When Mike Hoopengardner announced to friends and strangers, “‘We’re going to build a goat dairy and make goat cheese,’ people thought we were absolutely nuts,” he told about 50 attendees at the eighth annual Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs seminar Feb. 8 at the Batesville Intermediate School cafeteria. This year’s theme was “Small Farm Enterprises = Big Opportunities.”
He and wife Kristy Kikly own Redbud Farm, home of Caprini Creamery, Spiceland, one of three goat dairy creameries in Indiana. Daughter Jessica, 16, who does the milking, “is as big a part of our operation as Kristy and I are.”
The itch to become farmers began when the family had two goats and two llamas on five acres in Fortville. Whenever Kristy Hoopengardner tells her husband, “‘Mike, I’ve been thinking,’ I just cringe,” he joked. The Eli Lilly scientist with a Ph.D. “does research and she thinks” all day. Now she was pondering their home life. “‘Is there a way we can make money with these goats?’” she asked him.
They traveled to goat dairies and tried goat cheese.
Seven years ago, the couple purchased 57 acres, 7 wooded and 50 covered with corn stubble. Hoopengardner bought a Massey-Ferguson tractor. “Next to my wife and daughter, it’s my best friend.” He installed over two miles of fencing and will add one more mile to complete the couple’s rotational grazing plan.
The speaker highly recommended using Natural Resources Conservation Service expertise if building or amending a farm. “We have this cost-sharing plan ... We ended up getting $35,000 in cost-sharing. They gave us additional money to build fences.” He installed a 5-foot-tall one to keep goats in and predators out. The posts are 10 feet apart so it will last longer.
The farm’s watering system was suggested by NRCS. “Instead of a standard 4-inch well, we put in a 6-inch well 300 feet down.” Water lines are 1.5 inches thick instead of the typical 0.75. “We used a lot of this money to make this system better and make my life easier as we get older.”