Did you know that this month is ‘Goatober’? The campaign started in the US and came to the UK in 2016 as a way to prolong the lives of billy goats and to encourage chefs to put goat meat on restaurant menus. We hear from Carol Laslett of Street Goat about how the Bristol-based project is helping people feel closer to where their food comes from and more connected to the land.
Street Goat was set up by food activists, a group of citizens who wanted to see change in the food system. I have been a member since 2016 and love this connection to nature, while enjoying being a city dweller. As I described in a recent interview for The I, it can be tough setting out for milking in winter when it’s rainy and dark, but once your head is nuzzled against a goat’s warm flank and you breathe in the sweet smell of hay, it can be magical. You forget everything else.
The project started out at our Troopers Hill site in St George, but has since grown to four dairy sites including Begbrook and Royate Hill. For our milk, we all pay an annual subscription of £70 and agree to milk the goats at least once a week – we make up 30 households as part of the scheme. We bring our own containers to collect the milk, the yield of which varies depending on the time of year. In spring we might get two to four litres a day from a goat, but in the winter, more like a litre.
Another strand of our work is the grazing herds that graze on urban and peri-urban land on sites throughout the city – for example overgrown allotments, nature reserves, and brownfield sites. We collaborate with local councils to graze sites overgrown with ivy and bramble. These sites include Purdown, Goblin Combe, Parkway, Wick, and Raven’s Rock. Also Hanham Hall for meadow enhancement. Bridge Farm started out as a grazing site and became a milking one because we had some available girls.
I consider the meat from these herds extremely sustainable, given that we’re using land that would otherwise be overgrown. As well as the environmental aspect, something that I love about the project is the sense of community. Many of our Bridge Farm members agree as you can see from these quotes I’ve gathered from them about the project:
“I love being part of Street Goat. Being part of a supportive community that shares knowledge, community care and laughter. Seeing the way the goats bring people out into nature, creating more of an awareness of the animal food system in an environment where people are so often very removed from it. Being able to engage in looking after animals in a way that does not become all-consuming and is a shared responsibility. Allowing people to learn about using the whole animal. Spending time with the weird goats. Having a community owned not for profit access to high quality food. Being surrounded by creative ideas and good conversation. These are just a few reasons that I continue to engage with Street Goat.”
“It’s not just about the relationship with the animals and it’s not just about getting milk. It’s about having choice and influence over where my food comes from. For the first time I feel like I’ve found an alternative to the conventional dairy industry that I truly believe in. To be able to bypass the entire global food system and walk down the road to collect milk straight from the goats feels powerful and is the biggest privilege.”
“I really like Bridge Farm, it’s such a nice and relaxing place, very picturesque and everyone there is friendly. It’s very therapeutic getting to work with goats as they’re very intelligent and affectionate, and it’s always the highlight of my week getting to come to the farm and see them. Being outdoors and in nature and getting exercise from it is also really good for my mental health and helps put things in my life in perspective.”
As I said in the interview, urban goats are a no-brainer: they’re friendly and straightforward to rear, thrive on poor land, and enable city-dwellers to farm their own milk and meat. Why wouldn’t every city in Britain want to do the same?
Thanks so much to Clare Hargreaves for writing the article in The I and shining a light on our work nationally.
We are currently selling our goat meat – if you would like to buy some, please get in touch on Facebook.
By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.
Lead image by Ramona Andrews. Other photos by Ade Taylor from the Get Growing Trail 2022 at Bridge Farm.