NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Happy Goat Luck Acres was the only full-time goat yoga operation in Indiana, and the owners said they were doing well until the Hamilton County North Board of Zoning Appeals told them to shut down.
Goat yoga first became popular on the West Coast and moved across the country. It’s essentially yoga with goats, with the instructor leading a normal class and the goats interacting as they please by climbing onto participates or just mingling around the participants.
Jordan Stevens and her partner started raising goats at their Hamilton County farm a few years ago. When goat yoga gained a following they provided goats to yoga classes.
Stevens said, “We saw how much the goats made us happy and we wanted to give people a way to experience how awesome goats are and that seemed to be a way people wanted to do it.”
A combination of transportation issues and the COVID-19 restrictions forced Stevens and her partner to stay closer to home so they offered goat yoga at their farm.
“We have an independent contractor for yoga instructors. We have two main ones that come and do the classes for us,” Stevens said.
The classes were in a small, fenced field on the weekends and occasionally on weekdays. On average, Stevens says, about 20 people signed up to do yoga with a dozen or so goats. She says the classes were going well until they received a notice in August from the zoning board to stop offering the classes at the farm. She says she and her partner were thrown into bureaucratic web of zoning boards and planning commissions.
“The issue was is that it is a business that isn’t in their allowed business for an agricultural area,” Stevens said.
Stevens says the farm is zoned for agriculture, and she thought the goat yoga classes would be a great agri-business.
Her family has owned this land for generations — her grandmother and mother live on separate parcels of the farm. Stevens’s goal is to earn a modest income from the classes and stay close to family.
She had planned to only offer the classes six months out of the year. But, in order to continue, she needed a variance or special exemption from the Hamilton County zoning board, which required that she prove not having the yoga with goats would be a hardship to the farm.
“At the zoning board meeting, we tried to prove to them that we are farm and why goat yoga can be considered agri-business, because they were also trying to say it was just a business,” said Stevens.
She and her partner were denied a variance and have moved the classes to the Tipton County fairgrounds. She hasn’t decided whether to appeal or not.