Student’s sustainable goat project aims to help families in the Rio Grande Valley

Sebastian Herrera

Business senior Samuel Garcia had an idea. What he needed was goats. 

Garcia, who is from the Rio Grande Valley, wanted to help families living in colonias — communities along the border that often lack basic living necessities, such as potable water. To help improve families’ living conditions, Garcia launched the Sustainable Dairy Goat Initiative, a business plan that he hoped would allow people to make a profit from donated dairy goats. 

The University awarded the Initiative with the University Union’s Pal—Make A Difference Award, an annual honor given to a student who significantly impacts lives either on campus or in the broader community, last week. 

Garcia said he was driven to found the initiative out of a desire to help families in the colonias the ability to send their children. As a native of the Valley, Garcia said he directly witnessed first-hand what it’s like to be without a source of stable income. 

“[People living in colonias] are genuine, hard-working, good people — that’s why I wanted to help them,” Garcia said. “I have a lot of friends from colonias who had the same dreams and wants that we did. They just didn’t have any of the funds.” 

His initiative, which began in January, uses money donated by students and sponsors to provide three goats and supplies to each family in need. Once families in the colonias have a combined 30 to 40 goats, they will form a dairy cooperative, which Garcia said he hopes will help give them a stable income through milk and cheese sales. 

So far, the Initiative has raised about $3,000, and two families in farming-based colonias have been provided goats, with seven more families planning to receive goats this summer, according to Garcia. 

The group is preparing to make their organization into a full nonprofit and hopes to gain support from interested investors, according to Tom Jackson, an Initiative member and supply chain management junior. The ultimate goal is to expand the initiative to other impoverished communities. 

“Five to 10 years from now is when this can really be [a high-impact], actual secure source of income for these people, but funding will be critical,” Jackson said.  

Those in charge of distributing the award appreciated that Garcia tailored his project to the community, according to Megan McMillin, UT director of alumni relations.

“He created a very innovative project,” McMillin said. “He saw a need in his community, thought outside of the box and had an idea to improve that community and to make a true difference.”