Goats graze on the farm operated by Utah Refugee Goats. Located just outside Salt Lake City, the farm is serving and employing refugees as they continue to create a new life here in Utah. (Joy Prince)
Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — When most people see a goat, they see a goat. When Daud Eftin sees a goat, he sees a past, present and future.
Eftin is a refugee from the Bantu tribe in Somalia. During his first 18 years of life, he was moved from camp to camp as political unrest and civil war took over. He, like millions of other refugees, didn’t experience much stability.
Even with the constant uncertainty of the world around Eftin, one thing that remained was culture — and goats were very much part of that culture. In fact, according to Eftin, goat herding was something he enjoyed doing as a child.
“After school, I would herd goats. And I did this until I was 17 or 18 years old,” Eftin recalled. “Goats are a big part of our Somali culture.”
In order to bring that way of life to the thousands of Somali refugees in Utah, organizations were formed. The East African Refugee Goat Project, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, initiated goat farming on an 80-acre lot just outside of Salt Lake City. Here, men, women and children who have found refuge in our state have worked together to build a self-sustaining farm to serve the refugee communities.
This past July, they moved one step closer to that goal, starting what is now called Utah Refugee Goats. The nonprofit organization serves the three main Somali tribes, which are the Bajuni, Bantu and Burundi people. The goats on the farm are rented out for weed control on local farms, and those within the refugee communities are also able to purchase a goat that they can take care of and later harvest for meat to feed their families.
Eftin said having this organization has served many purposes, including cultural preservation and community, but it also brings something of utmost importance: dignity.
“Having this organization gives us a sense of ownership,” Eftin said. “Having this stigma of refugees using government funds hasn’t sat well with me. Utah Refugee Goats gives refugee families an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”
Eftin, who is a board member for the organization, also has six children. He said that the goat farm is a great place to bring his children to teach them their roots.
He also said that many families and organizations outside of the refugee communities have donated time and other means to help grow the project. This, he said, has aided in both combating the refugee stigma and bringing communities together as humankind.
Joy Prince, who is a non-refugee Utahn, has been volunteering with the growth of this organization and care of the goats for the past five years, along with her children. She said that spending time on the farm has also brought a sense of home and community to her.
“I’m a country girl living in the city, and the farm feels like home to me,” Prince said. “More than just getting to feed the goats and be out in the good country air, I feel such a strong connection to these refugee brothers and sisters and for their journey here.
“I can’t begin to imagine having to flee my country and my home that I love because it is so unsafe. To leave behind all I’ve ever known and, in many cases, family and friends that you may never see again is heartbreaking to me. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be able to help, even if it is in such a small way.”
Eftin said that he is grateful for all who continue to support Utah Refugee Goats, and he only hopes that it will continue to grow as it brings a sense of home to so many of his brothers and sisters who now call Utah their home.
For more information on how to volunteer time or other means Utah Refugee Goats, visit refugeegoats.org.