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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Arts + CultureGoatchella returns!

Goatchella returns!

Forget that big festival in the desert this weekend. There are baby goats to pet!

You may think the youth of today are obsessed with their iThingies and digital whats-its, their crazy rock music and their weirdo festivals out in the desert. Wake up, gramps! Its time to ditch those Millennial stereotypes. The really cool kids are putting down their phones and picking up … goats. Get into it.

Goats! Baby goats! Photo courtesy of CUESA
Goats! Baby goats! Photo courtesy of CUESA

Last year’s Goat Festival — an annual celebration of all things goat-local from CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) at Ferry Plaza — went spectacularly viral. Redubbed “Goatchella” (since it takes place on that same weekend as the Coachella fest), it attracted thousands of people ravenous for goat knowledge, goat products, and some of that sweet, sweet baby goat lovin’.

There were costumes, memes, photobooths, smiles … and an incredibly media-savvy team at CUESA that stoked the attention with just the right amount of sly irony and hilarious tweets and posts.

Heck, there was even an Official Goatchella Survival Guide. This year’s Eighth Annual Goat Festival, Sat/16, 10am-2pm promises to be another bleating good time. And don’t worry, goats aren’t just for the kids. There’s something capri-fantastic for everyone here, including a lively scene and a great excuse to check out springtime at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on the Embarcadero. (Also, pro tip, nothing attracts potential dates like the sight of you cuddling a baby goat.)

CUESA’s communications manager Brie Mazurek spoke with me about Saturday’s goat throwdown, and some of the highlights this time around.

48 HILLS Last year’s Goat Festival was a huge viral success — are you expecting the same this year, and what preparations are you taking for crowds?

CUESA We were blown away by the enthusiasm for Goat Festival last year — but it was the Year of the Goat, after all! Right now we have over 6,000 goat fanatics participating in the Facebook event, and its growing every day. To minimize lines, the goat petting tent is ticketed this year. There will be opportunities to see the baby goats even if you don’t get a chance to pet them, and there are plenty of other ways to celebrate goats throughout the farmers market.

48 HILLS Will there be more baby goats to pet?

CUESA Since the festival takes place at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, our “hoofprint” for the petting tent is pretty limited. Toluma Farms will be bringing eight baby goats of Saanen, Nubian, Alpine, and La Mancha breeds from their farm in Marin. We’ll have a couple more goats than last year, but they’ll be taking turns resting. Our top priority is the well-being and comfort of the goats.

Goats from Toluma Farms. Photo courtesy of CUESA
Goats from Toluma Farms. Photo courtesy of CUESA

48 HILLS What are some of the unique highlights of this year’s festival, compared to last year’s? Anything you’re particularly excited about?

CUESA At the CUESA Classroom tent, we’re hosting a discussion about humane animal care and animal welfare certifications with representatives from Animal Welfare Approved and a couple local cheesemakers. There’s a lot of confusion among consumers about what “humane,” “grass-fed,” and other terms actually mean and how they’re regulated. We hope it will be a forum for people to ask questions and learn from farmers who are leading the way.

48 HILLS What was the original inspiration for the Goat Festival — basically, why goats rather than, say sheep or llamas? Will there ever be an alpaca fest?

CUESA For eight years, Goat Festival has been part of CUESA’s wide range of educational offerings, including everything from cooking demos to farm tours and youth programs, all with goal of connecting city dwellers with local farmers and food producers. Goat Festival is a great fit for us because there are so many great goat farmers and cheesemakers in Northern California, and because people are naturally curious about goats!

Besides being cute, goats are smart, they’re light on the earth, and they provide environmental services such as weed control and fire prevention, both on farms and in cities. Alas, we don’t have any alpaca or llama farmers in our farmers market, though we have kidded about hosting a Cowapolooza or Sow by Sowthwest. 😉

Photo from last year's Goat Festival by Amy Verhey
Photo from last year’s Goat Festival by Amy Verhey

48 HILLS I noticed the cooking demo this year is focused on goat cheese. Is that in response to activists who decried the goat cooking demo last year?

CUESA It’s not. Although CUESA was a questionable target, the protest last year was a welcome critique against animal cruelty, which is something we talk about a lot in the movement to promote sustainable agriculture. Animal agriculture is an important part of a sustainable food system because without it we don’t have organic soil fertility. Goat Festival is all about promoting humanely raised agricultural producers. This year we’re working with chef Mark Dommen of One Market to demo a goat cheese recipe. For anyone interested in sampling goat meat, 4505 Meats will be offering goat barbacoa tacos in the back plaza.

Photo from last year's Goat Festival by Amy Verhey
Photo from last year’s Goat Festival by Amy Verhey

48 HILLS Finally, what are some words of advice for people attending this year’s fest?

CUESA Arrive early to stay ahead of the herd! Pick up a map at our info booth and try all the delicious and locally made goat-themed offerings throughout the farmers market, like natilla (Peruvian goat milk caramel), grilled goat cheese and asparagus sandwiches, and rhubarb-goat cheese shortcake. Get to know our farmers and cheesemakers. And even if you don’t pet the goats this year, remember that there are so many great opportunities to connect with local agriculture right in SF’s backyard!

CUESA EIGHTH ANNUAL GOAT FESTIVAL
Sat/16, 10am-2pm, free
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, SF
More info here

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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