The milk in our soap and lotion represents money spent with the hay guy in Forest Grove. Money spent at Wilco in Cornelius. At Ag West in Hillsboro. At Aloha Feed. At Metro New Holland in North Plains. At Pacific Tractor in Hillsboro. At Motz Nursery. At the local grain elevator, to the local tax assessor, and with the local livestock veterinarian. And on and on. We’re a small farm, but each little farm spending locally keeps these other farms and farm providers in business. Each farm lost adds up to eventually losing the critical farm infrastructure necessary for the remaining farms to stay viable. Did you know that one of the criteria for taking farms out of zoning protection is the absence of local agricultural service providers? Already, Portland-area farms have to drive to North Plains and Cornelius for a lot of essential farm supplies.
When you buy Mamma Goat soap, you aren’t just supporting a local “crafter” (I am not a “crafter;” I am a goat farmer). You’re supporting the local economy, especially local agriculture.
Sure, we could make soap with powdered milk. We could have our nights and weekends back, free of farm chores, liberated from farm taxes. But we won’t do it. We believe that powdered and ultra-pastuerized milk is far inferior to fresh, raw, local milk.
It’s like deep-fried frozen broccoli vs. steamed broccoli fresh from the garden. High heat and dessication denatures the essence of foods. You know how milk at the store has Vitamin A and D added? That’s because pasteurization heat destroys those vitamins, just one example of how excess processing changes the ingredients. We work hard to keep the soaping process cool so the milk stays in the most natural form possible.
Our commitment to the local economy doesn’t end with the milk, either. Our Camelina oil comes from the same farmer you buy from at local farmer’s markets, grown in Washington state. Our canola oil is grown in the Pacific Northwest, too. Our “tropical” oils would be cheaper from East Coast and MidWestern importers, but we buy them locally. Those local suppliers need customer support to keep local jobs alive. And we urge them – with every single order – to source more local ingredients. Most soap-makers don’t do that. But farming is a different perspective. We support healthy communities of microbes in our soil, healthy communities of goats, and healthy human communities around us.
As farmers, we care about how our ingredients are grown, but that’s not the main reason we use so many organic oils. We use organic coconut and palm oils because non-organic versions can contain chemical residues from processing. I don’t want to rub those residues on my skin, so I don’t ask my customers to, either.
I talked to a local soapmaker recently. Known as the “goat milk soap lady” she uses powdered milk. She seemed to think I’m a fool. I probably am. I can’t leave the farm for Christmas, and I certainly can’t take a vacation without extensive planning for a qualified farmsitter. The “goat milk soap lady” will never run out of powdered milk, while I live in fear of my goats getting sick or hurt or attacked by a coyote. We charge the same price for the same size bar, but her profits are higher. She said that customers don’t care if the milk is powdered or how the vegetable oils are produced.
Even if you don’t care, even if you think that powdered milk makes the same soap, please know that powdered milk supports farms somewhere far away, in whatever state or country offers the cheapest price to the manufacturer. Goat milk soap from fresh milk supports local farms, and local farms support you. Your spending is compounded across other local farms and local services. When the soap is made with other local ingredients, the local “compound interest” just grows and grows.
Unfortunately, you can’t get that local “compound interest” in stores. Last I checked, there was only 1 store that carries any Oregon-grown goat milk. Virtually every bottle, box, can or carton of goat milk on Oregon store shelves comes from out of state. Most liquid goat milks are ultrapasteurized to provide the long shelf-life needed for trucking goat milk soap across the country or across the ocean. Powdered goat milk can sit on a shelf for years, and removing the water makes it cheap to ship by truck, boat, or plane from wherever it can be produced most cheaply.
* If a soapmaker claims that insurance “requires” powdered milk, tell them to get better insurance. Since our vegan soap, lotions, etc. are not covered under our farm policy, we carry soap insurance through the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild. It’s the leading insurance for the handcrafter industry and it fully supports the use of fresh, raw real milk for soap making.
Whole Foods fully supports soap made from fresh, raw goat milk, because they carry quality products. We had to disclose our farming practices in detail, we had to have a recall process manual (with tests); we even had to have a written employee illness policy for our family farm with no employees. They covered just about every risk anyone could think of – raw goat milk soap was perfectly fine with them.