Hold them, pet them, cuddle them: 1870 Farm’s goat cuddles are for everyone

By Megan Cain

On this farm, you pop out of the womb ready to work. At 1 week old, you become the star of the show, and the show sells out almost every single time. You’d think it would be a lot of stress for these kids, but they take it all in stride.

Their mothers on the other hand? Not so much.

As Tiffany Breindel presses herself between the metal wiring that holds the makeshift pen together, Mocha, now 5 weeks old, bounds through tufts of grass toward her. Breindel scoops her small frame with ease, careful to support her inflated belly — she’s been munching under the sun all day. When Breindel carries Mocha out of the pen, Mocha’s mom shatters the tranquility of the crisp air with cries of disapproval.

“They’ve got to earn their keep, momma,” Breindel says over her shoulder in response.

And earn their keep they do. Mocha and five other baby goats, all younger than a year old, are the main subjects of today’s goat cuddling sessions.

It costs $10 per person to get up close and personal with these fuzz balls at 1870 Farm. From January through April, groups of up to ten can join the goats in a small pen for 30 minutes. Hold them, pet them, entice them to crawl on your back. How you spend your cuddle session is up to you.

The sessions started this past year on a pure whim. Breindel noticed the success of goat yoga, but she wanted goat interaction that was accessible for everybody.

“And you can’t really find your Zen if a goat does their business right next to your face,” Breindel says.

Unfortunately, Breindel hasn’t solved the “business” puzzle, but she prides herself on the wide range of people that participate in the cuddling sessions.

A breath of fresh air

Newly married couple Bethany and John Bradenton arrive first for today’s 4:30 p.m. session, both giddy with excitement for a break from their stale date night routine.

Music guides them past a sprawling oak tree that could tell a thousand stories to the entrance of a small white barn. Four chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, seemingly untouched by the dust that swirls through the barn, reminding Bethany of the decorations at her wedding.

1870 Farm used to host weddings, but now focuses mainly on children’s programming, like birthday parties and summer camps, with an emphasis on up-close animal interactions. Just two turns off U.S. Highway 15-501, a short drive down a road that seems to wind with the breeze and you’re transported back to a simpler time. The farm has come a long way since it was started in 1870, beginning as a commercial cattle farm. A couple from New York fell in love with its charm and turned it into an experience for town dwellers eager for a breath of fresh farm air.

The cuddle sessions help the baby goats cozy up to people and make them more comfortable in their jobs. 1870 Farm will usually host a few cuddle sessions per week, depending on demand.

Since it’s the only place in Chapel Hill to formally offer this sort of interaction, demand remains high no matter the weather.

Bethany’s dressed for the occasion, but John, as husbands do, seems to have forgotten. In gray slacks and a teal-and-blue-checkered button-down, he looks ready for Easter Sunday.

But when Breindel mentions that one of the goats likes to climb on people’s backs, John’s the first to drop to his knees.

It’s the oldest goat of the crew, Honey, ringing in at a solid 30 pounds — not including the cud in her belly from a full day of chomping in the sun — that takes the bait. She pokes at John’s shirt, unsure of its silky texture.

She toys with him. One hoof, then two. Back off. A back scratch. A few more pats. She’s enjoying this.

Bethany slides some hay onto John’s back, and it’s game over. Honey leaps onto John’s back, and Bethany’s right there to capture the photo.

Through his laughter, he jokes that Honey’s hooves give a better massage than his wife.

A unique experience

There’s no marketed benefit to goat cuddles; Breindel thinks everybody takes something different away from their time with the goats.

Alison Phellups brought her three kids to the farm as part of their spring break shenanigans.

Lizzie, the oldest, explains that her third favorite animal is now goats, right behind dolphins and giraffes, of course.

Her younger sister, Lucy, didn’t seem to take to the goats as easily. She attached herself to her mother’s leg like a barnacle, warily observing the creatures that stood as tall as her.

Mocha came first, brushing her velvety nose against the toddler’s shoulder. Lucy didn’t pull away. She opened her pursed lips and began to slowly smile. That smile evolved into a giggle, until eventually, she was squealing in delight following her new friend around the pen.

“Oh, we’ll definitely be back,” Phellups said. “You just can’t replicate this sort of experience for a child.”

Edited by Karyn Hladik-Brown

Pursuing Hollywood dreams means leaving behind Southern expectations

Herman Phillips IV moved from South Carolina to Los Angeles to become a production assistant at HBO. He is currently working on the shows “Insecure” and “Euphoria.”

By Virginia Phillips Blanton

The trade-offs were immense when Herman Phillips IV packed up his 2008 Honda CR-V, abandoning White Oak, South Carolina, to traverse the country, running down a dream. He traded magnolia trees for palm trees. Crockpot mac and cheese for authentic street pho. Acres of land for a rent-controlled shoebox. The boldest compromise: leaving behind the family granite business for a production assistant job at HBO.

Phillips Granite Company was established in 1933. Herman always felt pressured to take over the family business and play the role of a good, Christian, Southern gentleman. When he was 9, he told his dad he wanted to be a filmmaker.

“I had two choices. To either embrace the expectations and lie to myself and others, or leave it all behind and reinvent who I was supposed to be,” he said.

