Goats are everywhere on the Goat Conspiracy farm.
They are heard nibbling the grass or hay and moving around on the 46-acre farm as they prepare for guests to arrive. In an area dedicated for yoga, mats are rolled out and the participants enter the pen. The goats are curious about the new visitors.
Goat Conspiracy, located at 6022 E. Kent Road in Bloomington, is having goat yoga classes again in the spring with temperatures rising. The classes include conventional yoga, but with goats who climb over and interact with participants.
The farm has multiple types of goats including Nigerian Dwarfs, which are used for yoga, as well as Alpine-LaMancha mix goats and at least two Oberhasli goats.
The farm also offers tours, goat soap making workshops, goat cheese for sale and a rentable vacation home. They also offer goat landscaping, where customers can rent their goats to clear overgrown lawns.
The farm has operated for about five years and houses chickens in addition to around 145 goats.
Co-owners Josh Jackson, Nicole Schonemann, Mark Veldman and Tonya Plachy are trying to buy more goats as they continue to build their farm and its products and services.
Schonemann, the goat cheese and soap maker, said the group is a big “farmily,” because the owners were all friends before deciding to buy the farm.
Goat whisperer and milker Tonya Plachy said most of the goats used for milking are named. The names Pepper, Snowflake, Lollipop, Calypso and the farm’s mascot goat, Squirrel, can be heard during a visit to the farm.
The farm was named the Goat Conspiracy because when Plachy and Schonemann were discussing their plan to quit their jobs, sell cheese and work with goats, a friend said it sounded like a conspiracy, Plachy said.
The name also reflects the idea that the goats are in charge because they are constantly tended to at all times of the day, she said.
“It always goes back to the goats,” Plachy said. “They kind of run the show.”
When starting the business, Plachy said she had no prior experience with goats.
“I had agreed to milking goats and I’d never even met one or knew how to milk a goat,” Plachy said. “The first time we milked goats it was three people: one to hold the goat, one to try to milk, and one to fend off the babies.”
As the business navigates the pandemic, Plachy said it became clear building local relationships and supporting local businesses is valuable.
“We have a farm, but it takes a community to have a farm,” Plachy said.
Once the pandemic hit, Mark Veldman, who handles the finances, said the farm shut down like a lot of businesses. Once they adjusted to COVID-19 safety guidelines, they could reopen most of their services. He said the farm could sell products at local markets, but they couldn’t give out samples and most products sold were pre-ordered online.
Senior Gwen Greenaway, an intern at the farm, said Plachy is passionate about the farm and the goats. She said this makes her feel passionate about it too.
She chose to reach out and work for the farm because she wanted an internship experience and really liked the farm when she first visited last year, she said.
“I do want to have my own farm one day,” Greenaway said.