CUMBERLAND — The Halls have always welcomed visitors to their farm and creamery since they moved there a few years ago.
But these days life at Sunflower Farm has become a never-ending party. Ever since a 35-second video of the Halls’ shin-high herd of baby Nigerian Dwarf goats went viral on the video-sharing website YouTube last week, the farm has been inundated with visitors, including complete strangers.
The video was originally posted by the Halls to give the new owners of the baby goats something to look at while they wait for their animals to grow old enough to go home with them. By 1 p.m. Sunday the video – “The Running of the Goats at Sunflower Farm” – had 2.34 million hits. Two hours later it had racked up 60,000 more. The Halls and their goats were written up in the New York Daily News and People magazine. The family was interviewed by a slew of television stations. Suddenly the Halls were famous.
“This started with two pet goats,” said Chris Hall, who runs the farm and creamery with his wife, Hope, and daughters, Lila, 19, and Tess, 16.
That was six years ago, when the Halls decided if they were ever going to have the farm they dreamed of, they’d better get started. Each girl was allowed to pick an animal of her own choice. Tess picked chickens and Lila opted for two Nigerian Dwarf goats, which have to be raised with at least one other animal or they get depressed.
“We thought we were good, but each year we seemed to get more goats,” said Chris Hall.
They soon decided they had to have a barn and sold their house and moved to a former horse farm down the street. Today they have a herd of 23 adult goats, most of them females, or does.
“They are stinkingly cute,” said Hope Hall.
The Halls, who are teachers at Thornton Academy in Saco – she teaches English and he teaches science and engineering – lease a male Nigerian Dwarf goat, or a buck, which hangs out with the does between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The idea is for the birthing season to coincide with April vacation.
The birthing season always draws a crowd at the barn. Many of those in attendance are the owners of the baby goats who will take them away two by two when they reach eight weeks.
Until then babies are coddled by the Halls and their new owners.
To give their mothers some relief at mealtime – the does typically give birth to three or four kids at once – the Halls take the babies out for a run, which was the subject of the viral video.
Both the kids and adults are exceedingly social and seek out human interaction.
“They are like puppies, really, only they don’t sleep on your bed,” said Tess.
The kids like nothing better than to be picked up and cuddled while the adults stick their necks out for a good rub. They dine only on second-cut hay, which is greener, sweeter and finer than first-cut hay.
“They are extremely picky eaters,” said Lila.
The Halls know all of the goats by name, even the kids. Each goat has a distinct personality. GoGo will give a little nip to remind a visitor to pat her, while kid twins Atlas and Orion have developed a reputation for being mischievous.
Hope Hall milks the does every morning at 5, except for a few months before and after the birthing season. Nigerian Dwarf goat milk is very high in butter fat and sweeter than milk from other breeds of goat. Each goat produces between two and six cups of milk daily.
Hall turns the milk into feta and chevre cheeses and caramel sauce that she sells on the honor system at her fully licensed creamery, where she also teaches cheese-making classes.
On Sunday, a crowd gathered in the goat pen next to the sunflower patch where seedlings were beginning to poke up from the soil.
Paul and Brenda Scruton of Sebring, Florida, sought out the farm after their children in Kansas City told them about the video.
“They said, ‘You have got to go see them,'” said Paul Scruton, who grew up in Cumberland.
Fay and Butch Carbo of Lake Gaston, Virginia, showed up at the farm during a weekend stay in Freeport for a wedding. Fay Carbo said her daughter in New Orleans told her about the video.
“All I wanted to do was come and see the goats. I am glad I did,” said Carbo.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: