HOULTON, Maine — It was just over a year ago that a still giggling Kathryn Harnish posted a video online of the exploits of some of her Nigerian dwarf goats scampering and playing together around the yard.
The stage was Took A Leap Farm in Houlton, a small goat dairy farm and state-licensed creamery which Harnish operates with her husband, Rob Lawless, and the star of the show was Buttermilk, their then boisterous 5-week-old dwarf goat. As the other goats look on in the minute-long video, the tiny caramel colored goat with vanilla patches on her head and body bleats happily as she jumps over some of her goat friends and even kicks over a black goat while running in circles. Both owners thought their friends would get a kick out of it.
Little did they know that one year later, the video would have been featured on numerous TV shows and inspired an video game. It also is now closing in on ten million views on YouTube.
“That just continues to amaze us,” Harnish said Thursday evening from Took A Leap Farm. “When we first posted the video and it attracted the attention of the ‘Today’ show, we expected it to die down after a couple of weeks. But while it has slowed a bit, that really has not happened.”
There are approximately 30 adult goats and 30 baby dwarf goats on the farm, 18 of which are milked to create a variety of soft cheeses sold during the May to December milking season. Harnish and Lawless were amidst the season when friends told them that the “ Today ” television show had featured the clip of Buttermilk on the July 31, 2012, edition of the broadcast. The staff of “Today” was in London for the Olympics and lauded the athletic animal.
The video quickly went viral and was shared on Facebook and Twitter numerous times. Members of the media from across the state, nation and far away countries such as Australia and Norway began calling the couple for interviews. Harnish said she turned for help to Viral Spiral, a London-based management company that connects brand-name firms, production companies and publishers with the world’s most viewed videos.
“The company advises you about rights to video content,” she said. “When the video first took off, I had all of these companies calling and wanting to show it from Japan and the United Kingdom and they were putting these contracts in front of me and I had no idea what I was signing. Viral Spiral has been great.”
Harnish said that over the past year, the video has been on “Ridiculousness,” an MTV video clip show, “Ellen” multiple times and even a television show in the Netherlands. Every time it has been featured, the video has experienced an uptick in Youtube viewers.
In April, Doug Davies, owner of Ohio-based Funky Visions, a firm that develops fun and creative applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, created a video game around Buttermilk.
Called “Buttermilk The Bouncing Baby Goat” and available for Apple and Android devices, the objective of the game is to help Buttermilk jump over her brothers and sisters while avoiding hitting them. Harnish said that the game has “really taken off,” and together with the video has helped bring business to the farm.
“They have helped business because they have been able to create a broader audience for us than we would have had if this had not happened,” she said on Thursday evening. “Just alone, Buttermilk has attracted customers. People want to see Buttermilk. We’ve created Facebook fan page for her and she has close to 10,800 ‘likes’ now. When we got into the community market in Houlton we usually bring a couple of our goats, and people come over to see if we brought Buttermilk. When we have our open house at the farm, people are so excited to see her, especially the kids.”
While Harnish did not want to talk specifics about what all the attention has meant financially, she said it has helped increase sales on a local level. At this point, the farm can’t ship cheese products out of state, but the owners are working to build bath and body products made from goat soaps that they will be able to ship across the globe if the demand is there.
Harnish said that one of the best things to come out of the experience of the past year is seeing how much they have been supported by people in Houlton, Aroostook County and beyond.
“It has really been wonderful to have the community embrace us like they have,” Harnish said. “I tell people that we really did take a leap when we moved here from the Chicago suburbs nine years ago in order to start a farm, and the rewards we have reaped have really just paid off in the biggest of ways.”