Not everyone who travels to Maine on vacation is coming for the lobster.
Some come for the goats.
At least that’s what attracts guests to Karl Schatz and Margaret Hathaway’s Ten Apple Farm Airbnb in Gray, where people looking to get away from it all can get away with not only goats, but pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys.
“We like to share what we do with other people,” Schatz said. “We offer the opportunity to participate in our farm lifestyle and to interact with the animals.”
Great Goat Get Away
Billed as “The Great Goat Get Away,” guests pay from $85 to $150 a night depending on the season to stay in the 18-acre farm’s three-bedroom cape cottage down the hill from the family’s farmhouse.
If guests want to do more than relax amid the trees and pastures, they are welcome — though by no means required — to pitch in and help the couple and their three young daughters milk goats, collect eggs or even go on a hike with the goats.
“It’s by no means ‘indentured service,’” Schatz said with a laugh. “About half the people who come and stay here are coming for the ‘farm’ experience [and] a lot of times the ones who want to just observe us milking goats actually end up wanting to try their hands at it.”
The family has a small herd of French Alpine dairy goats, which they first acquired around 12 years ago with an eye toward making cheese and enjoying fresh goat’s milk.
It’s a dairy bounty they are happy to share with their Airbnb guests.
“People who stay here get fresh goat milk, eggs from our chickens, and Margaret is always baking, so people will get fresh baked items, too,” Schatz said. “We eat seasonally here — rhubarb in the spring, strawberries later on and in the fall we have the apples, so whatever we are eating is what we share with guests.”
It’s all about the goats
Neither Schatz nor Hathaway started out life thinking they would grow up to become goat farmers or operate a hospitality business in Maine.
“We met in New York City and just got this idea one day to leave [the city] and become goat farmers,” Schatz said. “We knew nothing about farming or goats, so we spent a year traveling around the country visiting goats and goat farmers, cheese makers, goat auctions, goat shows, goat conventions, slaughterhouses and even a circus in Florida where they train goats.”
When they got back east, Schatz said, they decided to get married in Maine — at Wolfe’s Neck State Park in a goat-themed wedding with a goat bride and groom on the wedding cake, local goat cheeses at the reception and a goodie bag for guests featuring goat cookies and a note informing them that the newlyweds were “giving the gift of a goat to Heifer International on behalf of our guests.”
Two goats rented from Wolfe’s Neck farm also attended the wedding.
Soon after, Schatz went to work for a photography agency in Portland and Hathaway sat down to write a book of their goat travels titled, “The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese.”
By the time their first daughter came along 12 years ago, they had purchased and moved into Ten Apple Farm.
A diverse homestead
“We have a little bit of everything and all of the manure from the goats goes into the garden, the waste from the garden goes to the pigs and we have the chickens for meat and eggs,” Karl Schatz said.
Both Schatzes have “day jobs” — Schatz is the director of the outdoor adventure photo agency Aurora Photos in Portland and Margaret Hathaway is a writer, with her cookbook “New Portland Chefs Table” coming out next spring.
While they don’t sell what they produce at Ten Apple, they enjoy sharing with friends, family and Airbnb guests.
“We like to offer that opportunity to people who may not otherwise have the chance to interact with farm animals,” Schatz said. “We hope by experiencing our farm lifestyle with them, it will inspire them to follow their own dreams and see what is possible.”
That kind of “working” farm vacation is becoming more popular in Maine, according to Tony Cameron, director of marketing and communications with The Maine Tourism Association.
“This kind of agricultural tourism is definitely an up-and-coming thing in Maine,” Cameron said. “We are being asked about it [and] people are looking for this really deep, authentic experience where they get their hands dirty not just watching, but actually participating.”
It’s that kind of connection to the land the family hope to foster.
“This goes back to why we left New York City,” Schatz said. “People who live in cities or not on farms can feel disconnected from nature and where their food comes from and frankly that was the impetus for us leaving with this fantasy of living on a farm and raising goats.”
Cameron said the experiences offered at Ten Apple Farm fit well with Maine’s whole food-to-table movement.
“Maine is a perfect place to experience what goes into producing food,” Cameron said. “I mean, really — where else would you want to do it?”
Part of the family
As for the goats on Ten Apple Farm, they are and will always be more than producers of meat and dairy or beasts of burden.
They are family.
“We love our goats,” Schatz said. “We are fascinated by how dynamic and multipurpose they are.”
In fact, goats helped the couple deal with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers by connecting them with members of the Muslim community, for whom goats are a culturally important food source.
“We saw some really inspirational and positive things happening between [goat] farmers and Muslims that gave the goats extra meaning,” Schatz said.
Schatz said he and his wife met goat farmers who supplied goat meat to members of Muslim communities around the country and, from that simple marketing relationship, friendships grew between farmers and Muslims at a time when suspicion was running high of that community in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“They are endlessly entertaining, beautiful animals with great personalities,” he said. “They are just fun to be around.”
Ten Apple Farm and the Great Goat Get Away is located at 241 Yarmouth Road in Gray. Reservations may only be made online with Airbnb.com.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated Margaret Schatz's last name which has been corrected to Margaret Hathaway. It also incorrectly listed Karl Schatz at the founder of Aurora Photos. Rates at the AirBnB are adjusted seasonally and are not the flat rate of $150 all year.