality and their size.
“While they (Nigerian Dwarf goats) don’t produce the most milk, they produce the highest butter fat,” Kendal points out. “So it’s considered a really, really good milk, and that is why we chose the Nigerians. Also we like how small they are. They are about 60-70 pounds fully grown if they are not bred, and Chris can pick one up, so they are easily handled.
“Apparently, they have the worst behavior though, from what I have learned,” Kendal adds with a laugh, “But I still love them.”
We make our way over to the wooded area where I meet Tex, referred to as the King of England, and the other bucks. Kendal explains the breeding cycle, the importance of not getting close to a buck while they are in rut, and “the date gate”.
“We’ve only had males for a year so we are new to breeding,” says Kendal. “We’ve been taking our girls off campus to our mentor’s farm and leaving them there for a month or so. Then we finally bought some males of our own. I had been told not to turn my back on a buck in rut…. I didn’t listen to that advice and got rammed into the gate a couple of times from one of the other goats last year. Now that these are in rut, I treat this one guy–pointing at Tex–like he is the King of England and back away from him. I always know where he is, and if he’s looking at me, I back away.
“All of our females that are pregnant now have been bred with Tex. We will do another breeding cycle in October, so we will have spring babies in March. Gestation period is around 150 days. They go into heat every 21 days and this period lasts for around three days. When we first started we were like how will we know when they are in heat? But it didn’t take long to learn the ladies will come and hang out at the fence line–at the “date gate” and we know.
When asked about why they named their farm, Land of Canaan Goat Farm, Kendal explains, “We are Christians, and we want that to be known, even from names. Chris and I were tossing ideas around and I really think the name came to Chris. Of course, that was the Promised Land in scripture, and we feel like we have been blessed by God with these ideas, with this land, and with our animals. It matches in all those ways.
Kendal adds, “Even the registered goats on their farm will be given Biblical names. We want anything that is associated with our farm to have a Bible name. Any goat born on our farm that is going to be registered–we chose the name. Land of Canaan Esther. Land of Canaan Phoebe. Land of Canaan Solomon. Land of Canaan Philemon. We have a list of Bible names and we keep records of the year we used the name. We thought we would never forget them, but it’s kinda hard to remember when you have 16 kids born in a year. I could run out of girls’ names so we may have to throw in a few “Fruit of the Spirit” from the Bible. Boys names are easy though.”
Early on, Kendal began milking the goats and using the milk to make natural soaps and food for her family. Her soaps can be found at Wilkes County Hardware, Wilkes Art Gallery, and she sells at the Wilkes County Farmers Market (when in season). The Land of Canaan website has an online soap shop there, as well.
“I learned to make soap from the Internet,” she says with a laugh. “I like to cook, and it’s cooking. It’s just following a recipe. We are still mainly a breeding program, but making and selling the soap has been a nice side hustle.
“I started milking…by hand and wrecked my arms, so now I use an electric milker. I can milk a goat in three minutes or less, and I only milk once a day. Some people milk twice a day, but milking once a day for me is all I want to put into it. And that gives me plenty of what I want to make. I make yogurt for us, cheese, ice cream, biscuits, fudge–all that stuff. And I still have plenty of milk for soaps. It only takes two cups of milk for 20 bars of soap.”
Future plans for Land of Canaan Farm are to improve the goats’ milk production and continue improving their stock and breeding program.
“When we bought our first goats we bought mediocre goats as far as milk-production goats go,” explains Kendal. “We are trying to up our game a little with milk production, and we have invested in two does and two bucks that are from award-winning milking lines so we can move forward with better quality milkers. As we start getting new doelings out of those matches we will keep some…, and then start selling off some of the mediocre stock moving forward.”
Kendal is still using her teaching skills–this time teaching private soap making lessons at her farm–a soap making workshop at Wilkes Art Gallery, and giving tours of her farm–explaining what she and Chris have done to build a strong foundation for their farm.
“Yes, I’m still a teacher,” she says with a smile. “I have taught one soap making class at Wilkes Art Gallery and done a few private lessons here at the farm. People also come out to the farm who are interested in goats, but are not set up yet, and I really love doing those tours. That feels like teaching as well. It’s like running them through here’s how to set up a farm and some of them come back and buy goats later.
As our visit came to an end I asked Kendal–what is your favorite part of farming?
“My favorite part is my relationship with the goats,” Kendal says. “I just love them. I do. Just like people fall in love with their dogs…. They have personalities, and I can even tell their voices apart. If one of them is making a noise I can tell you which one it is.
“I wonder too if it is because my children are grown and gone and my grandchildren aren’t close by…. I don’t have my students anymore. I apparently need something to give my attention and care to, and I just love them.”
And lastly–Kendal, could you see yourself 10 years ago as a teacher living the life you are living now–as a farmer?
“Absolutely not,” she boldly says. “Never, ever, ever would I have guessed this is what I would be doing in my retirement. And in fact, before I retired I wondered if I would even like it. I would tell people, oh the goats are Chris’s, and I may like it when I retire and I may not. Now, I can’t believe I said that because I love it so much. So it's like I do need a little something to feel connected to a purpose, I guess. In ten years I don’t know. But right now, I really like this purpose.”
Visit Land of Canaan Goat Farm website at https://www.landofcanaanfarm.com/
Follow along on their social media pages-
Visit Fish Sticks website at https://www.fish-sticks.net/
Follow along on their social media pages-
A humble thank you to Chris and Kendal Privette for allowing me to visit their farm
and share the story of Land of Canaan Goat Farm.