Artisan Goat Soaps and Creams by Sage Meadow Farm!
Did you know that goat milk isn't just a nutritious food, but also a beneficial tool for skin care? That's right! Thanks to numerous studies conducted over the years, we have unlocked many of the secrets behind goat milk's magnificent skin-healing and nourishment properties—qualities that have encouraged farmers to increase its use in wellness products like soaps, lotions and other topicals! For starters, goat milk is full of triglycerides that work as antioxidants and lock in moisture. This alone would elevate it as a beneficial component for proper skin care, however, when coupled with its numerous other qualities, it becomes clear that goat milk stands in a class of its own. For instance, it's thought that vitamin A, D and B6 all contribute significantly to skin smoothness and exfoliation. Naturally, goat milk is full of all these nutrients! What's more, it even contains fatty acids that can repair and maintain a healthy skin barrier, as well as probiotics that encourage natural skin growth while slowing down the effects of aging. Its pH level is also akin to the natural pH level of human skin, making it one of nature's most perfectly balanced combinations—so it is no wonder that goat milk-based products have become staple items in our co-op's Wellness Department!
Given all we know about the gentle power of goat milk as a skin aid, it only made sense for us to confide in a local vendor to serve our community's need for quality goat soaps and lotions. That's where Sage Meadow Farm came in! Nestled at the foot of the Mount Holyoke Range in Easthampton, this 3.5-acre working family farm is a true jewel of the Pioneer Valley. The farm's owners, Joe and Stan McCoy, selected a space that couldn't be more ideal for a goat to enjoy a harmonious existence. Instead of the vast open fields and big red barns one might imagine when thinking of a typical New England farm, their small plot of land is located on the edge of the mountain and surrounded by untouched forests thanks to its close proximity to the nearby wildlife sanctuary. This picturesque setting helps to provide the goats with a lifestyle that is likely comforting and familiar, as it distinctly resembles the natural habitats of their wild counterparts. The treetops also offer the goats plenty of shade, allowing them to move both freely and quickly between basking in the sun's rays or lounging in the cool shade whenever and as often as they please.
The McCoys began Sage Meadow Farm in pursuit of their shared lifelong dream of owning a goat farm. With the advent of goat soaps and the technology to produce them, they were not only able to realize that dream but even make it into a sustainable business, as well as a valuable source for high-quality, handmade personal care products here in the Valley. Produced in small batches using milk from their tiny herd of happy, well-loved goats, their popular soaps and hand creams come in assorted varieties and scents—with new and seasonal varieties always in the works!
We spoke with co-owner Stan McCoy on everything from the ins-and-outs of running their small goat farm to their amazing line of products and how they're made... plus much more you can read about below!
Q: What qualities make your goat soaps and creams unique?
Our goat milk soaps are a unique combination of eight natural oils, with each one bringing a different property to the soap's lather, hardness, cleansing, conditioning, etc. Goat milk has lots of vitamins, minerals and proteins that are great for the skin. The fat molecules in goat milk are more easily absorbed by our bodies, making its skin benefits more readily available and accessible. Our soap recipe blends our goat milk with the eight oils, making a bar that fulfills our motto: "Gently Cleaning Life's Tough Dirt."
Q: What drew you to Easthampton when choosing a location for your farm?
Stan has lived in the Valley since the early 80s, and Joe moved here in 2001—so together, we have quite a few years of history here! We eventually settled in Easthampton because we loved this small town and all its community has to offer. It is a welcoming place and a great place to run a farm.
Q: What inspired you to leave your telecom career to become a master soap maker and goat farmer?
[STAN] I retired from the telephone company after a 31-year career. I was very fortunate, as it was the only company I worked in throughout my entire adult life. We started our goat farm a few years before I retired. I had my first experiences making soap before we even adopted our first goats. We actually went to "Goat School" in Maine to learn a bit about being a goat farmer before getting started. There, we learned all the basics of goat husbandry, including soap-making. I became a bit obsessed with making a perfect soap around this time, and over the years since have developed many recipes which have led to the products we offer today.
Q: What makes goat milk especially well-suited for hand lotion—especially for those with sensitive skin?
