Got milk? – Make Soap
Published: August 26, 2005
By JODI KERR
Capital Press: Agriculture Weekly
In the heart of Oregon wine country lives a couple who knows the value of soft lotions for hard- worked hands. After retiring from the insurance business in Las Vegas, Nev., John and Judi Stuart relocated and started to do what they knew they wanted to do when they grew up. They purchased the 82-acre farm known as Abbey Road and began to build a sustainable empire that would make their lives complete.
As insurance agents for the hotel and tourism industry, they know about comforts and hospitality. The couple has fostered the dream and used everything on the land, including the retired grain silos that now house the unique bed and breakfast on the farm.
The couple knew that it was a good bet that the small farming operation was not going to pay for itself without some thought and careful planning. “In order to gain sustainability, we had to gain diversity,” said John.
Judi’s love for goats and Evelyn and Crabtree lotion made with goats’ milk gave her the idea to make her own. With a chance meeting at the Taste of McMinville with Ron and Johnna Zeigler, owners of Oregon Rain Soap, that became a reality. “It was fate. They wanted to make a goat milk product, and we had the goats’ milk,” said Judi.
Judi and John don’t waste a thing. “We really try to be self sustaining,” said John. “When you have goats, you have two by-products: milk and manure. We use the milk for the soaps and lotions, the manure for fertilizer,” said John.
The way John sees it, the circle just keeps going. The manure goes to the garden; the garden yields fresh herbs that Judy uses for her cheese.
“The extract from the cheese gets us to the whey, the whey we feed to the chickens. It is a wonderful source of protein for them and we get wonderful first class eggs which Judy uses to make great cheesecake, which is served to our guests at the bed and breakfast,” he said.
The Stuarts knew early on that if they were going to work this farm, then they were going to do everything “right”. That started with the water. “When we moved here in 2003 we had some issues with sulfur in the well water,” said Judi. “It just didn’t taste good.” The Stuarts knew that what they put into the animals, they would get out. The water is pumped out of the well and purified, and then they can store about 12,000 gallons of water in a holding tank. “We use the water for showers, to water the animals, everything we use water for is purified,” said Judi. Better tasting water lends itself to better tasting milk, and thus a better end product with goat cheese, lotion and soap. “You really get a better quality of milk when you are not fighting with other chemicals.”
The goats, about 50 of them, now are milking professionals.
“We started with six Nubians and crossed them with big Saanen,” said Judi. “Nubians’ milk has a higher butterfat content and Saanen have big udders, so it makes a great cross for us.” The herd is being milked by hand, leaving nothing to chance. “For our herd, we were looking for a well-attached udder, and a big one too,” said Judi. “All of our girls are first timers. We were milking 18 but we have it down to eight now.” The herd consists of Nubians, Saanen, Oberhasli, La Mancha, Alpine and Toggenburg goats.
Once the milk is collected and transported to Oregon Rain Soap in Tualatin, the milk is pasteurized and essential oils and scents are added. “There are no unnatural additives, this isn’t powder. We’re talking about 100 percent milk,” said Judi.
Good partnerships are hard to come by, but this one has been smooth. “It is so nice to work with these guys because our partnership is incredible and they are tracking the same way we are,” said Judi.
The soaps and lotions are a very small part of what Abbey Road is doing and envisions in the future, but it is one step towards a sustainable farm and butter-soft hands. The attention and detail and pride in their product reflects the whole farm and philosophy.
John grew up in Europe and “waste not, want not” was the way of life. “My parents taught me to take care of things,” said John. “Sure our goal is to make a profit, but it is also about good stewardship and taking care of the property.”