Family carries on tradition of Goosemobile in Canova location

Raising free-range meat and poultry teaches 8 kids valuable life lessons

Connie Sieh Groop
Special to the Farm Forum

For years, the "South Dakota Goosemobile," created by Tom and Ruth Neuberger of Canistota, S.D., traveled across the state, delivering frozen geese along with natural organic products. As the couple got older, they sought a family who would carry on their tradition.

Travis and Lisa Muth saw the story about the couple and decided the timing was right, and, in 2017, decided to dedicate themselves to the business. The Muths, along with their eight children, took over raising and processing free-range meat and poultry on 19 acres near Canova.

“This is a dream,” Lisa Muth said. “We didn’t think we could farm, as the investment was too much. Farming is in our blood, and this is the perfect way to raise our family. Living on the land and with nature keeps us centered and focused. This is a great place for our children to learn valuable life skills and allows us to make a living.”

The Muth Family: back, from left, are Emma, 14; Kane, 17; Jesse, 22, and Rachel, 19. Front, from left, are Isaac, 6; Travis; Isaiah, 3; Lisa; Maria, 12; and Jack, 10. Courtesy photo

Goosemobile Pastured Meats raises free-range beef, pork, lamb, meat chickens, laying hens, ducks and geese. The meat has no added hormones and they use no antibiotics.

Chickens are the mainstay of their business. The Muths get 500 Cornish-cross chicks each month April 1 through Sept. 1. They process the birds and stockpile the frozen chickens in their 10 chest-type freezers. Through the summer and winter, they send out orders until they deplete their supply in February.

“I’ve been butchering chickens my whole life," Lisa said. "I remember sitting with my mom, picking feathers. We used scalding hot water, picking tables in the yard, plus tubs of water. With all with this equipment, it’s much simpler. We can do a hundred in the time it took us to do 30 when I was growing up.

“Mother Nature tells us when we are done for the year,” she added.

Goosemobile uses portable fencing and to move chickens around to fresh grass at regular intervals. Courtesy photo

The Muths process the animals outdoors, so when the weather turns cold, processing stops. They don’t have a heated facility to process and butcher the birds and animals.

“We get most everything done by Thanksgiving time." Lisa said. “As we butcher the birds, we separate the breasts from the dark meat and package that. The rest goes into sausage or ground chicken. We waste nothing. Many like to make broth from the chicken bones so they are almost as valuable as the meat.”

Lisa said they follow the federal and state inspection guidelines.

Besides the chickens, they get 20 geese, 30 ducks and 150 turkeys each year.

For those wanting a Christmas goose, it is very spendy. One weighing 6 to 7 lbs. will run $50 to $60 for the bird. Lisa cautions that special care is needed when cooking a goose. Eggs are a big part of their business.

Their kids range from 3 to 22 in age and help in various ways. The older ones help with delivery or supervising the others. Everyone feeds the chickens or tosses hay to the cattle.

Isaac (6) and Isaiah (3) are good helpers with the baby ducks. Courtesy photo
Chicken is the most popular product of the Goosemobile. On average, the Muths process around 2,000 birds every year. Over half of the chicken produced is made into value-added products. Courtesy photo

“Everyone likes to take care of the babies," Lisa said. "We find the pigs fascinating.”

The actual Goosemobile no longer travels the state but is set up at the Sioux Falls Farmers Market every Saturday from May 1 to the end of October. That is where most of the meat is sold to consumers. Otherwise, the products are sold online and through other small vegetable farmers.

The Muths can’t keep up with the demand.

“After running at our maximum potential, we have to realize we can’t feed everyone," Lisa explained. "We do what we can do. There is room for another family to do what we do. We consider investing in our infrastructure but not expanding.”

The organ meats are real value-added products as ethnic communities clamor for the gizzard, hearts and livers. Chicken feet are also much sought after.

“I just sell them; I don’t eat them,” Lisa said.

Travis and Kane make chicken brats out of farm-raised chicken. Chicken brats are a customer favorite at the Farmer's Market. Courtesy photo

As for their predecessors, the Muths are grateful for their guidance.

“The Neubergers have been absolutely wonderful to help us,” Lisa said. “They’ve shared different ways to feed and organize our operation. Ruth passed on in February but Tom is a phone call away and one of our biggest cheerleaders.“

The animals are pasture raised and the poultry left to run. The birds run after bugs on grassy areas, which makes their muscles good and strong.

“People like the meatier texture that is less fatty," Lisa said. "It’s clean white meat. I have eight taste-testers so they let me know if something isn’t good.”

For Lisa, she said it’s hard to balance the large family with all the work that needs to be done.

“Having multi-species on the farm is challenging," she said. "Taking care of the animals and watching the family work together is very rewarding. Some days get harried. It’s been a really good thing for our family.”

In the winter, Lisa handles the ordering and shipping while Travis takes a job off-farm. Weather impacted the Muths as it did many others this spring. When they had two 10-inch rains, all of their turkeys died as they couldn’t handle the rain and the cold temperatures.

“We lick our wounds a bit and look forward to 2020,” Lisa said.

She said the family is always happy to share what they do each day.

“Butchering day is Monday, so come on over.”

Farm-fresh eggs are a very popular item from the Goosemobile.  The hens are free-range and spend most of their summer days in shelterbelts. Courtesy photo