From Hunter to Herman

Dora and Herman “Grady” Phillips III have five children: Hannah Brown, Ruthie, Mary Grace, Sarah and Hunter.

Hunter started going by Herman when he was 16. “It was too much of a stereotypical Southern boy name. I realized it wouldn’t be very good branding for who I wanted to be,” he said.

The Phillips children were raised as Christians in a town of 50 people.

“Our parenting philosophy was to bring our children up in fear and admiration of the Lord,” Grady said.

“There was no part of my life untouched by religion,” Herman said. He couldn’t read “Harry Potter” because it was considered a satanic influence. Any film he watched was vetted through biblical movie reviews. Church on Sunday was like clockwork.

“I always dreaded a Sunday morning in my house,” Herman said. “I would dread the process of getting ready, putting on my tie and pushing everyone out the door. We had to drive an hour to church and an hour back. It was the most boring drive. We would listen to a sermon on the way, stay the entire service, then listen to a different sermon on the drive back.”

A passion for film

“I remember the first duck, quail and dove Hunter shot,” Grady said. “I could read that it wasn’t a passion for him like it was for me. But he enjoyed us being together. We still hunt together when he comes home.”

The one thing Herman gleefully shot as a boy was footage. He started writing little scripts when he was 7. On a personal YouTube channel, he uploaded reviews of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” His parents allowed this online presence because he spoke with a brown paper bag over his head with eye cutouts to maintain privacy. When he was 13, Dora drove him on set to be an extra in “The Hunger Games” franchise.

Going out West

The first time Herman visited California was to tour colleges. Grady and Dora accompanied him. They passed out Bibles on the street in-between tours of the University of Southern California and Loyola Marymount University. Even then, they sensed their son’s attraction to Los Angeles.

Herman’s acceptance to the University of Southern California validated every unacceptance he felt in his hometown.

“But when USC didn’t offer me any scholarships or financial aid whatsoever, everything seemed to collapse around me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that distraught, before or since. It’s still hard to think about.”

The reality of $60,000 a year sunk in, and he enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s Honors College.

“He was very much a gentleman about it. He understood why he couldn’t go,” Dora said.

A chance encounter

Of all places, a Phillips family reunion kick-started his career momentum. It was the summer before his first semester at UofSC. He was deflated about settling in South Carolina. He had no idea his mentor was floating in the sea of nametags.

Hello My Name Is: Ben Patrick. A production sound mixer who resided in LA, Patrick connected Herman with Jim Kleverweis, a producer at HBO. Coffee and email correspondence with Kleverweis landed him a summer job working on the television series “Insecure,” directed by Issa Rae. Herman worked in LA every summer during college in some entertainment capacity.

“People have their cliques, their respective groups, their fraternities and sororities. I had never felt like I had found my people, my tribe, until I stepped on a film set,” he said. “Once I did, it washed over me ‘Oh, this is what it’s supposed to be like.’”

The City of Angels summoned him. The summer before his junior year of college, an assistant director on “Insecure” encouraged him to drop out and continue working with them. Heeding the advice, he loaded extra credit hours onto his schedule and plunged into his honors thesis, graduating a year early. His exodus from the East Coast began five days after graduation.

‘Just a bunch of weirdos’

Neighbors warned him that “traffic is going to be terrible,” and “they do it different out West.” But the difference for Herman is what drives him. Jack Kerouac-style, he sped through 10 states to his new home. The road trip was a formal education for his narrow worldview.

Los Angeles has not watered down his Southern mannerisms from sweet to unsweet tea. “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir” remain in his vernacular.

“He’s found great success in his first few years in LA, but that hasn’t changed who he is. He’s still the same old Herman,” said Matt Francis, his best friend.

A wide shot of Herman’s West Coast life doesn’t fit a single still. His White Oak routine was stagnant. Now, he facilitates physical production for the upcoming HBO series “Euphoria” with rising talent Zendaya. He just got asked back onto production for season four of “Insecure.” He grabs coffee for the directors and actors, wires mics and escorts actors to the camera. Everything is time-sensitive.

“One of the reasons he wears facial hair is to cover up the fact that he’s only 21,” Dora said. “On Monday, he had to drive 40 miles to be on location at 5 a.m. He woke up at 3:30 a.m. and got organized. Hunter is very organized. Everything is working in his favor.”

There is a familial structure on set that comforts him when he feels uprooted from his immediate family.

“We’re all just a bunch of weirdos trying to make it for ourselves,” Herman said. “We’re all here for the same reason. Because you feel like you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself. A film can change people’s lives in ways you don’t even realize. Making something beautiful is why it all works.”

Taking back the family name

Juggling a 65-hour work week, he has a standing call with his parents on Sunday afternoons, followed by another with his grandmother. This past spring, Grady and Herman went skydiving together. Herman jumped first.

“Once we were out of free fall, my tandem partner told me to look up. Hunter had jumped out first and we were the ones below him. How’d that happen,” Grady said.

The life Herman Grady Phillips IV lives isn’t guided by a predetermined headstone. “I’ve taken my family name and turned it into something totally different than what the name means in the South,” Herman said. “Even though I may not be the fourth generation Phillips making granite, I represent the fourth generation of my family as entrepreneurs.”

Etch that on his grave.

Edited by Karyn Hladik-Brown.