With bright purple paint on a 1947 Farmall tractor, a John Deere manure spreader, and a garden fence, Ada Austin attracts attention, especially in the middle of Amish country in Harmony, Minnesota.
Referring to herself as the Old Goat Woman, Ada has proven to be a savvy marketer. She has created a retail business on her acreage based on her 150 Angora goats. In turn, the business provides work for stay-at-home moms and educates tourists about Ada's animals.
It started when Ada retired from driving a school bus. About two months into retirement, she realized she couldn't stick to a budget when it came to buying gifts for her grandchildren. She fell in love with Angora goats because she figured she could handle them on her own, and she decided two paychecks a year selling their mohair was just the ticket.
She and husband Jim responded to an ad for a flock in Rogers, Minnesota. The couple wanted 10, but the owner said it was all 130 or none.
Jim thought the price was right so he started fencing their 11 acres. Ada and two friends drove pickups and stock trailers and loaded goats on a hot summer day.
When they arrived home, they opened the trailer doors and goats leapt out. As they sorted them by size, the Austins discovered they had 33 billy goats. They found a buyer but were paid very little. "We were totally green," Ada says.
Between trial and error and help from a good shearer and veterinarian, Ada figured out how to care for goats.
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