Goat Yoga

Participants in a goat yoga class stretch and admire a pygmy goat named ‘Peanut’ at the Jones Family Farm in Princeton on Saturday. The farm, located on Harmon School Road, is offering goat yoga classes by appointment on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays every week.

PRINCETON — The growing popularity of goat yoga has finally hit Princeton.

Yoga practitioners and animal lovers alike can now enjoy a goat yoga class at the Jones Family Farm on Harmon School Road in Princeton. The farm hosted its first test run on Saturday, with classes now being held by appointment on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Goat yoga is a relatively new trend in the yoga world. It is a typical, outside yoga class with the added twist of goats being allowed to roam freely around between instructors and students. Some classes even advertise that the goats will walk on students’ backs during the class, all while the student practice traditional yoga poses.

On Saturday, those who had signed up for the class had their temperature taken, and everyone attending the class was wearing a mask. Afterwards, the group was led on a brief meditation walk deeper into the approximately 220-acre farm, arriving at a plot of land fenced in with goats waiting nearby.

Jeri Elmore, a seasoned yoga instructor with 15 years experience in the area, led the class in their poses as a small herd of pygmy goats wander from person to person. The class distributed their own mats apart from each other to maintain social distancing, but the goats maintained a cluster as they searched for the pretzels that were handed out before the class began.

Over about an hour and a half, the class was led in yoga poses ranging from simple to a bit more complex while a range of relaxing music echoed through the farmland.

“I’m not that good at yoga,” Jenny Belcher said after the class had finished, “but I love animals and thought it would be a lot of fun. I loved it, I thought it was very relaxing to be out in nature, I think it’s really cool to bring something like this to Mercer County. The goats are so cute.”

Another participant in the test class, Hailey Keatley, was very satisfied with the class. “I loved it. I’ll definitely be back,” she said.

During the hike back, some of the Jones Family Farm’s history is told to the class, a treasure trove of local history.

The farm dates back to at least the 1950s, when Woody and Helen Jones first bought it and transformed it into a working farm. At one point, the farm was home to more than 100 heads of cattle, horses, a milk cow, chickens and pigs. Over the decades, the farm became the home of three generations as Woody and Helen’s grandchildren grew up learning the daily tasks of farm life.

Much of the farm’s infrastructure and scenery was built and made by the Jones family and their children. The Jones’ son Allen hand planted many of the pine trees found on the property.

But some features of the farm predate the Jones family, with one barn on the property thought to be one of, if not the oldest, poplar barn in West Virginia. The barn is made completely of poplar and wooden pegs, in a tongue-and-groove style, according to the farm literature.

Numerous arrowheads have been found on the property as well, and the property has an old graveyard.

The classes are being organized by Lisa Karnes, owner of Jackass Farm, LLC, Karnes’ newly minted business, which is named for the miniature donkey found on the Jones Family Farm. Karnes grew up on the farm since childhood, and one of the reasons for beginning the classes was to invite people to enjoy her family home.

“I grew up having goats,” Karnes said. “My parents had a small herd all throughout my elementary and high school years. The family farm has tremendous sentimental value to me. It’s been my home for over 40 years.

“I finally decided to take the leap and open Jackass Farm because it allows me to share the farm’s natural beauty with visitors, offer quality yoga programming with the added bonus of adorable goats and our precious miniature donkey at our home, and pay tribute to my late parents, Emmett and Judy Sanders, through reminiscing about our lives on the farm,” Karnes said.

With the pandemic still shaking the nation and Mercer County’s numbers rising, starting a new business has been both exciting and overwhelming, Karnes said. “Safety and health are at the top of my priority list, so we’ve implemented temperature checks upon arrival, recommended wearing masks prior to arriving in the yoga field, and encouraging social distancing inside the yoga field. Fortunately, visitors have complied with our requests.”

Lisa Karnes’ family has helped her begin the yoga classes and meditation walks. Her sister Amy volunteered to direct parking and administer temperature checks, and her husband Bill Karnes helped escort class members to the yoga field and managed the goats during the class. Sister-in-law Becky Karnes Shotwell and niece Katie Shotwell also help around on the Jones Family Farm.

Karnes said she and instructor Jeri Elmore had been friends since kindergarten as well.

Anyone wanting to take a goat yoga course can contact Lisa Karnes at (304) 952-5303, or by email at jackassfarmllc@gmail.com. Prices are $25 per person per class throughout until September. In the future, the farm is planning on holding leaf peeping meditation walks around the property as well, and special Halloween themed classes are also in consideration. Classes are available by appointment and as weather permits.

— Contact James Trent at jtrent@bdtonline.com

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