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Cassandra Messer: "So I actually was the first one to get a pygmy goat. And I named her Tinkerbell."

Cassandra Messer stands in front of a brick facade with windows. She's wearing a Missouri Department of Natural Resources t-shirt and smiling to the camera.
Beth Pike
The State Historical Society of Missouri

Cassandra Messer spoke with the Missouri On Mic team at last year’s Missouri State Fair.

Messer works for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as an assistant superintendent at Watkins Mill State Park. She spoke about her mother and their family goat farm.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Cassandra Messer: I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1992. And I grew up in Kansas City until I moved to the farm when I was 10.

And then we moved to Excelsior Springs, Missouri, which is 30 minutes north of there.

So my mom, she grew up in like Detroit, Michigan in the inner city, and she always loved breyer horses—like a type of, you know, toy—and she always wanted horses.

And so we moved—she moved—to Kansas City.

And so when she was 19, she had me and my sister, and she worked at QuikTrip full time. And she worked her way up to be a manager.

But while she was working there, she built her business up.

And now we're like the number one goat distributor in Missouri.

But we had a menagerie, we even had emu one point. So we've had pretty much everything you can think of livestock-wise.

It's actually kind of funny, because my mom let us pick one animal each when we first got to the farm, just to make it fun for us.

And one of my friends on the bus stop, had goats. And I was like, I think I want a pygmy goat. So I actually was the first one to get a pygmy goat.

And I named her Tinkerbell. And she was real sweet. And I would play with her and stuff.

And so then my mom kind of just got into it.

She just found out there was multiple types of goats and how pretty they could be. And, you know, how fun they were and they're real cute and social. And so she just started getting into different types of goats.

And so she just taught herself how to do everything. And, you know, she was just an extremely hard worker.

So she worked full time and was raising twins, and she also had the farm and she was trying to make a business out of that for retirement.

"So she worked full time and was raising twins, and she also had the farm and she was trying to make a business out of that for retirement."
Cassandra Messer

So she would pretty much work all day at work, come home, and then we would work on the farm, getting the pasture ready and, you know, cutting down a lot of trees and, and just taking care of the livestock.

You know, when I was a teenager, I didn't like it. I was like, I just want to hang out with my friends, you know, I don't want to be working on the pasture, you know, for three hours every day.

But now that I'm older, and like, you know, a lot of people in my generation, kind of lack those skills. And I really appreciate having that hard work skill. And, you know, being able to apply that to my career has helped a lot. I wouldn't be where I'm at without that experience.

And so then I found out about the Conservation Department when I was going to college.

And so I began working with the Conservation Department, seasonally, and then I ended up getting a full time job as a fisheries technician there. And I was there for about five years.

And the reason why I wanted to move to State Parks is so just because the park close to my house, Watkins Mill is just two miles my mom's farm and so it ended up being—working out perfectly.

So I applied for that job.

And you know, that way when I retire—even though it's quite a bit in the future—I can work on the farm and be close to home and not have to drive far to do something I love and be able to take the farm over.

You know, I would like to see Missouri improve, become more environmentally conscious. You know, maybe have a little different livestock practices. That could help with that. It's going to be a difficult road being such an agricultural area, but possibly in the future we could be more sustainable.

<i>Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.</i><br/>Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.