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Snapshot Of Young Farmers: Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters

Photo: Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters

By Lisa Green

The goats at Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters near Red Hook, NY, appear to be a contented lot. I’m no goat expert (not yet, anyway) and I try not to anthropomorphize too much, but when I mentioned my observation to co-owner Stephanie Wyant, she smiled in agreement.

“We give them a lot of love,“ she said.

Wyant, 27, and her partner, Paul Williams, 38, are representative of the young farmers in the Rural Intelligence region who are forging careers by doing whatever it takes to keep their farms (and dreams) afloat. They’ve been farming for about five years, but “got really serious about a year ago,” says Wyant.

For these two, there are the goats, and the businesses associated with them. There are the chickens, ducks and turkeys they raise and sell. Herbs and vegetables are fairly new, but gaining in importance. There is the hotel in Red Hook that Williams owns, which they run by themselves. And that’s not even all they do. There must be some kind of young farmers energy vitamin that keeps them going.

First, the goats. Of the 50 goats, 7 are Kinders, the dual-purpose breed that excels in both milk and meat production. First bred in 1986, Kinder goats can only be found in New York State at Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters. The goats are incredibly friendly — if you sit on the ground you’ll soon find one crawling into your lap — and their medium size makes them easy to handle.

“We started with the Kinders two years ago,” says Wyant. “It’s a small herd, but we are breeding quickly and the herd will increase dramatically over the next two years. It’s difficult to start a large herd as first — there’s a limited stock in the area — so it takes time and patience to breed your own.”

Wyant and Williams are currently leasing 107 acres of land, but with goats, it’s not as simple as letting them out to pasture in the same spot every day. Since goats eat pretty much whatever’s in sight, Williams must move the electrified fence every day, a two-hour process to fence in a quarter of an acre.

Photo: Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters

While some of the goats are sold for meat, the dairy goats work for their food. Hudson Valley Kinders and Kritters has an additional business, Green Machines, which hires out the goats, who munch on overgrown and invasive plants (including poison ivy), leaving nothing but natural fertilizer. The friendliest of the good-natured goats also serve as ambassadors of the species when Wyant takes them on the road. Recently, she brought a pair to the Red Hook Library. On June 18, she will be giving a master class on raising dairy or meat goats at the Germantown Library. They’re calling it Goat School. “I love passing on the knowledge,” Wyant says.

Photo: Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters

Wyant didn’t grow up on a farm, but was a 4H-er in Red Hook and always dreamed of owning one. She had her own backyard flock of ducks and chickens, but in 2011 she and Williams increased the flock and started raising chickens. Now Wyant teaches “Chicken 101” classes and offers backyard flock kits for newbies. “People weren’t sure what breeds of chickens to buy, or where to buy them, or how to care for them,” she says. “We help them get their chickens and supplies, and offer lots of advice. They can rent or buy from us.” Delivery, installation and a one-hour training session come with each kit.

Wyant and Williams go beyond selling organic eggs at a farm. For a fee, you can adopt one of their chickens, choose a name for it, receive your personalized chicken photo and pick up your first dozen eggs. “People wanted to come see the chickens their eggs came from,” Wyant says. Adoption has its privileges. “We’re going to have an open farm day so people can visit their chickens and see the other animals.” They also raise turkeys for Thanksgiving.

The farmers, who are in the process of buying their own land, have a few acres at their home in Red Hook, where they keep their rabbits, ducks and chickens. This year, they’re expanding their garden so that they can sell herbs, sunflowers and heirloom varieties of vegetables — all fertilized with goat manure, of course.

And if that’s not enough, the couple runs the Hearthstone Motel in Red Hook. It’s Williams’ family business, and he’s been managing it more than 12 years. Now Wyant pitches in, too; like at the farm, it’s just the two of them making it happen. Wyant, who owned a marketing and social media firm for five years in Red Hook (and was named one of the top women in business in 2013 by Hudson Magazine) has retained some clients from those days, but she’s since combined her farming and media skills to focus on helping agricultural businesses with their websites, social media and general publicity. Her skills are evident in the Hudson Kinders & Kritters’ own website, as well as its lively Instagram and Facebook feeds. “I write all the copy, create all images, and manage all marketing myself. It’s one of my favorite parts of running the business next to hosting educational classes and events for the community,” she says.

Millie Vanillie and Cocoa-Bella with their mom, Cinnamon. Photo: Hudson Valley Kinders & Kritters.

As Wyant rattles off the many ventures she juggles every day, I look at her in awe. I ask her how she manages to do it all.

“We like what we do,” she says. “If I have to work at a motel, if I have to live in a tent, I’ll do it. This is my absolute dream. I feel like I was born to do this.”

Call it Vitamin L, for love.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/06/16 at 12:13 PM • Permalink

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