Nittany Meadow Farm co-owner Mike Immel holds Pearl on board the Goats2Go bus on Friday, Nov. 18 on South Fraser Street in State College. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com
In need of baby goat snuggles? Nittany Meadow Farm will now bring them right to you.
The Boalsburg farm known for its popular goat yoga classes and visitation experiences has launched Goats2Goa small converted bus that will bring baby goats to snuggle and play at parties and events around the region.
Nittany Meadow Farm owners Tara and Mike Immel developed the idea after participants in the goat yoga classes (that’s yoga while the sociable animals run and jump around you) inquired about bringing baby goats to birthday parties and other events.
“We didn’t really have a way of transporting them, beyond a livestock trailer, which isn’t really great for baby goats,” Tara Immel said. “Mike and I put our heads together and said ‘How would be the best way to get them somewhere?’ A goat bus, of course. We threw around some ideas on what we would do to the inside of it. Our goal was to create a barn on wheels to make it feel like when you get on the inside you’re in a mini-barn.”
Goats2Go was on display Friday afternoon next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on South Fraser Street in State College, where a ribbon-cutting for the bus was held with Happy Valley Adventures, a joint initiative of the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau and CBICC to promote agritourism. Community members had an opportunity to board the bus and spend some time with the baby goats.
The bus has space for up to six adults or six children and two adults at a time. In the back is a small pen that Mike Immel opened up to the delight of both the goats and visitors.
“We can pretty much take them anywhere as long as we have a parking spot,” Tara Immel said. “The goats won’t leave the bus. Everybody gets on the bus; they’re contained. We can do it in any weather. Goats don’t like rain. They don’t love the snow. They don’t mind the cold but they don’t like really hot weather. So this way it doesn’t matter what we’re doing outside. We have AC and heat so for those respective times of the year we can use that.”
Inside the bus, the goats sought out attention from the humans, sometimes pawing at their legs like a puppy to get scooped up for cuddle.
Goats are “naturally happy animals” that generally like people, Tara Immel said. Still, they require some training to acclimate to being held.
“It’s work on our part but it’s fun work. It’s really enjoyable work,” she said. “We start handling them from the second they’re born. We’re there for the births and right away we start taking care of them and familiarizing them with us. Once they’re a couple weeks old, we allow visitors to come in and start interacting with them and they get used to being around people. They get used to being around sounds and noises so they’re not scared easily. We try to make it as good of an experience for them as it is for the people who are visiting them.”
Community members can hire Goats2Go for parties, events or “if they just want us to bring the goats to visit them for awhile,” Immel said. Nittany Meadow Farm also plans to bring it to festivals and other community events, including some special ones lined up for the holiday season.
The baby goats will be joined by Santa on the bus from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm on Dec. 10 at Rooted Farmstead138 Scott Avenue, Bellefonte.
“We’ll have a small fee for people to get on the bus. We’ll be happy to take pictures for them and they get to visit Santa and the baby goats,” Immel said. “It’s not limited to children. Children are welcome but I know there’s some adults that would love to see the goats and have a Santa visit, too.”
Nittany Meadow Farm is also working with Downtown Bellefonte Inc. for a similar opportunity at the Winter Market in Talleyrand Park on Dec. 11, although plans are yet to be finalized.
Goats2Go was made possible with help from Happy Valley Agventures, which awarded a $2,000 grant in May to assist with retrofitting the bus. The farm also received a $9,000 grant for construction related to goat dairy operations.
They were among 28 grants awarded through a program supported by funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, part of Happy Valley Agventures’ ongoing effort to support agritourism in Center County.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that the grant program was intended to do, was to stimulate this kind of activity,” HVAB President and CEO Fritz Smith said. “They’ve been doing goat yoga out at Nittany Meadow Farm for awhile and they started to get a lot of requests for people wanting to bring the goats to them. This vehicle purchase, for them to be able to do that is a perfect example of what the grant program intended to achieve.”
Smith added that Goats2Go is a creative way of growing agricultural attractions in the county.
“I think it is the most creative one,” he said. “Agritourism’s got a big definition and I think we just keep expanding it. Ultimately it’s going to pay great dividends for the economy of Center County and will help draw more visitors as we create more interesting packages and experiences.”
For visitors who interact with Nittany Meadow Farm’s goats, Tara Immel says the experience is all about one thing in particular.
“Joy,” Immel said. “People say, ‘What a great mental health break. It makes me so happy. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time,’ when we’re doing yoga. You just see the happiness on everyone’s face, when they’re holding a baby goat, when they’re snuggling them, when they’re watching them do their silly goat zoomies and jumping and bouncing around.
“You cannot be upset whenever you’re with a baby goat.”