The approach to The Old Citrus Estate provides a welcome assortment of palms, pines and Brazilian pepper trees. The cattle that live on nearby farmland quietly graze on tall grasses giving the surrounding area a feeling of serenity.
Owner Darah Koprowski and her family took up residence on the 22-acre plot in St. Lucie County in 2019 and also started a separate goat therapy business appropriately called Peace. Love. Goat.
“I was originally looking for property to host events and rent out as a venue space,” Koprowski said, “but God had other plans for us.”
Koprowski grew up in Middleport in upstate New York. She has fond memories of running around her grandparents’ farm where they raised Shetland ponies, chickens and pigs. Much of her motivation for raising livestock and gardening can be attributed to her childhood.
In 2007, Koprowski and her now-husband, James, moved from New York to Florida where he was attending flight school in Fort Pierce. At that time, Koprowski was employed by AT&T and then worked for Calvary Church. She also had more than 20 years of part-time event planning experience.
After having their daughter, Jensen, in 2015, Koprowski left her 9-to-5 employment and expanded her event planning business into a full-time job.
“At one point I was averaging about eight events per month, so the company was extremely busy,” Koprowski said. “I knew I wanted to find a property that we could use as a venue.”
LOTS OF PLANS
Not only did she want the property for events such as weddings, she also hoped to have a small garden and some farm animals for the kids to grow up around. She was also planning on using the land for agritourism with the goal of giving back to the community and introducing others to life on a farm.
“The property we call The Old Citrus Estate was originally citrus groves,” Koprowski said, “and some areas were used for grazing cattle. There is so much of the property we still haven’t touched but have huge plans for.”
The couple used to joke about getting a piece of land and starting from scratch, but they never thought they would because it seemed like far too much work. In the end, that is exactly what they had to do to set up The Old Citrus Estate.
“All of the work has been done primarily by my husband, father-in-law, myself and one farm hand,” Koprowski said. “We built everything from scratch ourselves and we have more coming.”
So far, they have built a 100% off-grid tiny home, goat housing, a home school farmhouse, farm stand and a fully stocked fish pond. At the beginning of May, Koprowski broke ground on a 100-car parking area with space for a 50- by 80-foot community garden and barn.
For the first few years, Koprowski let the cattle roam the property. Due to the worry of gates being properly secured and the need for extra safety measures when guests were on property, she ultimately decided to have them taken elsewhere.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
At this point, things took a slightly different direction.
“One day, I fell in love with these pictures of baby goats,” Koprowski said with a laugh. “They were so adorable, and I said to my husband, ‘We should get just two goats for the kids to grow up with’ and he agreed as long as he got his chickens first.”
After that conversation, Koprowski found a reputable breeder in Ocala and left it at that. About six months passed when Koprowski and her husband received a phone call.
“The breeder ends up calling me and asks if I am still interested in getting into goats,” Koprowski said. “She tells me that she is getting into horses now and to come up and get as many as I want and give her whatever I want for them.”
Koprowski says she looked at her husband and asked how many he thought they should get and the magic number they came up with was eight. Before making the drive to pick up their Nigerian Dwarf goats, they had two weeks to set up their pastures and pens.
“So, we got everything done just in time, hopped in the car with a trailer in tow and got six does and two bucks,” Koprowski said. “It was a really exciting time, and all of our friends and family came together to help make it happen.”
POPULAR WITH GUESTS
As the goats were getting acquainted with their new surroundings the couple realized their guests were having a great time meeting them as well.
“I noticed that each time people would meet the goats they would be ear-to-ear smiles, just absolutely elated,” Koprowski said. “I started reading up on the breed and found out that there have been studies done on how the Nigerian Dwarf goat have a naturally calm demeanor and if trained properly, love to cuddle.”
Koprowski says she dove right into researching animal therapy and how it can release “happy hormones” such as serotonin and oxytocin. Some recent research has shown that the presence of an animal may help relieve anxiety, lower blood pressure and help neurodiverse children improve social and language skills.
From there the business known as Peace. Love. Goat. was born and has been a local favorite ever since. Koprowski offers goat cuddle and coffee experiences, goat fitness classes and goat social and picnic sessions.
During the cuddle experience, Koprowski relays information on goats and how she runs the farm. Visitors are given the chance to feed, interact and cuddle with moms and goat kids for about an hour and a half. The sessions are held in the does’ pen under large old oak trees where there are several seating areas.
“I make it a point to gift free sessions at least quarterly for those who are suffering from things such as chronic illness, anxiety or depression and PTSD,” Koprowski said.
“It is important to give back to our community and those in need. Being able to gift this experience to others holds a special place in my heart.”
GOOD FOR HEALTH
In 2012, Koprowski was diagnosed with undifferentiated connective tissue disease with overlap syndrome including lupus. In short, she has been diagnosed with at least five active autoimmune diseases at one time. Being a farmer in Florida, Koprowski must take extra precautions to keep her skin protected from the sun.
Her daughter, Jensen, is living with an aggressive form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis [JIA], her father has stage four Parkinson’s disease and her uncle committed suicide due to issues associated with severe anxiety and depression.
“Having this disease and having people who are so close to me who are also dealing with various diseases or mental health issues has really pushed me to continue with the animal therapy,” Koprowski said. “It’s why we have such a heart to bless others in our community with the opportunity to experience the benefits of animal therapy.”
Heather Huszar of Port St. Lucie has been bringing her 3-year-old daughter, Shea, to the cuddle sessions since last season. Shea was diagnosed with JIA and Huszar has noticed a significant change in her daughter since attending the sessions.
“She absolutely loves it and so we have been coming every Saturday,” Huszar said. “It has been really great for her.”
Peace. Love. Goat. has also recently been working on the launch of goat’s milk soap and will continue to develop that part of the business. In the meantime, The Old Citrus Estate is working on the community garden and barn space for the public to enjoy in the future.
Those interested in finding out more about The Old Citrus Estate and Peace. Love. Goat. can visit their Facebook page by searching for The Old Citrus Estate and Peace Love Goat. Reservations and information can be made via direct message.
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