Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Goat milk becomes goat soap in Vacaville

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Jul 20, 2005 - 10:59:11 pm PDT

Sarah Hawkins' 5-acre farm is home to three dozen Nigerian Dwarf goats. She uses their milk to make soap.

Goat milk becomes goat soap

By Ian Thompson

VACAVILLE - Devoted as dogs, Sarah Hawkins' business partners follow her around the barnyard as she sees to their needs before handcutting more bars of soap."They really have great personalities," Hawkins said of the thigh-high Nigerian Dwarf goats who greet all visitors to the farm with an inquisitive nuzzle.While the goats provide the milk, Hawkins provides the expertise to create soap for her seven-month-old business. Hawkins went into the goat milk soap business after becoming disillusioned with her career as a staff member for various politicians in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento. Hawkins was introduced to goats when she visited a friend at an organic farm who said "you have to meet my favorite animals on the farm."
"I fell in love with the goats," Hawkins said, of what she lovingly refers to as "great portable weedeaters."Last winter, Hawkins moved to her small farm in English Hills, decided to start breeding Nigerian Dwarf goats and began researching how to make soap using goat milk.The English Hills Soap Company was born after a friend asked for a bar of Hawkins' soap to give as a Christmas present and learned the recipient really loved the soap. She researched different formulas and reworked the ingredients to make the scents more subtle and the soap. The higher percentage of butterfat in the Nigerian Dwarfs' milk, the more gentle to the skin. "Goat milk has been used for centuries as a skin tonic," Hawkins said. "We started doing farmers markets," said Hawkins of a schedule that has her at the Davis farmers market on Saturdays and at the Benicia market on Thursday evenings. She now sells the 31 different scents such as Cucumber Melon, Rose Petals, Spring Rain and Lavender at a couple of small stores, at bed and breakfasts and a winery in Yolo County. "We have gotten some good responses from our customers," Hawkins said.She has been mildly surprised that the male customers tend to be more effusive in their praises of goat milk soap than the female customers.

The 5-acre farm is now home to three dozen goats who are looked after by Hawkins, her boyfriend Andy Pestana and two guard llamas who protect them from predators. Her days usually involve getting up early to milk the goats who follow her around like the family dog would. Then she filters the milk and proceeds to mix the soap ingredients together.After the soap congeals to become handcut four-ounce bars, Hawkins wraps and labels the product with labels that bear the likeness of Gingersnap, one of her goats. She also cares for nearly all their veterinary needs from vaccinations to birthing after she found out local veterinarians really didn't know much about goat care. "I couldn't even watch somebody get a shot, let alone give one before this," Hawkins said.

Once a rare breed, the Nigerian Dwarf goats are increasing in popularity among American breeders. The Nigerian Dwarf goat population in Solano County is expected rise significantly on July 23 and 24 when Hawkins puts on the Summer Daze Nigerian Dwarf Goat Show at the Ranchotel in Lagoon Valley. About 20 to 30 breeders from as far away as Nevada and Arizona are expected to show up along with up to 180 goats, who will complete in one of four shows. Two of the shows will be sanctioned by the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association and two will be sanctioned by the American Goat Society.

For more information about the English Hills Soap Company or the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Show, call 448-4655 or go online to www.Castlerockfarm.net.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

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