-->

Home is Where the Heart Is


Raising Goats and Chickens on AM Acres

by MARY TOOTHMAN

When Maria and Tony Iannucci began to look for property and the lifestyle change that would come with it, they knew they’d found it at the five-acre Lake Wales site now known as AM Acres.

“We wanted out of the zero-lot-line environment and found the perfect property in Lake Wales in late 2009.” She says. “We can still commute to work and manage life on a farm.”

AM Acres — which got its name from Anthony and Maria — was a new beginning for the couple. “Having fresh milk and eggs for ourselves is a tremendous bonus.”

The couple’s dream site and its activities have surpassed fresh breakfast. On Easter Weekend, their goats had already gifted them 25 kids. They were welcomed, just like the other living creatures who take up residence there. 

The couple raises registered Oberhasli dairy goats and Black Copper Maran chickens. And there’s one Jersey cow — Tilly.

The goat population is at 50, and they have the run of secure pastures during the day. They go to the barn at night after feeding and milking. 

The 30 resident chickens are free-range and go into their coop at night. That protects them from predators, such as raccoons and coyotes. AM Acres started out with three goats in 2010 and a dozen chickens in 2010, the year after the couple purchased the property.

“We wanted to start small, and get to know the intricacies of raising goats,” she says. “People commonly believe that goats are garbage disposals and don’t require much management.”

On the contrary, she says. “They are actually somewhat delicate and require maintenance to be at optimum health and thrive.” In Florida, the soil is deficient in some minerals that goats need. Supplements are therefore required, along with diligent parasite control.

People may have the conception that goats can be put in a pasture and just hang out and keep the grass low — along with food and water. But goat “parenting” involves much more.

“It is a ton of work,” says the admitted goat lover, an exuberant personality who is quick to smile and welcomes adventure. She is clearly a natural at caring for her small farm animals, upon whom she is not averse to bestowing considerable affection.

There’s more to it than work; there’s the fun.

“This breed has personality. There’s nothing like goat kisses.”

As far as she knows, the couple may be the only Oberhasli breeders in the county. “There are a handful scattered around the state,” she says. “Some people raise them for profit or for show. We raise for breed standard and sell some of the offspring to youth for FFA or 4-H.” 

Even though there are so many on site, she gets to know them individually. “The Oberhasli breed all look the same. They are brown with black markings. But each one is loaded with personality,” she says.

And yes, they have names. There’s Brie, Bleu, and Havarti, for instance. Other resident goats have been more affectionately given names such as “Niblet” and “Tootie.”  

“In a herd of 50 goats, I can call Tootie’s name and she will answer in her particular and guttural voice,” she says. “I know it’s her from a distance.”

Tootie and the gang need quite a bit of care. 

“Aside from daily feeding, we milk by hand, stalls need frequent cleaning, hooves need trimming, and *kidding season brings on a huge layer of activity.”

May as well say it; it’s impossible to resist: She’s not kidding.

“It’s currently kidding season, and we have had 25 kids so far.”

AM Acres grows a garden, fresh fruits, and vegetables without using herbicides or pesticides. Mostly heirloom seeds are planted when they are available. 

Most small farm owners are not knee-deep in dirt and feed sacks for the financial rewards. AM is no exception. “We sell some of our product to help manage the feed bill,” Iannucci says. “We sell at farmers markets in Polk County, as well as direct from the farm by appointment,” she says.

AM Acres has a permit that allows the sale of milk for pet consumption.  In addition to fresh goat and cow milk and eggs, the farm makes farmstead cheeses, such as chevre, mozzarella and feta, yogurt, kefir, and ice cream.

It’s also neat to share how the farm works with others. Especially if they’re visitors who wouldn’t be opposed to picking up a chore or two while there. 

“We welcome those interested in volunteering to come see what it’s like,” she says. 

The journey of AM Acres over the last nine years has shown what having a passion and joy for what you’re doing can lead to. What started out as land with a couple goats and chickens has turned into a five-acre home filled with a large and loving livestock family.

 

*The term “kidding,” in the goat world, means giving birth.