Six and a half years ago, when Bonnie Panettieri and Robert Deacon were looking for a place to fulfill their wish list — land for goats and excellent veterinary services, a farmers’ market community and a top-notch STEM school for their gifted son Angelo — Knoxville ticked all the boxes.
As is so often the case, the former Florida residents and owners/operators of Pygmy Harbor Farm came to goat farming through a series of small incidents.
“I come from a large family and I used to make soap as Christmas presents,” says Panettieri.
Meanwhile, Deacon — a member of the Screen Actors Guild who does bit parts and commercials — had been shaving his head bald and had a hankering to use the old-fashioned technique of shaving brush, razor and mug. Panettieri decided she could make the shave soap.
She made extra and took it around to some farmers’ markets. “In Florida they call them ‘green markets.’ There was a green market across from our house. Robert said, ‘Why don’t you take some over and try to sell it?’” A business was born.
Why goat’s milk?
“Goat’s milk is perfect for people with sensitive skin. It’s PH-balanced the same as we are. Goat’s milk is the closest thing to human breast milk — very gentle on our systems. Soap in the store is not soap — it’s detergent, and it leaves a barrier. This soap rinses completely off.”
She’d been buying her ingredients, but the couple soon decided they wanted to go all in and raise the goats themselves.
Panettieri and Deacon established Pygmy Harbor Farm — with a nod to their nautical Florida background — in 2015, on five acres in Corryton.
“Nothing was here but the house. We built the barn first, fenced it in. Then we got Sister.” Sister is one of seven AKC Great Pyrenees that tend and guard the herd of 35 registered American Pygmy goats.
“A lot of people refer to small goats as pygmy goats, but these are actual purebred pygmy goats. The USDA classifies them as a ‘versatile’ goat — meaning meat and milk.” At Pygmy Harbor, it’s just milk and breeding. In addition to providing the basis of skin care products and soap, the goats are a research herd for the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center.
Lately, the adorable, friendly creatures have taken part in another successful venture — Goat Yoga. “Laughter and playfulness abound,” says the website. “Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty — the goats may or may not climb on you and your mat!”
“Caroline Iantosca of Smoky Mountain Yoga is our Goat Yoga manager — she was a godsend,” says Panettieri. “She and Heather Jagels of Mountain Zen Yoga Studio — they’ve got that whole women’s entrepreneur thing going on!”
Panettieri says she’d like to expand the enterprise even more. She’d welcome another farmers’ market on the east side, and “now that Angelo’s off to college I’d like to get involved with 4H. And since we started doing the yoga classes, I’m considering doing other types of classes — crafts, farm tour, farming, herbs, succulents.”
You can find more info at pygmyharbor.com, and be sure to check out their YouTube channel.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Corryton farm has versatile pygmy goats