Goat milk naturally contains many nutrients, such as selenium and vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C and E. It also contains minerals, amino acids and enzymes that are vital for maintaining healthy skin. Our lotion is 40% goat milk! I've always strived to keep our lotion recipe as simple as possible, with sensitive skin always in mind.
Q: What are some of the challenges of raising goats and keeping the herd healthy?
Maintaining excellent health, good nutrition and keeping our herd parasite-free are undoubtedly the top challenges of raising goats. We are lucky that my husband is a veterinarian, so the health care of our animals is not a burden. He has taught me lots about animal husbandry over time, so you'll usually find me sleeping in the barn at kidding time—ready to assist the new moms if and whenever needed. Our farm is also unusual in that it is parasite-free. We started our herd with bottle-raised babies on land that had never before seen ruminants. We also maintain strict biosecurity measures and, in nearly a decade of raising goats, have never had to "deworm" any of our animals.
Q: How do you develop new recipes and scents? What inspires you to add new products to the line?
I try to offer scents that I think folks would like to use on their bodies. About half of our scents are essential oil blends, and the other half are phthalate-free fragrances. I make new products basically out of intrigue, so it usually takes me a lot of time to develop and test them to a point with which I am happy with the end result. I am also quite lucky to have a bunch of very patient friends and family who are willing to try out different versions of various products, too!
Q: What makes this area especially well-suited to your business?
Easthampton and the Pioneer Valley seem to embrace agriculture and local products. Our business would not exist today had it not been for the initial warm welcome and strong encouragement we continue to receive from our local community.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of Sage Meadow Farm?
We know that our animals will be part of our family for their entire lives, but we're still not sure how long we will continue the dairy portion of the farm. Animal farming itself is hard work, and it is a 365 day-per-year job. For the immediate future, we plan to keep our business focused and going strong, but are not looking to necessarily grow. We are learning to be grateful for what we have, and that "more" is not always necessary.
Q: How did you get involved with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and what does being a Local Hero Farm mean to you?
CISA has been tremendously helpful to us over the years. There are many challenges to farming, and when you organize a business around that it can be overwhelming. I first reached out to CISA as a member of the Easthampton Farmers' Market Committee. When we launched Sage Meadow Farm as a business, they were instrumental in helping us navigate a plethora of challenges ranging from setting up our website to hiring help for the farm. We are very happy to be able to support CISA and its mission to promote local agriculture and sustainable farming in our community.
Q: We've heard you do goat yoga! Can you describe what a typical class is like and how its health benefits differ from regular yoga?
Our goat yoga classes began on a whim to raise funds for the Easthampton Farmers' Market, but that has since expanded to help several other organizations as well. Each year, we try to choose two human and two animal causes to benefit from our "Caprine Vinyasa" classes. The sessions are held indoors, usually in the early spring when the new goat-kids have arrived. A typical goat yoga class has 20 to 30 students, plus a certified yoga instructor. At the beginning of each class, we release a bunch of baby goats into the room. They are very social and love people, so they don't hesitate much to interact with the yoga students. Class times range from one to one-and-a-half hours of pure laughter and fun, which is always good for the mind and body... and there's little need for the students to take the yoga or themselves too seriously!
Q: You offer several products for local fundraising. Can you tell us about them and the organizations you support through their proceeds?
My husband and I are grateful that we have both had careers outside of farming, which allowed us to use a lot of proceeds from Sage Meadow Farm to help others. From hosting goat yoga to donating soap, we love to give back to our community! One such product is our Pride Rainbow soap, which I created a couple of years ago to raise money for the LGBTQ+ community. The profits from these soaps go to "Under 21," which is run by the Covenant House in NYC. This organization helps LGBTQ+ youth navigate the challenges of homelessness and poverty they face as a result of being rejected by their families.
Q: You raise two breeds of goats—Sables and Nubians. What are the differences in their milk and how does this influence your products?
Sables and Nubians are two very different goats, not only in their personalities but the quality of their milk. Sables are very large producers, so it isn't unusual for one of our Sable girls to make two to three gallons of milk each day. On the other hand, Nubians produce only about a third of that—maybe a gallon per day—but their milk has twice the amount of butterfat. We prefer Nubian milk for cheesemaking, but we do use a special blend of both milks for our soaps and lotions.
Goat milk-based soaps and hand creams from
Sage Meadow Farm
are available now at River Valley Co-op!
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