Groundbirch Farmers Dream Big With Goat Farm Plans

South Peace Farmers Caylee and Justin Tietjen seek to establish a 300-head Kiko goat farm in Groundbirch, using holistic practices, passion and ingenuity.

No kidding – Groundbirch couple Caylee and Justin Tietjen are putting their agricultural roots to good use, with a 10-year plan to raise 300-head goats on their farm, “Hill and Hollow.”

While the couple currently only have a handful of bottle-fed Kiko goats, they have big plans to turn their small hobby farm into a viable farm-to-table operation, offering both meat and dairy products.

“We’re hoping to do a commercial meat farm, so that’s our starter herd, because we’d like to raise Kikos,” Caylee said. “There is quite a growing market for goats as a dairy animal, an all-purpose animal and for meat.”

“Our goal is really to be able to support ourselves, just to be on the farm, added Justin. “The challenge is to start farming and persevere.”

Both were born into farming families, with long histories in the South Peace, Justin on a commercial cattle ranch, and Caylee on a small hobby farm.

Good husbandry practices and ethical treatment of animals are of utmost importance to the couple.

“It’s from an economic point of view, but also from a moral point of view. You have to have this tremendous level of care to be a successful farmer. Or at least you should,” Caylee said.

Kiko goats were developed in New Zealand, by crossing dairy goats with native goats – Kiko comes from the Maori word for meat.

Their hardiness, lean muscle density and resistance to disease and infection make them a sought-after breed for northern British Columbia, the pair said, noting that goats can even be used to hemmer wild thistle.

The couple build their farm on the principles of holistic agriculture, for example, using manure from chickens to feed their garden, which in turn provides food for themselves and their animals.

“There’s a lot of innovation in agriculture right now, there’s a lot of different ways of doing things, but you always have to be creative, especially small farmers,” Caylee said.

Caylee also understands how prohibitive costs keep many young people away from working the land, but says they want to be an example, showing others how they can be commercially successful.

“For a lot of people it’s transitional farming, the generation before you is looking to retire and you’re looking to take over the farm,” she said. “With the price of land, the cost of equipment and infrastructure, and all that it takes to start farming, it’s difficult. But there seems to be a lot of people who want to do it, especially on COVID.

Justin works full-time in gas compression and uses the earnings to support the farm, in addition to recycling building materials and buying used farm equipment to make his dream affordable.

“We have to learn to do better, cheaper. There is no room for waste,” he said.

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at [email protected]

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