by AARON BREWINGTON
Although business partners Tonya Plachy and Nicole Schonemann say they left their careers four years ago to work for themselves, in reality, they work for their goats. Their venture is The Goat Conspiracy, a goat farm on the outskirts of Bloomington.
Plachy and her partner, Josh Jackson, along with Schonemann and her significant other, Mark Veldman, make up the collective that sells—among other things—soap at Bloomingfoods, the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, Goods for Cooks, and Sew & So’s Alterations. Each has an area of expertise that the others respect. “We make all decisions by consensus but defer to everyone in their area,” says Schonemann, who makes the soap and cheese.
Little by little they have expanded their offerings. From selling soap, eggs, and meat, along with renting out a cabin on the property, the group started offering goat yoga in the spring and recently got the go-ahead from the state to start producing cheese to sell. “Having the rental cabin—a good source of income—supplemented with selling eggs and soap, allowed us to take our time and grow slowly,” business expert Veldman says.
Taking their time also allowed them to create a farm with sustainability in mind. The desire to bring that mindset to the community led to another venture—goat landscaping. “Goats work well at getting into spaces that equipment can’t, and they like eating nuisance plants,” says Jackson, the property’s handyman. “They are better for the environment and they fertilize the soil while they work.”
The farm raises Nigerian Dwarf goats, a less efficient breed, producing just one-sixth the milk in a day as other breeds, but the milk is rich, high in both butterfat and protein.
With several generations of goats under their belts, farm management is a real concern lest the goats take over. “They started out as pets,” Plachy, the resident goat expert, says. “But there comes a point when you start having to decide which have the genes that you want to pass on.”
For more information, visit thegoatconspiracy.com.