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Hawaii Strong: Maui goat farm guides its herd ― and business ― through pandemic

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 4:52 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the slopes of Haleakala sits 42 acres of goat goodness, from cheese to milk to truffles and even, just plain goats.

Thomas and Eva Kafsack established the Surfing Goat Dairy 20 years ago and have made a living supplying the state’s restaurants and hotels.

“Our problem was not to sell our products, our problem was to produce enough,” said Surfing Goat Dairy owner Thomas Kafsack. “The demand is so high and before the pandemic, we supported and delivered cheese to a lot of restaurants here on Maui, nearly all the major hotels.”

The Kafsacks built their business serving award-winning products and then in 2020, COVID delivered a direct hit.

“When the lockdown started, nobody could come,” Kafsack said. “Then the restaurants were closing, so we lost that revenue. Then the hotels were closing, so we lost that revenue too, so it was a triple whammy we encountered.”

The Kafsacks then explored every measure to hold on, including having to lay off employees.

Government relief funds helped a bit, but when that stopped, they dug into their retirement savings and they also cut their herd in half by selling at least 100 goats.

The goats that remained still produced, but with no customers, they donated the goods to nearby churches, senior citizen programs, and employee food drives at Maui hotels.

“We hated to throw the milk away like most of the dairies on the mainland did at that time and we thought okay we can still make the cheese and make people happy in these times,” Kafsack said.

Along with charity came some creativity as Thomas concocted the Adopt-A-Goat campaign.

“Where people can adopt one of these 98 goats for a fee of $1,000 and get every half year, four cheeses and four tour tickets,” Kafsack explained. “My wife told me when we discussed this, no one will do this here.”

The “Goat-Fund-Me” program turned into a success in six-weeks: 80 goats were adopted, raising $80,000 in a sign of the overwhelming community support for the dairy.

“We have some people that have written us a letter and said, ‘I don’t have money to adopt a goat, but I send you $50 and I hope you make it,’” Kafsack said. “We were nearly in tears when we got these letters and little checks, it’s so great.”

And as the state re-opens and visitors return, the Kafsacks and their herd are heading to a full recovery.

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