Jason Southers, co-owner of Goat Daddy’s Farm, plays with Abu the camel. Abu was nursed back to health after being rescued with a broken leg. Photos by Nick Sullivan
Down a narrow, windy gravel road in rural South Carolina, Goat Daddy’s Farm lies on 40 acres of land. Those who dare take the drive this Halloween might just meet 41 goats, 13 cats, 12 dogs, two emus and a camel named Abu.
The farm in Elgin, about 20 miles outside Columbia, is celebrating spooky season with its fourth-annual Halloween event on Sunday. The celebration is free to the public, and all the animals will be lurking.
The family-friendly event will include a costume contest for both children and adults. Games will be set up throughout the evening, including cornhole, bowling and cow patty bingo, in which attendees take bets on where Norris the cow will, well, do his business. Patrons can also stroll down the haunted trail, where local vendors will line up to sell their goods and a troll will await candy-seeking children. Despite the name, scares are limited.
“Nobody’s going to pop out with a chainsaw and be like, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’” said Jason Southers, the co-owner of Goat Daddy’s Farm.
Southers started the farm in 2014 with his partner Josh Slade, who is now his husband. Since then, they’ve devoted their work to producing humane animal products such as goat cheese and raw goat milk while also serving as a nonprofit animal sanctuary. The farm is open to the public for “farm days” every Saturday.
“You can truly tell that their animals are so loved, and they just take such good care of them,” said Brittany Waldrep, an Elgin mother-of-one who drops by the farm at least a couple times a month. “They’re wonderful people.”
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing from the start. The farm took time to build a name for itself and establish ties within the community.
“Our first farm day we sold like two cucumbers and a couple dozen eggs. I think we made $17,” Southers said. Eventually, he was able to quit his full-time job at SCE&G, now known as Dominion Energy. “Now, I’m just doing the farm and the animal rescue.”
The Halloween event has grown over the years alongside the farm’s popularity. More than 500 guests have attended events in the past, and nearly 300 have reserved tickets for Sunday’s festivities. Tickets are not required in advance.
Though the event is free, donations and purchases are appreciated, according to Goat Daddy’s. Southers estimates events at the farm cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to organize. Purchases help the farm to break even, with money left over to split between their own farm needs and helping other animal rescues.
Part of Goat Daddy’s mission is to support the local community. That’s why more than a dozen local businesses are coming to sell their products.
“It’s local,” Southers said. “You’re actually supporting a family and local employees.”
Regina Dreher, owner of Nettie’s Pride, is one of the local vendors making her way to the farm. Dreher started the business, which sells exotic and rare houseplants, in honor of her mother. Through the help of Goat Daddy’s, Dreher has found the support she needed to get her business started.
“It means so much to see people come out to the farm that typically don’t get outside, or typically that you see that they’re scared of bugs, or they’re scared to touch the animals, or scared to try goat cheese or new things. It really just means a lot to see those people,” Dreher said. “Goat Daddy’s bridges a lot of gaps.”
Outside of Halloween season, Goat Daddy’s hosts special events such as graduation and birthday parties. The farm also offers homestead classes, goat care classes and their most popular event, goat yoga.
The Halloween event runs from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at the farm’s location at 144 Tomahawk Trail, Elgin, South Carolina.
The baby goats at the farm have been socialized and interact with the public during goat yoga sessions. According to Southers, they “think they’re people.” These baby goats were born in March and can be pet inside their pens for $5.
The Farm Store is where Goat Daddy’s sells grade A raw goats milk, fresh eggs, goat milk soap, goat cheese and other gifts.
Meet Michael Jackson, aka MJ. The alpaca is one of several on the farm named after famous musicians. The alpacas sometimes come up to the fence for a quick pet.
Abu approaches for a close-up. The young 500-pound camel will grow to be about 1,000 pounds.