Namaste with goats

Visitors welcome spring with a round of Goat Yoga.

Ella Hughes, 11, laughs as a baby goat perches on her back during a goat yoga class at Hux Family Farm on March 24, 2018. Durham County. Donna King, North State Journal

DURHAM — Down a winding back road in Durham County, Amanda Avery and her husband, Matthew Hux, have turned their love for farming and yoga into a business.

“We started with two goats and found that we loved them, so we added more goats and thought about doing full-scale dairy, but that is really complicated,” said Avery. “In the meantime, I started doing meditation with them. Then we started summer camps and opened it up to the public.”

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Amid various pens for the animals, Hux Family Farm offers three to four public yoga classes with goats each weekend in the backyard of their home. Visitors can stretch and pose while communing with baby goats perched on their backs. On a rainy Saturday in March, the class was more squeals and laughing than tranquility, as Girl Scout Troop 14 came to try something new.

“I liked to lay on the goats because they are really warm and calm,” said Ella Hughes, age 11. “I was so excited to see the goats, and once I got in there my whole mindset changed and it really helped me relax.”

The class definitely isn’t for those squeamish about dirt or farm animals, but the girls got a memorable chance to hold 1-day-old goats while their mother bleated, alarmed by the middle schoolers taking selfies with her babies.

“I liked how they put the goats on your backs and you actually got to play with them,” said Ava Ostendorff, age 11.

The couple also holds reading therapy sessions with the goats. They invite kids who are having troubling developing their reading skills to come read to the goats.

“I’ve had kids who are like, ‘I hate reading,’ and by the end of the session they refuse to put down their book,” said Avery. “Although the goats do occasionally nibble on the books.”

While both of their families were in farming, Avery and Hux are originally from the cities of Greensboro and Winston-Salem. They say they bought the Durham County property with the plan to create a self-sustained homestead for their family.

Now, between goat yoga and the Just Kidding Around summer camps, Hux Farm welcomes about 1,000 visitors a year with word of their unique class circulating mostly on social media. They have 30 animals, depending on the season, including horses, rabbits, geese and ducks. Soon they hope to add ponies, pigs and cows to the menagerie.

“We actually want to get more land and turn part of it into a sanctuary for rescued farm animals and the other part will be for therapy,” said Avery.

Agritourism, like Hux Family Farm, is a growing part of N.C.’s $85 billion agriculture industry. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is helping to build it by providing advice for farmers, and listings of field trips, camps and fun experiences for families.

“It not only provides additional revenue for farmers, but also serves as a bridge between the state’s urban and rural communities,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “For many North Carolinians, agritourism is the only opportunity they have to learn about farming and where their food comes from.”

To find some unique farm opportunities this spring, visit ncagr.gov.