The more than 100 booths at University Pickers have just about everything you’re looking for in a one-stop shopping experience. And we want to tell you about one of them— about a teenager and her goats.
Lee Caroline Bryer looks like she stepped right out of a book—a modern-day Laura Ingalls, sitting on her hands around a farmhouse table as she talks about her business venture. At just 15, she has been running her own goat farm for four years, making enough of a profit selling goat-milk soaps that she covers her operating expenses and has a little left over for a college fund. She knows the names of 30 of her 38 LaMancha goats. The other eight will be sold, and rule # 1 of not getting attached to animals is: Don’t name the ones you don’t want to keep.
Sure, she’s a farmer. Lee Caroline’s parents run a blueberry and cattle farm on their 30-acre property, but these goats are her babies. She learned about the birds and the bees early on the farm, so the then 11-year-old, budding business woman (business girl?) wasn’t surprised when her herd grew from three to 38 in a matter of four years. Lee Caroline knows the personality of each animal, though they typically fall into one of two categories.
“Each goat has its own personality,” Lee Caroline said. “Some are super-sweet, all in your face, want to hug, want to be in your lap giving you kisses. Then there are others that don’t want any of that. They’re just like, ‘Feed me. I’m done with you.’ ”
There’s a definite contrast between the 15-year-old who runs a successful business and the teenager who knows each of her goats individually. As soon as she pulls on her polka-dotted, rubber boots and steps into their pen, the affectionate ones trot over to her for petting. Just like human kids, goat kids know how to manipulate her into scratching behind their ears.
It seems overwhelming that a teenager can juggle a dairy farm with 38 goats, school, friends, making the soaps and a small business, but Lee Caroline has it under control. She gets a lot of help from her family, especially her animal-loving mother Suzanne, who sparked the idea for a farm.
She called it Screaming Goats Dairy Farm. You’ve seen the videos—the attention-hungry animals scream when they want attention, and you don’t move fast enough.
Once Lee Caroline had her goats, she started making soaps to sell at area markets in addition to showing her goats. That’s a lot like dog shows, but the judges are more focused on the stature of the animal and it’s ability to produce milk.
There’s a special goat, Belle, who was born with a deformed shoulder. Lee Caroline was 13 when she took the kid in and bottle fed her every two hours, getting an early taste of motherhood. The weak animal even had to wear a diaper at first because she stayed in the house.
Lee Caroline didn’t give up on Belle. She taught her to walk on carpet by stabilizing her legs, and then she found a local chiropractor who freelances doing animal chiropractics. Lee Caroline went to every appointment, holding the sassy goat in the front seat.
“Belle rides shotgun,” Lee Caroline said.
Now, Belle is a mascot for Screaming Goats Dairy Farm, going to different events—even Redstone Village to comfort the residents.
“They all lit up when they saw Belle because most of them lived on a farm during their childhood,” Lee Caroline wrote in Belle’s online biography page.
Lee Caroline has learned a lot through her business, and she sells her soaps on Facebook and at local farmers’ markets. But her biggest source of income comes from her booth at University Pickers.
Trish Gleason, owner of University Pickers, was Lee Caroline’s preschool teacher. When she heard about Lee Caroline’s business, Trish invited her to set up a booth at the store.
“Lee Caroline is a joy,” Trish said. “She impresses me with her hard work and business skills. University Pickers loves supporting young entrepreneurs.”
Bed Times And Picky Eaters
It’s a common misconception that goats will eat anything, Lee Caroline said. In truth, they’re picky eaters, so she had to learn what they would eat.
Goats will, however, bite and chew on anything and everything in case it’s good food. Suzanne tells of one visitor who had rhinestones on her back pockets. The key words there: She had rhinestones.
Lee Caroline also knows her goats have a bed time. When livestock shows run late, Lee Caroline’s goats have refused to walk because they were already asleep for the night.
It’s those certain moments—picking up a full-grown goat to hold like a baby, waking them up when they are so obviously grumpy—where you see how much responsibility Lee Caroline has taken on.
The goats are like toddlers—curious, hungry, affectionate, stubborn toddlers who scream loudly when they don’t get their way—and Lee Caroline takes care of 38 of them.
We at the Community Journal love this story because we love to see our community’s teenagers already thinking about college, and who doesn’t love goats? Looking for that perfect gift? Check out Lee Caroline’s booth at University Pickers, click here.