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Making a living on the Amargosa farm

From goats and rabbits to yarn to scarf, or hat, or sweater, Ann Bartley of Amargosa Bar Ranch, said, “This is the life I dreamed of.”

On her farm baby goats are for sale as are eggs, organic homemade soaps and hand-spun yarns. Bartley also makes goat cheese and yogurt for her family.

Until 2005, Bartley was a dog-groomer in Las Vegas with three employees and making over $7,000 a week.

Now, with sales slower than she had foreseen, and the price of livestock feed going up, Bartley said, “It’s easy to get discouraged.”

It costs over $150 round-trip for a veterinarian to come to the ranch so Bartley does most of her own “doctoring” with natural herbal medicines.

Bar Ranch feeds 35 goats, 12 of which are babies, 30 ducks, about 20 rabbits and with the 100 chickens the daily costs of feeding shock even Bartley when she figures it up every month.

Hay is $22.50 a day; dairy goat grain, $20 a day; rabbit food, $2.50 a day; chicken and duck food is $5.50 a day. Then fuel and labor costs added into the total mean sales have to go up. Bartley had plans to offer organic raw goat’s milk and cheese as well.

However, the Nevada Governor’s recent veto of the raw milk bill, after it had been approved in the state legislature, is a great disappointment to Bartley.

According to her, all other struggling dairy farm owners are disappointed as well. Bartley said, “What we know is there is a huge raw milk market in California and Nevada. There are enough of us that fighting for it could become a very big movement in this area.”

Since raw milk from Nye County’s Amargosa Valley is not going to be a reality for entire state sales, raw milk dairies can continue to sell in their local area, meaning anywhere in the county where it was produced. AB209 was generally approved by the legislature thinking it would bring new entrepreneurial farms and goods and help boost dairy sales. Governor Sandoval, however, said he had received input from the Food and Drug Administration that unpasturized products could be a health risk.

Raw dairy providers argue they have equal and better proof that raw milk is as safe pasteurized milk without added hormones fed to cows on non-organic farms.

Bartley said that sales of her exotic fibers, yarn, soaps, chickens, ducks and their eggs, goats and the educational seminars she teaches help make ends meet.

Bartley teaches groups cheese-making, soap making and spinning by appointment and although she can break even, she has also added dog-grooming by appointment to help make ends meet.

Bartley said it takes a large grocery bag stuffed with fleece to make about two hundred yards of finished yarn, or enough for a small project such as hat or scarf.

To get from goat or rabbit to finished product is labor-intensive with one product taking full-time days. Bartley doesn’t knit or crochet but readies the yarn for those who do.

Yarn is sold by the yard and runs about $1 a yard, but is occasionally sold for less with large orders. Bartley advertises on ESTY Store, KSL, Yahoo Group, Craigslist, and through the Amargosa newsletter. Most sales come from word of mouth connections and local advertising. All natural soap bars are $4.50 each.

After a full day of maintaining nearly 100 animal’s health and welfare, there’s yarn and soaps to make, classes to teach, advertising to maintain, milking goats and other chores a small business requires until, usually, according to Bartley, around 2 a.m.

For information on BAR Ranch products, call 702-498-8913.

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