Jordan Stevens, a farmer in Hamilton County, has run Indiana’s sole goat yoga business since the outbreak. The planning authorities have since forced her to cease offering this service because the property isn’t zoned for goat-yoga uses.
The county also rejected her application for a zone variance, which would have allowed Happy Goat Lucky Yoga to be legalized. Stevens with multiple sclerosis considered closing down her goat-yoga business and applying for disability benefits.
She says, “It suckers.” There are reasons. They take money from taxpayers, and we don’t have the funds to do things on our property.
Stevens founded Happy Goat Lucky Yoga in 2018 with her partner. In 2018, Stevens and her partner started Happy Goat Lucky Yoga. At that time they had already been raising Nigerian dwarfs goats at their family farm. The rising popularity of goat yoga—where people strike traditional yoga poses while goats clamber on and around them—presented both a business opportunity and the chance to share her goats with the community, she says.
The Hamilton County Reporter It was also the sole full-time goat yoga enterprise in Indiana.
Stevens first rented space at a local counseling center for the classes. Then she hired contractors to tutor them. Stevens decided to transfer her business from the city after the centre closed during the pandemic. She also wanted to be able to teach classes outdoors and because her car broke down.
Every class was attended by about 20 people. Stevens said that it was a great success with the community. The goats loved it too.
She said that “they thrive on human interaction.” We have separate pen on the farm where we teach classes and the animals run directly into it.
Stevens started having issues with Hamilton County Plan Commission this summer after she was contacted by staff from Hamilton County. The staff claimed that Stevens had been contacted by Hamilton County Plan Commission staff after a neighbor complained. They then conducted an investigation and discovered her farm was not in compliance with its agricultural zoning.
C.J., Director of Plan Commission wrote that “I have concluded that the operation and management of your goat yoga or goat snuggling business are not allowed uses in this current classification for your property.” Taylor sent an email on July 29, 2009. “You must immediately cease any business activity on this property.”
Stevens’ farm is designated as an A-2 agricultural area. Her grandmother also owns the property adjacent, which was where the yoga classes were held.
This permits Hamilton County to use the land for various agribusiness activities. These include raising livestock and selling agricultural products at retail. Taylor explained that none of the above allowed goat snuggling or yoga. The business would need to apply for a zoning variance to be allowed to continue operating legally.
The email contained a request for a variance and the suggestion that she contact state Departments of Building Inspection and Transportation in order to obtain their feedback on legalizing her operation.
Stevens was taken by surprise when she learned that her goat yoga business was technically illegal. Stevens had assumed that the agricultural zoning would allow a goat-based operation. She says the timing could not have been better. The classes are only offered from May to October. Their busy season was the reason they were forced to close.
Stevens and her partner also plan to adopt a foster child, but they don’t have the income.
Stevens applied for the zoning variance, despite being discouraged. Happy Goat Lucky was her business plan. Stevens also posted signs in county about a forthcoming public hearing. Her application was to be sent to nearby property owners by certified mail.
Stevens paid about $1,000 for all this and a $500 application fees. She estimates that the $4,000 in lost revenue she suffered from not hosting classes for two months cost her an additional $4,000.
All for nothing.
Staff at the commission advised her that she needed to file two variances for the property her grandmother owns where classes are held. Another would be for the farm her neighbour keeps goats. Stevens was unable to afford this second application due to the high cost.
It was an uphill battle all along,” she said. I feel that it was being made as hard as possible.
After the initial hearing, Plan Commission staff gave Happy Goat Lucky’s application an unfavorable recommendation. The Board of Zoning Appeals met in September but the situation was not better. Officially, her application was rejected.(*)(
There are reasons I reached out to Hamilton County Plan Commission, but did not receive any response.Stevens and her companion were clearly hurt. The couple also had to deal with serious financial issues as they had sold gift certificates for future classes.
Tipton County was more accommodating to her request. Their county fairgrounds allowed her to close out the season. It was more costly to relocate her whole operation from county to the fairgrounds, and to then transport the goats back and forth. Stevens claimed that the cost was still lower than offering refunds for classes.
Stevens, her partner and all the expenses have resulted in a very difficult financial situation. Stevens is the sole income from the goat-yoga business. According to her, her medical condition makes it impossible for her to work outside of the house. She is currently applying for disability benefits.
Stevens states that in addition to the loss of her business, it is also a loss to her community and to all the people who loved snuggling or goat yoga.
Stevens shares the story about a young girl diagnosed with autism, who attended one of Stevens’ classes along with her mother. Although the daughter initially appeared nervous, she soon relaxed after Sofia, one of her goats approached her.
Sofia just laid down and enjoyed the class. She was just playing with Sofia and her mat. Her calm expression and contentment were evident. She says it’s difficult to express the calm she feels with her. “Those are my stories. For people, it was extremely therapeutic.”
Unfortunately, such moments aren’t permitted in A-2-zoned agricultural districts.