Former college provost finds new passion as goat farmer

Beverly Robinson grabs the small, white goat as it tries to skirt past her legs.

She sidesteps a pile of manure, lifts the goat up by its budding horn and sticks a syringe in its mouth filled with medicine to prevent worms.

Between her 4:30 a.m. cup of Folger’s coffee and reading her Bible before bed at 11 p.m., Robinson feeds and waters her 60 goats, repairs fencing and tends to the pasture on her 22-acre Soperton farm in southeast Georgia.

Five years ago, Robinson, 59, a former college provost at Palm Beach State College in Belle Glade, traded in her high heels, designer handbags, suits and signature specially-ordered flower on her shoulder for jeans, work boots and a floppy hat.

Her “office” these days is Robinson House Farm, where she raises goats and sells the meat to a small, but growing number of restaurants and caterers. Last year, the business earned $2,000 a month in revenue. “I’m just a small fish in the pond,” she said.

Texas has the largest inventory of goats in the United States, with 820,000 head; followed by Tennessee with 118,000. Georgia is ranked sixth with 58,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The demand was initially fueled by the growing number of refugees and immigrants coming into the United States who consider it a meal stable, according to Brou Kouakou, associate professor of animal nutrition at Fort Valley State University and director of the Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center. In Texas, for instance, there are large populations of Latinos and Africans. Then, as Americans became more health conscious they began to consume more goat cheese, milk and meat.

According to, goat meat is lower in fat than chicken, but higher in protein than beef. Depending on how it is prepared, it is also low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol.

When Robinson first told her friends and family that she was thinking about raising goats, they thought she was crazy.

Who starts farming in their 50s?

“They didn’t believe it,” said Robinson, who bought the land about eight years ago after a cousin urged her to move closer to family. Robinson had never previously considered farming as a career, but she is happy to get back to her roots. “It really just began as a hobby farm,” she said. The real income, she thought, would come from a pottery studio that the property’s previous owner had left behind.

“I thought this would be just a little vacation place,” said longtime friend Leigh Woodham, director of the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center in Palm Beach. “I didn’t think she would become any kind of farmer, much less a goat farmer. She was always so focused on education and administration … She seems to think it’s fabulous and she has such a dynamic personality. I’m sure the goats will love her.”

Robinson earned a degree in speech and hearing from Albany State University in 1977 and a master’s degree in the University of North Florida in counseling. She didn’t plan to raise goats. She bought a cow but soon regretted that decision because it nearly worked her to death. Cows require a lot of water and Robinson found herself making five or six water bucket runs a day.

Then she bought two goats at an auction for $150. Two goats became four, then a dozen. People began to ask her about buying the meat. “That got me more interested,” she said.

Robinson recently became the first African-American woman to complete a master goat farming certification program at Fort Valley State University.

You could say farming was in her blood. Robinson is the fourth generation of farmers in Georgia and Florida. “It’s what we’ve done all of our lives,” said Robinson, the youngest of 10 children and the first to go to college.

“I grew up around animals,” she said. “My father was a hog and pig farmer. He had 30 of those. He had cattle. When it comes to pets, you couldn’t surpass us. We never had under five dogs at a time or 12 kittens at a time. My mother once even bought us a peacock.”

Still farming didn’t come easy.

She discovered she was doing it all wrong. She had to invest in good fencing because goats are “great escape artists.” She has to watch for hawks, dogs and coyotes that can attack the herd and learn when to deworm the herd.

Her two adult sons help her in the business at times. Initially, she named the goats but one son suggested she not do so to avoid getting too attached.

When she’s not tending her herd, she works for the GBX Consultants as a contract faciltator for the U.S. Department of Labor helping U.S. service members and their families transition to civilian life.

She hopes to diversfy the business into auctioning goats and building the herd so she can meet the demand.

“Farming is hard work, but I’m having a great time,” she said.