Lainey Morse’s office doesn’t have a desk. Your colleagues stand on hooves. They have coarse fur. And they love to eat – from shirt sleeves to maple leaves.
Morse started Original Goat Yoga more than three years ago. The animals cuddle the participants and occasionally cuddle with them while they stretch.
In the past two years, Morse has moved from one location in Benton County to 12 across the country. Corporate brands like Nike and Google have even hired Morse for private events, and some of the locations have annual sales of up to $ 140,000, she said.
But Oregon’s zoning laws prevent Morse from expanding the business in their home state.
The idea for the business started on Facebook, where Morse first wrote about goat yoga on a page she made up: Your Daily Goat. A photo of a baby goat on a woman stretching went viral.
“We wouldn’t be here without social media,” said Morse.
Morse hosted the first goat yoga classes on her farm outside Monroe, where she lives with her 12 year old trip. She believes that people adopted the idea of goat yoga to escape external pressures.
“Everyone is stressed out,” she said. “The news is painful to watch. And goat yoga was a happy distraction. “
Morse sees the goats as part of her family and does not believe in selling them or raising them for slaughter. Her refusal to use them as cattle is why she can no longer run her goat yoga business on her farm.
State zoning laws for farmland require Morse to earn much of the income on their property from traditional farming activities.
Morse’s business partner Sean Scorvo told The Pride that goat yoga on the farm could easily make $ 50,000 a year. And if it were, he would have to earn more by farming in the country or using the goats for cattle.
“The irony is if we slaughter our goats we could do goat yoga,” Scorvo said.
To circumvent the zoning problems, Morse transported her goats to different locations. However, since the animals were viewed as property of homeowners insurance, the company threatened to terminate their policy after learning that they were being transported to other locations.
What Morse needs, she said, is an exception to state law that would allow her to make goat yoga the main breadwinner of her property. There is a precedent for that.
In 2018, Oregon Senator Tim Knopp, R-Bend endorsed a bill that banned equine therapy from state agricultural zone laws. The law, known as Exclusive Agricultural Use, restricts the use of agricultural land.
“What happened when Oregon zoned all of its property is that too much land was put under the EFU,” Knopp said.
Bend lawmakers said goat yoga may have a chance of receiving a similar exemption in the future. At the moment, Morse works within the restrictions imposed on her by state law. She set up satellite locations. Morse makes a living managing the social media feeds and websites for satellite locations.
Original goat yoga locations
Monroe, Oregon, headquarters
Oregon City, Oregon
San Martin, California
Glade Park, Colorado
New Castle, Kentucky
Averill Park, New York
Germantown, New York
Melanie Hiestand heads the Oregon City Goat Yoga Outpost. She works with a friend in a horse stables. Since the stable gets its main source of income from the boarding school, goat yoga is allowed.
“It was just one of those things that people really benefited from,” said Hiestand, who also does customer service for Original Goat Yoga.
Christa Soderstrom tried goat yoga in Galena, Illinois, and said she learned about the unique exercise through an article or Facebook post.
“It was fun,” said Soderstrom. “The goats don’t usually climb over you as you can see in the pictures.”
Even though the national outposts brought in some cash – enough to pay the bills, Scorvo said – Morse in Oregon still wants to do goat yoga, on her farm, on her terms. And while some similar surgeries have surfaced that she doesn’t benefit from, Morse is just glad goat yoga started.
“To this day I pinch myself,” she said. “I can’t believe it happened.”
– Leo Fontneau and Karla Terrones-Ochoa
This story was produced by student reporters for the High School Journalism Institute, an annual collaboration between The Oregonian / OregonLive, Oregon State University, and other Oregon media organizations. Donations to support the High School Journalism Institute can be made to the OSU Foundation, 850 SW 35th St., Corvallis, OR 97333. 541-737-4218; or online at osufoundation.org. Visit OregonLive.com/teens for more information.