Originally, they considered alpacas, but the facilities weren’t there, and those critters cost $10,000 apiece. So Pat began with a herd of Boer goats.
“The benefit of goat meat is tremendous,” he said. “It is low fat, high protein and heart healthy.” “But we never ate any Boers,” said Katie. “I started looking at the benefits of raw goats’ milk because I’ve got heart problems, and I wanted to get one dairy goat for me,” Pat continued. “Then we had a chance to buy a whole herd. A lady was changing her breed, and we had a chance to sell our entire Boer herd.” “We did some research, and we saw that these does were available. A friend told us, ‘They’re wonderful. Go get ’em. For our purposes, they were perfect,” said Katie.
The couple bought five does in October 2009. That meant they had lots of milk, but what to do with it all?
“The hectic part of my working was killing me,” said Pat. “I had a bad back. I could not do the work anymore. With the economy going down and me trying to get out of construction, I went to one of the top farmers in Wilson County, and his wife was making homemade soap. I asked her how to make it, and she was so gracious and said, ‘Come by and we’ll make some tomorrow,’ so she showed me the basics.”
“We came home that night, tried to make some and did everything wrong,” Katie said. “It wasn’t the quality we wanted. We started studying and buying bulk oils from a major restaurant supplier. We spent six months of trial and error. It took six months to get just four bars that we were totally satisfied with,” Pat said.
“And we have not changed them at all,” smiled Katie.
Now they produce five varieties of soap: avocado, everyday bar, exfoliant bar, gentleman’s shaving bar and farmer’s hand soap. While goats’ milk is a natural moisturizer, Salem Farms soaps all contain olive, palm and coconut oils. Other ingredients, depending on which type, include avocado, almond, shea butter, honey and grapefruit seed extract. ‘It’s a lye soap. The pH level of lye is caustic, but as it sits, the pH level comes down naturally to the normal pH range of your skin,” said Pat. “We use all-natural oils, no lard, no animal fat. We let time do the work for us. We don’t do any fragrances, so we make an all-natural, fragrance-free soap.”
The process includes putting the oils together, then combining them with lye, milk and distilled water. As the concoction is stirred from 15 to 45 minutes, it saponifies or becomes one as it thickens. The liquid is poured into forms and dries for 30 days before it is cut, labeled and good to go.
A main benefit of goats’ milk soap is that it moisturizes as olive oil draws moisture from the air to the skin and holds moisture in without clogging pores.
“When we started making these soaps, we had no idea. These bars sold themselves to people with sensitive skin,” said Katie. “It’s all in the combination of the oils. It’s the mixing and matching of the oil in each bar that creates the particular results.”
Their business got a jumpstart at the Wilson County Fair of 2010. And last summer, they interacted with 5,000 visitors to the Fair. This year, the Ryan’s plan to sell their soap at 40 events such as Oktoberfest, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree, Lester Flatt Days in Sparta, Goat Days at Tractor Supply and the Hand Made Parade at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in the fall.
“When we moved out here, we were trying to escape the rat race of Nashville. So then we had to come up with a name for our farm,” said Katie. “Since we lived on Salem Road, we looked up the name Salem to see what it meant—peace. That was what we were looking for—peace. And that was the perfect name for our home – Salem Farms.
Salem Farms in Norene, Tenn., produces five different bars of goats’ milk soap: avocado, everyday bar, exfoliant bar, gentleman’s shaving bar and farmer’s hand soap. A bar costs $6. To order online and learn more info on discounts and shipping costs, go to www.salemfarmstn.com. The soap is also sold at Edward’s Feeds and Gardens on Main in Lebanon and the Mt. Juliet Ace Hardware.