Gloria Richardson bought nine goats in 1999, motivated by a magazine article describing a growing market for goat meat. “It’s the most widely eaten meat in the world but not many consumers in Mississippi were familiar with goat,” she says. One year later, Richardson had 150 goats near Wiggins on the 57-acre farm her grandfather bought in 1895. “We definitely learned by doing,” says Richardson, who now operates G&M Goat Farms with her husband, Morris. Richardson spearheads the farm’s marketing through its website, msgoatlady.com. They sell goat meat (processed at state and USDA inspected facilities), milk and cheese from their farm and at farmers markets in Hattiesburg, Long Beach, Ocean Springs and New Orleans.
There were 24,528 goats on 1,533 farms in Mississippi in 2012, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, an average of 16 per farm. The number of goats sold from Mississippi farms increased between 1997 and 2002, from 7,991 to 11,098. The number of goats sold in Mississippi averages 10,000 to 12,000, depending on the year. Goats are well-suited for smaller Mississippi farms, Morris Richardson says. The busiest time of the year is during kidding, when goats are born, from November to February. “I spend a lot of those nights in the barn where they stay when they’re having babies,” he says.
The Richardsons welcome customers to visit their farm, frequently hosting school tours. “We give farm tours all the time and try to schedule anyone that wants to come,” Gloria Richardson says.