Please indulge me and listen to the story of my friend Jenna. I promise you won't be disappointed...
Nine years and 8 days ago. That is the day that I posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to take a beekeeping class with me. Eight months later I started my first two bee hives with a friend in a neighbor's backyard. Less than a year later I quit my job working for the federal government on a prayer and a whim with dreams of starting a honey company. I was on my way to East Texas to work for a bee breeder to try to learn about the craft of beekeeping...because I knew very little, but I did know that 8 months as a hobbyist beekeeper did not mean I was equipped to start a honey company. I drove to East Texas each week, living in a house that was falling apart and brought me surprises each week like an infestation of wasps and 8 inch lizards in the sink, working manual labor from sun up to sun down in the Texas heat, counting my stings each night in the dozens.
Also nine years ago. Jenna from Bee Tree Farm & Dairy moved onto some scrappy raw land she and her husband had purchased 4 years prior. She didn't have a barn or fences but she wanted goats so desperately she raised four baby goats on her front porch. Two years later she quit her job working in education policy for the State of Texas. Two years after that she opened her dairy and sold her first cheese on the first birthday of her twin babies. (the human kind!)
Jenna and I became friends the millennial way (though I think we both just barely miss the cut off to technically be considered millennial.) --through Instagram. I was jealous of her baby goat photo ops, and she desperately wanted bees on the farm. It started with a question from me: "Hey--wanna do a honey + cheese class?" A few months later we started a bi-annual tradition. A honey and cheese class on her farm, filled with delicious treats, cold drinks, and all the goat snuggles one could ask for.
Our first class was particularly memorable....Jenna texted me early the morning of. Her very first goat, Jolene, died giving birth. Jenna was utterly and totally distraught. I told her: "we should..no, we MUST cancel this class." But she was insistent that we continue.
I showed up that morning and Jenna had pulled it together. She was so cute in her boots and jeans and feminine, yet still somehow farm appropriate, tank top. We had a group of 30+ folks excited to be on a goat farm for the first time. We gave the group the real story behind farming goats, cheesemaking, beekeeping, and harvesting honey. The beautiful, the ugly, the hopeful, the forever heart breaking. As we were wrapping up we received word that one of Jenna's goats was in distress. She was in labor and something was wrong. We let the group know that they were free to mingle with the goats, but forewarned..if they stuck around they may get to see the more heartbreaking side of farming that you don't see on Instagram.
A few minutes later Jenna found Rose, a goat pregnant with triplets whose first baby had broken her neck on the way out. She was blocking the birth canal. The only option to save the remaining babies and Rose was for Jenna to physically remove the baby from the birth canal. Me and 30+ people watched as Jenna, in her purple flowing tank top, literally was up to her elbows in goat, reaching inside to clear the path. Just before Jenna pulled out the stillborn, she turned to the group, warning them that it may be traumatic to watch. I watched as the audience, mesmerized never took their eyes (or cell phone cameras) off the scene as Jenna saved the remaining babies and Rose. For weeks after, Jenna received requests from folks that wanted to book the 'goat birthing' tour. Jenna had to explain again and again how ag works and why scheduling a tour to watch a goat give birth wasn't possible.