MIDDLE GROVE -- There’s something to be said for the hard work of running a farm day in and day out, of living deep in the woods and of taking chances.
At least that’s what Phaedra Zoe Stasyshyn has found.
She runs Into the Woods Farm in Middle Grove with her two children, Drake, 15, and Rhedyn, 11. Together they host educational events, wilderness, nature and outdoor day programs, farm workshops, for families, 4-H groups, Girl and Boy Scouts and schools. They also hold goat yoga classes, both on the farm and all over the Capital Region.
“Hazel Fina is our PR goat,” Stasyshyn said.
Indeed, when The Gazette visited the farm, the young Nigerian dwarf goat seemed to be just as comfortable with people as she is with other goats, cuddling with Drake and following the whole family around. She’s one of several kids, or young goats, that call the farm home. The others -- Pan, Tank, Her, Indigo, Teg, Briar, Starr, Skye, Daisy, Rhea, Jitterbug and Saytr -- are just as friendly, though maybe not as cuddly. They leap, bound, snuggle and follow yogis, as they go into downward-facing dog or child’s pose.
Stasyshyn started the farm in 2016 when goat yoga wasn’t even on her mind.
“My goal for the farm and animals was to give my children more to think about and care for than themselves,” Stasyshyn said.
They started with hens, just a few. But their farm kept growing; now there are 30 chickens, three dogs, over a dozen goats and a barn/forest cat. Stasyshyn built everything from the chicken coop to the goat pens, with help from both Drake and Rhedyn. The two also help care for the animals every day, both before going to the Waldorf School and after.
Rhedyn, who wants to be a veterinarian, takes care of the chickens and shows them at agricultural shows. Fina has a special bond with the farm's dog -- Drake lovingly calls her the dog-goat -- and is friendly in the same way a puppy is. The animals, in other words, have become a big part of the family.
“We take the goats down to the bus stop,” Stasyshyn said.
Because the creatures are so comfortable around people, a friend reached out to her last fall, asking if Into the Woods would be willing to do a goat yoga class for a fundraiser. Though Stasyshyn was nervous at first, people loved it, so much so that people started inquiring about other goat yoga events. They’ve done several over the course of spring and the start of summer; Stasyshyn transports them using dog crates and the goats have come to like the car rides. At the end of July, they’ll be at the Vischer Ferry General Store and at the Saratoga Winery again. Other opportunities seem to pop up daily.
“It’s been a fast and furious journey,” Stasyshyn said. The goats have certainly been earning their keep, between goat yoga and events like Goats and Grapes at the Saratoga Winery -- where attendees sipped wine and got to cuddle and socialize with goats. At home, or rather Into the Woods, the goats also join with gentle flow or vinyasa yoga classes, taught by Christine Ricco, on Thursdays and Sundays. People have a chance to hang out with the goats for a bit after the class.
But it’s not only yoga.
“The idea is introducing people and guiding them through the farm and hopefully sparking their interest,” Stasyshyn said.
It’s the main reason they host Mornings on the Farm, which give people a glimpse into what day-to-day life is like on the farm: what life is like for the animals, how to care for them in a holistic manner and why they’re important not only for the eggs and milk they produce but for the therapeutic benefits as well. These events are free, though they accept donations.
Once a week, they also invite people out for a Wild Walk in the Woods. These are led by Drake and other members of Into the Woods & Under the Sky 4H. Drake, along with Stashyn, trained with High Five Adventure Learning in Brattleboro, Vermont, an outdoor adventure leadership organization. Along the walks, they discuss animal tracking, herbs, beavers, porcupines and host of things, depending on the season.
Over the past year, they’ve taken families, school groups, 4-H groups and others, out for woods walks across the farm, usually joined by a few of the farm's more social animals, including the goats. Grimm, their curious barn cat, has been known to try to make himself the focal point of woods walks, mostly hoping for a bit of attention, as the goats usually steal the show.
With 15 acres of woods and farmland to explore, with Lake Desolation just about a mile from the farm and with a waterfall to see along the way, the walks can seem like even more of a sojourn into the natural world.
“My life goal [is] to making a living, living the life we have grown to love and to create a place for education through experiences for the greater good of others,” Stasyshyn said.
Since Into the Woods started, people have been coming not only to teach their kids about farm life but for an escape.
“There’s a different feel up here,” Stasyshyn said.
The farm is isolated from the rest of the Capital Region in a way that feels freeing, rather than confining. One turns off Kilmer Road and drives along a dirt path through timberland for a few minutes before seeing the first signs of the farm. It’s like being transported to another time; though there’s still cellphone reception, using one seems out of touch. There’s too much to see and take in, too many reasons to be as present as possible.
It’s the perfect place to come for goat yoga and stay for an escape of a different kind.
For more information visit intothewoodsfarmny.com. Tickets for goat yoga are available on Eventbrite.
Into the Woods is located at 7222 Kilmer Road, Middle Grove.
Here's a look at the events coming up:
NY Goat Yoga In the Woods
6-7:30 p.m. Thursdays
9-10:30 a.m. Sundays
Tickets are $30-55
Wild Walk In The Woods
5-7 p.m. Fridays
Tickets are $20
Mornings on the Farm
Third or fourth Sunday of the month
11 a.m. -1:30 p.m.
NY Goat Yoga at The Vischer Ferry General Store
10-11:30 a.m. Sunday, July 29
Tickets are $40
NY Goat Yoga at The Saratoga Winery ENCORE!
10-11:30 a.m. Sunday, August 5th
Tickets are $45