UT senior authors book on how to use goats to fight poverty

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The father of business honors senior Samuel Garcia once accepted a small herd of goats as payment for his legal services. Now Samuel Garcia hopes to use goats to help maximize the income of poor families in the Rio Grande Valley.
Photo Credit: Briana Vargas | Daily Texan Staff

Business honors senior Samuel Garcia fell in love with goats at the age of eight when his father, a prominent lawyer in the Rio Grande Valley, accepted a small herd as payment for his legal services. Over a decade later, Garcia plans to use the farmyard animals of his childhood to combat poverty in his home region. 

In early August, Garcia published a book titled, “How Goats Can Fight Poverty: Complex Problems Do Not Always Need Complex Solutions,” which jumped to the top of two Amazon bestseller lists in 12 hours. The book outlines Garcia’s plan to donate goats to 30-40 families in poverty-stricken areas of the Valley known as colonias. The goal is for the families to share the costs and benefits of producing cheese and milk on a larger scale, as part of a cooperative.

“The whole point is to give every family a steady source of income,” Garcia said. “Ten or 20 dollars a day doesn’t sound like a lot to you or me, maybe, but I’ve seen those families stretch a dollar so far with the things that they do.”

Garcia found inspiration for his idea while studying abroad in Argentina, where he learned about farmers who formed cooperatives to compete with larger firms. Garcia said he then drew upon his experience raising goats to apply this concept to the Valley, and founded a non-profit called the Sustainable Dairy Goat Initiative (SDGI). 

“I soon came to realize that the idea was transferable to any place because goats are incredibly versatile creatures,” Garcia said. “The Rio Grande Valley is a very harsh climate. I thought that if this could work in the Valley, it could work anywhere.”

Garcia blends anecdotes and practical advice in his book to create a guide for implementing his idea elsewhere. Supply chain management senior Tom Jackson is the chief operating officer of SDGI and Garcia’s best friend, and said that he
estimates he read the book cover to cover 20 times while editing it over the summer. 

“He does this a lot,” Jackson said. “He’ll call me and say, ‘Hey, is this a good idea?’ I knew he was going to do it from the start, because a lot of the themes in the book were things that Sam has actually been through in his life.”

SDGI has partnered with La Union de Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a community union in the Valley, to identify families in colonias who have previous experience raising animals. So far, SDGI has delivered goats to two families in colonias around Garcia’s hometown of Mission, and Garcia said they hope to reach five soon. As Garcia developed his ideas, he also consulted Brian Richter, an assistant professor in the business, government and society department, who said he has faith in Garcia’s ability to achieve his goal. 

“It seems to make fundamental sense that if you can help people do small-scale business, that that’s going to work,” Richter said. “[Garcia] clearly wants to get things done, and if he gets his mind on something, he’s going to carry through with it.” 

Garcia will be giving a talk at TEDxSt. Edward’s this Saturday, where he will discuss his idea. Garcia said he views his idea as a way of carrying on the legacy of his father, David Garcia, who passed away a month before Samuel began college. Jackson said that like his father, Samuel Garcia continues to fight for the underdog.

“There’s a lot of David Garcia in Sam,” Jackson said. “After his dad’s passing you could definitely tell that Sam was hell-bent on making a huge impact on the world.”