Baby goats enjoy a moment of snuggling in the Adamah barnyard. Photograph by Meredith Cohen.
I don’t know many people who are immune to the cuteness of baby goats.
They are fluffy, and tiny, and gangly, and wobbly. They like to climb on top of things and then immediately leap off, limbs flying. They make hilarious noises, and will literally climb all over you if you let them. Vegans and omnivores, city folk and farmers alike, all seem to agree: Baby goats are the cutest.
Here at Adamah in Falls Village, Connecticut, excitement has turned to joy with the arrival of this year’s baby goats.
A newborn kid (baby goat) is an incredible thing to observe. As soon as it is born, its mother will begin to lick it clean until it is transformed from a gloopy mess into a tiny puff ball of cuteness. Then, within moments of arriving into the world, the kid will attempt to stand on its own for the first time (with lots of heart-breaking and adorable tumbles along the way).
I will always remember the first time I stood at the barnyard with a group of family and friends and watched a newborn kid walk for the first time. We huddled around, completely rapt, quietly watching the kid with as much enthusiasm and suspense as if it were an Olympic athlete attempting a new world record, literally cheering and embracing each other when it stood and walked for the first time.
It is miraculous to see a brand new being in its first moments of life, guided by instinct that feels impossible to fully understand or explain. It is an awe-inspiring experience that has deeply affected me.
But it is not just the births themselves that have changed my life — it is their connection to the food choices I make every day. Witnessing the birth of our baby goats has fundamentally changed my relationship to dairy — because as miraculously cute as all of this is, cuteness is not actually the reason we breed our goats to give birth every year.
Adamah is a working farm, and our goats are dairy animals. We breed our does to give birth each year so that they will produce milk that we humans can drink. If they don’t give birth, they don’t produce milk. And at the end of the day, cuteness aside, that’s why we keep and take care of our goats — because their milk is a valuable food to us.
I’ve always known intellectually that milk comes from lactating mammals, but before I came to Adamah two years ago, I can’t say I gave it that much thought. I bought a carton of milk every week and never imagined the possibility that I would ever have a job on a farm, caring for a herd of dairy goats. Now, I marvel at the fact that I was able to spend the first 30 years of my life drinking milk without witnessing the miracle of birth.
After caring for our goats every day for the past year, it has become impossible for me to pick up a carton of milk without imagining the lives of the animals it came from. Do they spend most of their day outside or inside? How much room do they have to roam around? Do they eat grass? Are they out at pasture, or are they stuck inside a stall all day? What happens to the calves and kids they give birth to?
I can no longer disconnect the milk in the carton from the experiences I’ve shared with our goats, and I don’t want to drink milk that came from an animal that isn’t healthy and living a full animal life.
On Passover, we are encouraged not just to tell the story of the Exodus, but to actually relive the experience of the story, to imagine that we ourselves are coming out of slavery and into freedom. What a powerful and difficult task – to find ways to connect to an actual experience, not just listen to a story. It is our experiences that change our minds and our actions more than anything else.
So if you can, visit a farm this spring. Cuddle a baby goat, or any baby animal; learn about its mother’s life, and who the farmer is that cares for it. As we appreciate our freedom and our food this Passover season, may we be truly impacted by these experiences, and carry them with us throughout the year.
Meredith Cohen came to Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for a short-term Adamah fellowship n the summer of 2013 and never left. She now serves as Field Apprentice and Barnyard Manager, getting to spend her days in the fields, barnyard and pastures of the Adamah farm with a community of humans and animals.