There were brown goats, black goats and spotted goats.
They had names like Kit, Kodak and Kafka.
They nibbled on your ankle, your hair or a piece of your shirt. They ate hay, climbed in and out of an old school bus, and wandered in the woods.
Children of all ages followed them, fed them and hugged them.
Essentially, the goats, which were born in spring, were the rock stars of the Prodigal Farm open farm day.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Ellie Daniska, 8, of Raleigh, surrounded by nudging kids. “You just get to come and pet goats and hang out with them.”
That sentiment was repeated several times over as hundreds treated themselves to a Sunday drive out to the northern Durham County country via winding streets lined with changing fall leaves.
The free open farm day is an opportunity for Prodigal Farm and a handful of other businesses to show off their products, but the underlying purpose is to build a bridge between urban communities and rural spaces.
“It used to be everybody knew a farmer, probably somebody in their family,” said Kathryn Spann, 48, who founded Prodigal Farm with her life and business partner Dave Krabbe. “Now there is much more of a separation between our dining table and where our food comes from.”
Spann and Krabbe met in New York City. She was an attorney, and he built houses for people who made gobs of money on Wall Street. For more than 300 years, Spann’s family farmed tobacco in the Rougemont area. Krabbe, who grew up in Baltimore, always dreamed of raising cattle. In 2007, they traded their big city life to buy a farm in Rougemont. The 95 acres includes a 144-year-old farmhouse and tobacco barns.
In 2008, they bought four baby goats to help clear some of the property, and then they fell for the clever and curious animals.
“Every goat gets a name,” said Krabbe, 61. “And they all get loved on.”
Now the farm houses about 200 goats and is centered on producing goat meat and cheeses. The cheeses include Rowdy Gentleman aged cheese, which won a national award at the American Cheese Society competition in 2015. This year the farm was recognized at the Good Food Awards for its Field of Creams aged cheese.
Prodigal Farm hosts about six open farm days a year, each season offering different insights into the working farm life. Prodigal will announce the 2017 dates in February, Spann said.
Beyond hanging with goats, visitors enjoyed the open air and crunching leaves under a fall blue sky while sampling cheeses, watching a blacksmith at work, petting baby bunnies and roasting marshmallows.
They could also buy cups of goat milk hot cocoa, bowls of pumpkin and goat cheese mac and cheese and goat chili, and glasses of Regulator Brewing Co. beer.
Rachel Stroupe enjoyed the opportunity thoroughly, she said.
She had some chili — “delicious” — and the mac and cheese — “pretty good” — and sampled some Prodigal Farm cheese and mead from Honeygirl Meadery.
“It was just fun to look around the farm,” said Stroupe, 35, of Chapel Hill. “And get to touch a lot of goats.”