Chaparral: Woody scrub brush, tough, scratchy, stickered, impassable and dense. A fast burning fire hazard. Prescott National Forest has 400,000 acres of it.
I met Tanya Baker and her daughter, Mikayla, to visit their goat herd browsing a hillside above Hidden Valley Ranch, a subdivision south of Prescott bordering Prescott National Forest. I was surprised to see such sweet, cute and docile animals chomping away with enthusiasm and vigor on tough and stickery chaparral. Cloven hooves step on the woody stems and tender, gentle lips nibble, nibble, nibble. When they have completed their munching job, it looks as if a gardening crew has trimmed and mowed. As it turns out goats prefer chaparral to grass or tree leaves. I’ve thought of chaparral, the common hillside brush as a lot of things, but never as something to eat.
What are the goats doing in Hidden Valley Ranch? That’s their job — clearing chaparral and creating firebreaks. The goat “treatment” cleans, clears, and even kills chaparral scrub. And it leaves the soil cultivated and fertilized so herbs and grasses return faster. The goats are contained to small areas with solar powered soft strand electrical fencing that Tanya strings up and across the rocky, steep hillsides. When the brush is cleared, the fencing and goats are moved to a new scrub zone. This goat “treatment” was originally funded with a federal grant through the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, a Yavapai County consortium of federal, state and local fire representatives. Currently the goats are working to create defensible space around homes all over central Arizona, and doing it with tender lips!
Chaparral is the reason Tanya and Rod Baker got into goat ranching. As realtors who really wanted to be ranchers, they pieced together Settler Valley Ranch, 4,000 acres of Arizona chaparral. Their intentions were to grow cattle but the acreage was grass poor. Then they noticed the BLM lease allowed for goats. Their acreage was chaparral rich. The message was clear—go with goats. Tanya had raised a few dairy goats in the Dewey 4-H club and had a rudimentary idea of what that was like. Since high school she had worked in animal hospitals and had some understanding of livestock. Seven years later Tanya, Rod and Mikayla manage over 300 animals: South African Boer meat goats, mixed dairy goats, Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs (who came with the Boer goats and are the guardians of the herd), miniature Herford cattle, pigs, chickens and horses.
Settler Valley Ranch in Dewey is green, off grid and runs 100 percent on solar power. The ranch operates utilizing Holistic Range Management practices (holisticmanagement.org). Tanya is a regular at local Farmer’s Markets (Prescott, Sedona, Verde Valley), selling goat meat, goat milk-honey soap, bees wax lotion bars, free range chicken eggs, and seasonal jams and jellies. They plan to expand with a line of range fed beef, heirloom produce and fruit. In addition all products are also available through their web site (listed below).
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Goat meat is the most popular meat in the world but not in the United States. Truth be told, I had never eaten goat before I met Tanya. I thought it would be gamey like lamb, but I was wrong. Goat tastes like beef—meaty and mild. It has as much protein as beef with less than 1/3 the fat. That is less fat and saturated fat than boneless, skinless chicken. There is only one way for you to know if you like it, catch Tanya at the Farmer’s Market (open in Prescott through the end of October) or contact her directly. Take some goat meat home and try it out for yourself.
TANYA’S SIMPLE GOAT MEAT RECIPE
1 Leg or shoulder roast, 2 ½ - 3 pounds
7 cups of canned green chili sauce
3 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
Chopped green chilies, hot or mild, to taste
Crushed garlic to taste
Put all ingredients in a crock-pot and set on the lowest temperature. Let cook for 6-8 hours. Check about half way through. When meat is falling off the bone easily it is ready. Use in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or anything else you can think of.
“We just eat it all by itself because it is that good!”
Settler Valley Ranch
928-710-3700 Web Site: www.SettlerValleyRanch.com Email: info@SettlerValleyRanch.com
Goat Meat and Goat Ranching www.boergoatshome.com
Prescott Farmer’s Market, locations and hours Prescottfarmersmarket.org
Holistic Range Management Practices holisticmanagement.org