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Life & Work with Tina Ballantyne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tina Ballantyne.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Thirteen years ago, my husband and I along with our daughter and her family, threw caution to the wind and bought a ten-acre property with two houses, a Dunn barn, and little else. None of us had any experience in raising livestock, but we’d always loved animals. One day, our son-in-law brought home two baby goats. Thus began Giving Tree Family Farm. Over a decade later, we keep a small herd of registered Nubian goats, alpacas, Merino sheep, three potbellied pigs, and an assortment of heritage-breed turkeys and other fowl. We’ve learned by doing along the way and love to share our knowledge with others. I give educational tours with an emphasis on humane practices and offer workshops including the production of goat milk soap, cheese making, and felting with our alpacas’ fiber and sheep’s wool. I sell soap, goat milk lotion, felted dryer balls, and beeswax lip balm through our website and local shops.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
When we purchased the property, there was no infrastructure in place for farm animals. Much time and money was spent installing fencing, animal shelters, and event facilities. As soon as a pasture was finished, I would add a new species of animal! I eventually learned to focus on a few types of animals and concentrate on raising them well. There was a big learning curve with regard to animal husbandry. I had never given vaccinations, drawn blood, injected medicines, or trimmed hooves in my life. My daughter is a nurse midwife which has been very helpful when goats or alpacas have complicated births. Predation was another challenge. We learned the hard way that we now lived in mountain lion and bear habitat. Realizing that it was our responsibility to protect our livestock from what predators naturally do, we invested in 2 Livestock Guardian Dogs. We have not lost an animal to predation since!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Our animals provide us with milk, fiber, and wool. We have had to get creative with this bounty. Completely self-taught, I make lotions and soaps from our goats’ milk which I sell. I am also a passionate home cheesemaker, making daily fresh chevre, mozzarella, feta, and wheels of aged cheeses during the high milk season. My daughter is a fiber artist who uses our alpaca fiber blended with our wool to felt hats and slippers. We also sell dryer balls and felted soaps. Being a retired educator, I love teaching others what I have learned. I offer soap and cheese making workshops as well as felting classes. Tours are popular here. It’s a place where you can wander among the goats and alpacas and feed carrots to our pet pigs. During the tour, I teach compassionate animal husbandry and appreciation.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
I am definitely a risk taker. When my daughter proposed to my husband and me that we sell our home of 35 years and move to the country, I leapt at the chance to try something new. Although I have always had a love for all creatures, I had never owned any farm animals. I don’t think I’d ever touched a goat, and I’m sure I’d never been around an alpaca! The call to a simpler life filled with family and nature was strong. The mantra “You only live once” is one I live by.

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