Tim and Lynda Linquist are using an old technique to solve modern problems. The couple’s business, We Rent Goats, employs one of the oldest domesticated animals. Their goats are an environmentally friendly way to remove weeds and brush, and reduce fire hazards.
Later in the summer, the herds will remove rush skeleton weed in some of the City of Boise’s foothills reserves. “We usually get good response from the public to the goats, because people enjoy watching them. Herbicide application freaks more people out than goats do,” said Julia Grant, Boise’s Foothills and Open Space Manager. Grant added that, despite warning signs on the low-voltage fence, people can get a shock, especially if they’re unlucky enough to fall onto the fence.
After the weed and fire seasons are over, the Linquists’ goats spend the fall cleaning up alfalfa and organic hops fields. Then the goats have a few months off before they start kidding in late March. By May, the growing kids are ready to go to work with their mothers and the cycle starts again.
When Lynda, 28, and Tim, 36, met, they discovered a shared love for goats. Lynda’s pet goat William went everywhere with her and rode shotgun in her Jeep. Tim had started with 25 goats on his five acres near Wilder, Idaho. He saw a business opportunity when a friend in California wanted brush cleared from his land: Tim increased his herd to 200 and put them all to work.
Lynda, the president of We Rent Goats, participated in Boise’s MicroEnterprise Training and Assistance (META) program. This nonprofit helps women, new Americans, minorities, and other low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in southwest and south central Idaho. META’s business classes and coaching have been a big help to the new business owners. “I had to learn everything,” Lynda said. “They helped me write a business plan, I learned to use accounting software--everything. And I was a psych major.”
The Linquists have adopted the nomadic lifestyle of many herders before them. The couple gave up their home in Wilder for a fifth wheel travel trailer, which lets them stay near their animals on their yearly circuit of open space, waterways, and agricultural fields. The first two years on the road were challenging. “We were goat ranchers, but we had to learn about portable fencing and being a mobile goat operation. We’re fencing experts now,” Lynda said.
We Rent Goats needs to add people, too. They hire one or two summer employees every year, but they need more if they’re going to continue to grow. As Tim pointed out, though, it takes a special person to care for the goats properly, work with the dogs, and travel constantly. Acquiring land is the biggest challenge most new ranchers and farmers face. “We need a home base, someplace for the does to kid; a place to land if anything happens,” Tim said. Even agricultural lenders are surprised by the couple’s business model. While feed is a major expense for most livestock operations, the Linquists’ goats are paid to eat. “People can’t believe how low our feed costs are, especially now with hay being $200 a ton,” Tim explained.
Until they buy land, Lynda and Tim spend the off-season with their goats on empty patches of land near Boise. They find that bringing a herd of goats with them opens doors, as most people fall in love with the engaging animals. Being around the herd has a soothing effect on people and seems to bring back memories of an ancient way of life.