Do all the animals have names?
This and dozens of other questions from visitors to Blue Button Farm are patiently answered by owners Dennis and Holly Pryor before and during goat gambols through the woods on their 8-acre property. Though they sell eggs, sheep & goat fibers and a few crafts, the Pryors are really first and foremost farmer-educators who encourage their guests of all ages to learn about, appreciate and respect animals.
“I went to agricultural college,” said Holly. “It was my dream to have a farm one day. My parents were farmers so I guess it’s in my DNA.”
The mood is always upbeat because the four-footed residents are full of mischief and will perform and pose for photos for a few pellets of food which the Pryors provide. I can honestly say I didn’t have a goat walk on my bucket list until last summer, but I had so much fun that I went on a second walk and continue to visit Blue Button often to see what the Pryor menagerie is up to.
Preamble: The walk takes about 45 minutes, but before the outing begins, Holly offers a mini-lesson about goats and sheep and how to differentiate them. The sheep are not unlike those in the Serta commercial cartoons—cute and fleecy. They enjoy a handout and are friendly, except for Cody. Dennis says Cody is the shy one in the flock and that he usually doesn’t take to visitors much, but he definitely took a shine to my friend and fellow goat walker, Bill, who petted him gently and got a rare enthusiastic response.
In addition to the sheep and goats, there are also two horses, Bevin and Button. Bevin is a majestic Connemara pony and Button is a miniature horse, aptly named and very sweet-tempered. Then there’s the infamous Cubby, a female African leopard tortoise who scandalized the neighborhood when she escaped her pen and made it across the street to Dave Barney’s apple orchard in September 2020. A search party formed, and Cubby was found a few days later blissfully partaking of Barney’s fallen apples. When the temperature reaches 80 degrees, visitors can see her in her outdoor garden enclosure and those lucky enough to time it right can watch her devour a chunk of lettuce at warp speed.
The Main Event: The big moment comes when Holly and Dennis open the gates and the goats prance out, aware that treats are in the offing. For safety sake, the Pryors carefully control the pellet rations at the beginning of the walk and then at designated spots along the trail. The hike is extremely well-organized, with factoids along the way and advice about how to best enjoy the flora and fauna and the pretty vistas from an observation deck that Dennis built. “We love sharing the farm with others. When we take people out on the goat walks they have so much fun and are so surprised by the goats,” said Dennis. “They’re like trained dogs.” And they are. They behave because they love the rewards. To be fair they are also happy for the attention.
There are no concerns about getting bitten by a goat. “Goats don’t have upper and lower teeth formations like we do,” Holly explains. “They have one set of teeth on the bottom and a hard palate on top so they can’t bite. The teeth they need to grind food are further back in their mouths.” When you offer a few pellets in the flat of your hand, their lips tickle your palm. This elicits giggles from kids and grown-ups alike.
The goats are characters; they have distinctive personalities and are true performers.
The walks are not just for families with kids; they’re fun for everyone. In fact, Holly says, a group of seniors recently took the walk. She suggests wearing boots, especially if it has rained recently. Casual, washable clothing is also a good idea; the goats snuggle up close for those pellets.
The finale: The Pryors choreograph photo-ops for families and groups. They make great keepsakes.
There are many other programs at the farm. The Pryors frequently host birthday parties tailored to kids of different ages. There are a range of summer programs as well, including crafting, workshops, environmental preservation discussions and demonstrations, and group tours of the greenhouse and farm property. All visits are by appointment.
In June the Pryors are expecting baby goats whom visitors may come to the farm to cuddle. In September the goats will be offered for sale.
Holly and Dennis Pryor are knowledgable hosts and great teachers and they enjoy being overshadowed by Mint Chip, Curly and the rest of their delightful and frequently very funny crew of animals. Holly suggests directing requests for walks and other activities to: www.facebook.com/bluebuttonfarm
Photos – Jane Paley