12/29/2012 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor
TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. — Goats were never on Stacey Sands Peterson’s radar growing up on her family’s diversified farm. However, the purchase of a goat from a livestock sale in Lebanon County changed everything.
“If you would have told me 15 years ago that I would have been showing meat goats, I would have laughed,” she said. “Who would have thought this place would be covered in meat goats.”
Stacey Peterson had grown up showing market pigs and steers, and working with horses. However, once that first goat arrived, she discovered her farming niche.
“It is not that big of a jump,” she said. “They are like miniature steer calves.”
At its heart, Ronsal Family Farm is just that, a family operation just north of Tunkhannock. Stacey said the farm name is from her parents Ron and Sally Sands. The goat herd today is about 20 head, depending on the season.
The Petersons focus on developing high-quality goats to be competitive both in the show ring and in marketing. They show at American Boer Goat Association-sanctioned shows and the Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair, and are returning to the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show.
The rest of the Peterson clan hails from Nebraska.
Brett and Tyler Peterson were tossed into the show world in 2010, around the time their father, KC, married Stacey.
Brett said that before moving to Pennsylvania, the only time she saw goats was at the county fair. Her father and grandfather competed in roping competitions, and she lived at a beef feed yard at one time, so she knew her way around beef and horses.
Goats proved to be a whole new experience.
Brett said her first show started with a crash course. On a visit to Pennsylvania, Stacey provided a goat that was well-trained and “showed herself,” according to Brett. At the show, she received tips from a fellow youth showman and additional coaching from Stacey. The day ended with a first-place finish and a reserve champion, and Brett was hooked.
Tyler quickly discovered he also liked showing goats, finding his own way to success.
Since their start, the siblings have found success, earning champion and reserve champion ribbons for their animals. They were also named 2012 senior and junior outstanding 4-H award winners for Wyoming County.
If there is one thing Brett gets a kick out of, it’s the surprise of her college friends when they discover she’s a farm girl. Social media is a big part of her life and photos of her goats can often be found on her page. She said she often hears that she doesn’t “look like a farm girl.”
“Just because I don’t wear my Wranglers all the time does not mean I am not a farm girl,” she said. Brett is a theater major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Stacey and KC, along with Brett, Tyler and the youngest sibling, George, will be among the many families who will exhibit goats and market swine at the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Competing at the Farm Show is not easy for a goat farm because this time of year is peak kidding season. Toss in the unpredictable weather, and it makes for an interesting time.
In 2011, the snow was flying during the lead-up to the show. KC thought the family should stay home, but Stacey and Brett persuaded him to load up the animals and head to Harrisburg. The show paid off as Brett and Tyler walked away with grand and reserve champion meat goat banners.
The Farm Show is something Brett and Tyler have come to enjoy as they spend an action-packed week showing market and breeding livestock over the course of 10 days.
In addition to the Farm Show, the Petersons compete locally at the Wyoming County Fair and are members of the Endless Mountains Community 4-H Club. They travel from Virginia to New York, and even to the Midwest, for Boer goat shows, depending on the number of point opportunities.
If a goat earns enough points through its show history as well as offspring, it can become “ennobled” or a permanent champion for the breed.
Stacey and KC say they are impressed by how many quality goat herds are cropping up in the state.
“From last year to this year, the quality has jumped,” KC said.
Brett said that until she went to her first Farm Show, she did not believe showing goats would be that popular.
Tyler, a a sixth-grader at Tunkhannock Area Middle School, said that many of his friends are envious of his family because Farm Show means time off from school.
Tyler said he picks out most of his own goats for showing and likes a big-framed animal with lots of muscle.
Brett will not be the only one adding social media posts about the family’s goats.
Stacey said social media has opened marketing opportunities as other breeders contact the family for bucks or breeding. It also has provided contacts outside the area for potential bucks for their own herd.
“With the social media world, that is how we got (a recently purchased) buck,” Stacey said. “You post your pictures from a show this weekend and everyone across the country knows how you did.”
Although the family has had a successful start in showing goats, it has not always been easy. For instance, one high-quality buck Stacey and KC purchased for their herd had a medical issue and died.
Stacey said it challenged them for one breeding season, lowering the number of kids for marketing and internal herd growth. But as she looks at it, that’s farming. Since then, the herd has bounced back and things are going well.
Brett said the whole goat-showing experience has been positive. For example, Brett’s wether goat had a tendency to put on too much weight. To keep him on the right path, she’d spend every morning in the summer running him until “we were both tired.”
It paid off. The goat had several jackpot wins at the Boer goat shows through the spring and summer, culminating with being named grand champion market goat at the Wyoming County Fair.
Brett said that sense of accomplishment is something she will not forget.