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Emily Morgan is advocating for local and sustainable agriculture with the help of her kids.
Feisty, four-legged, hooved and hairy (and not to mention outright adorable) kids. By kids she means baby goats. Morgan, an agroecology sophomore, waits anxiously for them to be born every winter — a process called kidding (no kidding!).
At just 19, Morgan is the owner of a dairy goat farm, providing goat milk and cheese to local customers. Her schedule revolves around the rhythms of the seasons. December through February is an especially busy one. It’s kidding season. With the babies comes milk. With the milk comes cheese.
The new arrivals also mean it’s time for Go-Ga. No, she’s not doing baby talk with the goats. Go-Ga is short for goat yoga. Morgan decided to give it a try as a way to expand her business and also help raise money for the FIU Pre-Veterinary Society.
At first glance, goat yoga seems far from Zen. Kids hop around, nibble on the yoga mats and scramble to climb all over people while they move through different poses. While there may be a lot more laughter than silence, that’s the whole point. It’s also one of the reasons goat yoga has become such an important part of Morgan’s business. She gets to introduce local, sustainable agriculture to a larger audience — many have never set foot on a farm. She hopes she’s helping to close this divide between cities and rural areas.
Helping cities connect with rural resources is one way Morgan thinks she can help people live more sustainably.
“The idea of not urbanizing agriculture isn’t sustainable. Cities are never going away and rural areas are getting smaller,” Morgan said.
Morgan never thought she’d run a business. Certainly not at 19. And she definitely never thought she would be a goat mom.
Since childhood, Morgan dreamed of becoming a veterinarian to take care of cats and dogs. At Felix Varela High School, she took a veterinarian training class where she spent 500 hours in a clinic setting and earned a professional certification. It should have been a dream come true. Instead, those 500 hours taught her she did not want to work in a vet office.
She soon found another — unexpected — interest. One afternoon, a student in her vet assistant class asked Morgan if she wanted to help take care of the goats in the school barn. She agreed and was assigned a female. The goat was actually registered as “Alana” but would only answer to Aiyana. This outspoken goat with a lot of personality won Morgan’s heart and ignited her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Aiyana is older and a lot of the goats in the school barn were her daughters. So, it was like she had a little empire,” Morgan said. “So, I named the business Aiyana’s Empire Dairy Goats. It started as a joke, but just sort of stuck.”
That little empire is still going strong. And so is Morgan’s business. In fact, her veterinarian experience has even proven to come in handy. She’s regularly contracted by other goat farms across South Florida to help give vaccinations and trim hooves.
She’s also giving back. Morgan loans her goats to her alma mater Felix Varela so the students don’t have the financial burden of buying and taking care of a goat, but still get the chance to work with the animals every day and see what sustainable agriculture actually looks like.
Whether it’s lending out her goats or hosting a yoga session, Morgan’s message is always the same: If people want to make a difference and have more sustainably sourced options available, they have to buy sustainably.
“Farmers are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Morgan said. “They can’t give consumers what they want if they don’t have the financial backing or support. But, consumers have the power to perpetuate the industry and drive demand. They can help move the rock.”