New Farmers Create Paradise in Wimauma
Give me land, lots of land…..
Lisa and Jason Hast knew they wanted lots of land and a home big enough to accommodate their large, blended family. Unfortunately, they knew they wouldn’t find it in Apollo Beach, but they kept their sites close to home.
“We have an old-fashioned family,” Lisa says. “And, we love it. It’s a commune family.”
Lisa and Jason’s grown children, or most of them, have come to live at home again. When most parents work for the day their children become independent and move out, Lisa and Jason welcomed theirs back home with open arms. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
They also liked the idea of having a lot of land because of the privacy it affords. Finding the right property wasn’t an easy task, though, especially in the quickly growing South Shore. More and more developments = less and less land.
“It took us forever to find the right property,” says Lisa, whose family owns and operates the South Shore area’s oldest insurance company, East Bay Insurance, “I looked on every real estate site for months. Fortunately, our realtor stuck with us. This property [new home] was a foreclosure in Wimauma, but it was perfect. We jumped as soon as we saw it,” she adds.
The Wimauma property was absolutely perfect…. if you could envision it through the thick, overgrown Florida scrub that covered most of the 3 acre property. Jason spent every weekend for months clearing the land and Lisa spent her time working on the home’s interior.
Got Lots of Yard Work? Get A Goat
Clearing the land, oddly, led Lisa and Jason to farming. Well, it led them to farm animals.
“A buddy knew how much I was working on the property,” Jason says, “and he suggested we get some goats. They’ll eat anything. My friend thought they could help us clear the land and to keep it clear.”
So, Lisa and Jason got two goats, Barnie and Bailey, and officially became farmers, adding to their pack of 6 Chihuahuas and three cats.
A Goat Learning Curve
“Our first goats were a huge learning curve,” Jason says. “We didn’t know anything about raising them. I studied and read a lot.”
Lisa and Jason relied on Dr. Britts, too, a local farm animal vet. The 80-year old vet knows more than a thing or two about goats and farm animals. He was a constant resource for Jason and Lisa, sharing with them the do’s and don’ts for feeding, dealing with potential health issues and, general caring for the animals.
“I wrote down everything he told us,” says Jason. “And, I kept a list of questions for each of Dr. Britts’ visits.”
Heartbreak Leads to Valuable Learning
Lisa and Jason experienced heartbreak early on when a neighbor’s large dogs attacked their two goats. One had to be put down, and the other took a lot of commitment to nurse back to health. Today, Barnie, is doing well and enjoying her super-sized farm family.
The experience toughened Lisa and Jason up pretty quickly. They learned farming wasn’t going to be easy, but they were 110% committed. The awful experience also taught them about managing their large property and protecting the animals.
First, Jason learned to walk the property every week to look for holes or damage to the fencing.
“This takes a lot of time,” Jason says, “but it’s absolutely necessary.”
Second, they invested in Ruger.
Ruger Saves the Day
Ruger, a livestock guardian dog, came from Fort Lonesome Farm Dogs, a farm that exclusively raises livestock protection dogs.
He’s a giant. Ruger’s mom is a Great Pyrenees/Plott Hound and his father is a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd
Ruger’s instincts are huge, too. Lisa and Jason got him as a puppy and part of his training included Ruger living only with the animals he would grow up to protect. He’s never been inside the family home. Today, he simply thinks he’s one of the goats or lambs or chickens (yes, Lisa and Jason got more animals. Keep reading….)
Ruger eats with the farm animals and sleeps with them, although he sleeps during the day so he can stay on patrol at night. This was a skill Lisa and Jason did not have to teach him. It was pure instinct.
In the short 15 months Lisa and Jason have had him, Ruger’s already proven himself. He thwarted a bobcat attack and has caught more than one snake.
“He’s our little savior,” Lisa says. “He doesn’t bark unless he needs to warn you.”
Of course, when you meet Ruger you think he’s just an overgrown lap dog. He’s as sweet as he can be. The only noticeable ‘protection’ you’ll see is he always places himself between you and the animals. He also likes to sit on you.
So, this gentle giant is also a don’t-mess-with-my-animal-buddies-ever kind of dog.
The Growing Farm Animal Brood
I mentioned Lisa and Jason got more animals, right?
Once Lisa and Jason had their first two goats they were hooked. At first, they got more goats because they felt comfortable caring for them. Then, they expanded into chickens and sheep.
Today, just two years after moving onto this property, they have a full house: 7 goats, 2 sheep, 2 baby lambs, 14 chickens, 6 Chihuahuas, three cats and one Ruger.
The two baby lambs were just born in January. Jason built a special barn for them, aka ‘The Nursery’ (seen here under construction and completed)
“The chickens are pretty maintenance free,” Jason says. “Once their grown past 6-8 weeks, they’re really easy to care for and nothing tastes better than fresh eggs, either.”
Lisa is the official animal namer. She opts for old-fashioned people names.
“We don’t eat our animals. They’re pets,” she explains.
“Rupert is my stud goat,” Lisa says. “Lola is the dare devil goat. She’ll find the highest thing and jump off and try to spin as many times as she can. She’s hell on wheels,” Lisa adds.
Rupert the stud…..
Lola the dare-devil and Jefferson the sheep….
Barnie the clown….
Other goats include Maybelle, a Nigerian Pygmy Dwarf goat, Clementine, Jasmin, Stanley and Barney. They have several varieties, too. Lola, the dare-devil goat, is a Spanish goat. The Hasts also have Nigerian Pygmy goats and Nigerian Pygmy Dwarf goats.
The sheep are Sophia and George Jefferson, named for the 70’s sitcom characters from Moving on Up. Their new baby lambs? Weazy and Willis.
Jefferson is a Katadin Sheep.
The chickens are Rhode Island Reds and Burgundy Reds.
Hooked on Farming at Little Foot Farm
Lisa and Jason have found their own piece of paradise and they have no intention of ever leaving their Wimauma farm. In fact, if they can expand it one day they will. They have a longer term goal to turn the farm into a ‘green belt’ property, which requires they follow specific processes and grow their broods, which is happening naturally.
Maybelle, Clementine, Jasmin and Lola are all pregnant (Rupert’s been a busy stud). Lisa and Jason are expecting baby goats in March, April and May. Jason’s busy building another nursery to accommodate the growing goat clan.
While both continue to work, Lisa in insurance and in the family’s event planning business and Jason as a chef and caterer in the event planning business, they both freely admit their first love is the farm. Fortunately for us, they also love sharing their farm and story, too. Check out their events and catering website.
And, while the farm and the work required to maintain it could easily count as a second full-time job for both Lisa and Jason, neither would have it any other way.
They’re both madly in love with their Little Foot Farm.
Life on Little Foot Farm video courtesy of Little Foot Farm Facebook page.