Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Dancing Goat finds its farm-to-table groove in Westchase

WESTCHASE — Pamela Martin Lunn calls herself a "refugee from corporate America."

She found her refuge on a 3-acre farm near Westchase.

Before the self-described former "yuppie" traded in her blazer for a pair of overalls, the 62-year-old dairy farmer spent some of her corporate years plotting out the path on the Veterans Expressway, the 14-mile toll road that opened to commuters in suburban northwest Hillsborough County in 1994.

Within a few short years, she and her husband, Jim, had settled into a country spread located less than 4 miles from the highway that symbolizes her corporate career.

Not long after staking a claim in the formerly rural Twin Branch Acres neighborhood, the Lunns slowly turned their home into an animal sanctuary. First came the horses, then goats.

Now, more than 1,000 animals, including hundreds of quail, dozens of chickens, 40-odd goats, a clowder of cats and an inquisitive alpaca reside on the Dancing Goat farm. The Lunns will stage an open house Saturday.

"I didn't need acrylic nails or fancy suits anymore," Lunn said. "My mom says she can't believe I have a college degree and I'm milking goats and gathering eggs."

Lunn loves all of her animals, but it's the goats that helped it earn its name. The couple dubbed it the Dancing Goat in August 2007 after friends began requesting artisan soap made from goat milk, things she once offered only as gifts.

"Folks really liked the bath soap," said Lunn, who now offers 55 to 60 varieties. "Patchouli mint charcoal is popular, and lavender is always a big seller."

She sells her soaps, farm-fresh eggs from free range chickens and a variety of other products at several local weekend markets throughout the year, including the Saturday Market in downtown St. Petersburg and Sunday Market at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Town 'N Country. Lunn estimates she's served tens of thousands of customers over the years.

Her farming operation has become so large that she has to enlist the help of staff and volunteers, including 28-year-old Shawn Wright. He started off at the farm four years ago milking goats, but now he is master dairy chef.

"I have been involved in restaurants and the culinary world since I was 14," Wright says. "Then I got into fermentation."

Now, he concocts an array of cheeses, a type of milk called kefir, yogurt, and other farm-fresh dairy goods that are marketed for pet consumption.

Lunn says the farm-to-table movement has benefitted the farm.

"It has raised awareness that there are foods available locally, not just in the grocery store," Lunn said. "The increase of farmer's markets has really made people aware of the choices available to them in a venue that they might not see in other places."

Farming is something Lunn thinks she will also always be doing, even as neighbors in the Westchase-area community build "McMansions" and SUVs outnumber tractors. It wasn't always like that there. Her neighborhood was built in the 1980s by a developer who wanted a safe place for his daughters to ride their horses. Lunn explains the Right-to-Farm Act grandfathers her existing farm operations into the urbanizing neighborhood.

"People building homes around here want to turn this into Westchase." With a subtle rural twang of her native West Virginia, Lunn says matter-of-factly, "Well, they can kiss my grits."

Contact Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez at hil[email protected]

 
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