‘Goat Getters’ builds special friendship, career goal
When 11-year-old Avery Hanaway raised her first goats, she did so on a whim and suggestion from her mother’s friend to try something different. Today as a 19-year-old college freshman, Avery continues to grow in knowledge and appreciation for the Capra hircus breed she has come to know and love on her family’s acreage south of Independence, Iowa.
“I like it and there’s a sense of community among all of us who raise goats,” she recalls. “We get to share funny stories. Back when we started, we were one of the first places in the county. Now there are at least six or seven goat producers, and we have even passed up the number of beef farmers.” Livestock produced in Buchanan County, in northeast Iowa, are chiefly hogs and pigs.
In 2014 her mother gave her $100 to ride with a friend to the Kalona Sales Barn in southern Iowa, thinking Avery might purchase one or two goats. She ended up with three, along with two guinea pigs and a rabbit. She named the male goat Charles Henry—after her grandfather—and is now on her eighth goat with this name. She named the does Sassy Sue and Betsy Lou.
A special friendship
Last summer during the Buchanan County Fair, Avery was one of several exhibitors who paired up as mentors to individuals with intellectual disabilities in showing goats through a program called “Goat Getters.” It is based on the Bacon Buddies program of the Iowa Pork Producers Association which premiered at the 2019 Iowa State Fair, pairing Special Olympics athletes with 4-H and FFA swine exhibitors.
“We figured goats are more low-key and friendly than swine with a built-in sense to control their behavior better around those with special needs,” says Avery. “My goat, Buddy, was paired up with Kim—the sweetest girl I’ve ever met—and she was very excited to walk out in the main ring with him. At first Kim was kind of shy, but she has since talked her parents into getting goats themselves on their dairy farm.”
Buchanan County was the first in Iowa to offer Goat Getters and will be repeating it again in 2022. Funded through an Iowa 4-H Foundation grant and local donations, it may expand into other counties and the Iowa State Fair.
Grade school to college
Avery became involved with the Clover Kids 4-H Club while in second grade, mostly showing clothing at the Buchanan County Fair. As she grew up, she became president of the club and then reporter. Upon entering high school, Avery became involved in FFA where she progressively held office as reporter, VP, and president — and then became VP at a district level before being elected to state FFA office as Northeast Iowa VP this year.
Now attending Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo as an animal science major, Avery plans to transfer to Iowa State University in two years to study agricultural education. “Goat Getters involvement sparked a passion in me and I’m in love with ag education.”
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