I am excited to post this article from Mary Humphrey talking about how she started Annie's Goat Hill.
by Mary Humphrey
Annie’s Goat Hill was not something that I planned out on paper. The farm and the soap company evolved from a passion for natural things, and from a strong life-long love for animals.
Many years ago, I went on a school field trip to Fishers, Indiana, to Conner Prairie Farm, where I purchased a ball of handcrafted soap. The money that my mother gave to me for a souvenir that day began a fascination with soap, with no notion of ever making soap on my own.
My family roots are from towns and farms scattered across southeast Missouri. The large gardens and farm life instilled in me a fondness for earthiness and animals.
Growing up in a military family meant a lot of moving about, to many locations - France, Maryland, and to Indianapolis, Indiana several times, our home base. I love my home town, still, but when I lived there I frequently escaped to a walk in the woods, or I drove the long way home to see the countryside, and I made short trips to distant small towns that I craved.
A decade ago I realized my dreams. The position that I held, and loved, in the city was going to end. We packed up and moved to 16 acres in Missouri, without a glance back, just like that!
One day we were purchasing hay for our horses when beautiful white animals with brown heads eagerly showed up along the farmer’s new fence line to greet us. To me, they looked as if they were happy, carefree, nearly smiling creatures. I fell in love with their full bodies, their clear eyes, and their apparent eagerness to see a human. Little did I know, they were thinking “feed me,” but that is okay, I’ll stick with my story.
The farmer explained to us that they were Boer goats. Boer goats? Goats that are raised for meat and came to our country, from Africa, just a few years beforehand. Before that day, the only type of goat I had seen was an unidentifiable “billy” goat in a field and pygmy goats in the petting area at a zoo.
When we moved to Ohio it didn’t take long for me to spot a field full of boer goats. And it may have even been the same day when my husband and I stopped to ask questions. The story unfolds from there. We were boer goat owners as soon as we converted our barn into both a horse and goat area.
Wow, did I have a lot to learn! When a person is filled with passion they start reading. I studied every book, magazine, store pamphlet, online article, anything goat. I read so much that the human goat language that I didn’t understand was the language that I started talking, and soon began receiving calls from other people to help with their goats.
On a whim, I purchased a dairy goat. I thought dairy goats were “sissy’s” compared to boer goats. In no time flat I was addicted to our first dairy goat, Carmella, a beautiful nubian.
When the urge for soap making returned (I made soap in Missouri), I had fresh goat milk in my refrigerator. The idea came to me at once, why not make goat milk soap? To be honest, I had never tried a bar of goat milk soap before I made my own. The results surprised me, a rich and gentle emollient bar of soap. That was it, Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps was born.
Things have grown since the day I began making goat milk soap. We now milk several goats, and make soap and lotion with our produce. I am in the process of writing several books. We now have a larger studio, transformed from a metal-sided barn that housed a tractor, which we aptly refer to as Annie’s Red Barn studio.
I have learned a lot about animals, especially goats. I have met my dreams, and continue to find more. I can do many things that I never imagined I could, or even would have the opportunity to do. And I have some solid advice to give:
• If you dream of doing it, you can make it happen. Start small, study, don’t let go of where you want land.
• Goats are not always easy to raise, but they are a joy. Never think “it won’t happen to me,” because it will. Know your animals. Time and experience allows this to happen, but a new goat farmer will often learn the hard way to have a keen eye. Attend classes, frequent the goat barn at local fairs, ask questions, and study!
• Prepare to sell kid goats. Unless you have hours upon hours to devote to your goats on a daily basis, keep your herd small. Decide on a base number of goats and prepare to sell either the kids that are born, or an older goat as you replace them with a kid. Keep you’re herd size manageable.
Prepare to enjoy the best animals ever - goats! If you want a laugh, you will get it. If you want an animal that provides wonderful milk, you will get it. If you want an animal that will answer by name, you will get it. If you want a business, you will have one. If you want a pet (make that two) you will definitely have that as well!
To read more about Annie's Goat Hill you can also check out her blog here.