By DOUG GRAVES
BATAVIA, Ohio — When Patty Fix of Batavia started raising dairy goats on her 88-acre Ohio farm nearly 40 years ago, her intention was to allow her daughters, Martha and Becky, to show them local 4-H events.
Since that time her children and grandchildren have showed these registered Toggenburg and Saanen dairy goats at county fairs. Martha and Becky each married and left the farm – but the goats have remained with Fix.
In 2009, she experimented by making goat soap for her friends at church. After a few successful batches and solid sales of the soap at a farmers’ market in nearby Montgomery, she kept at it and elicited the help of her daughters, and a small homegrown company (Pine Lane Soap) was born.
“Ours is all made from goat’s milk,” Martha said. “Our soap is a luxury item and it’s high in fat and very moisturizing. What sets us apart is we make goat milk soap from our own goats.”
In their first year they produced several hundred bars. Last year the trio produced 10,000 bars. They’ve made 7,000 already this year. They offer more than 30 varieties of the soap and can produce up to 200 bars per day.
“Soap-making is a combination of science, art and luck,” Martha said. “It’s an old-fashioned lye soap, so we must use precaution. We make it once a week and do the same things every time.”
Today the trio tote their soaps to many festivals, fairs and high school events in and around Clermont County. Their soaps are sold at many feed mills, bakeries, gift shops, salons and hospitals in southwestern Ohio.
The milk used in making the soap comes from Toggenburg and Saanen dairy goats. Both are good, strong dairy breeds known for their capacious udders.
Saanens are white in color and named for the Saanen valley in Switzerland. They normally produce a gallon of milk each day. Toggenburgs, originally from Toggenburg in Switzerland, produce less milk and it’s higher in butterfat.
A variety of oils are combined in a large stainless steel pan. The mixture is slowly heated until it reaches 100 degrees. Oils include olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil and Shea butter.
In a separate stainless steel pan, milk is carefully mixed with sodium hydroxide (lye). The lye causes the milk to heat. When the milk solution cools to 100 degrees, the oil is added and stirred until the mixture reaches a specific level of thickness, beginning the process of saponification.
Next, essential or fragrance oils are added and the soap is poured into molds. After 24-36 hours the soaps are popped out of the molds and cut. The bars are allowed to cure for at least a month to allow the lye to neutralize and become safe.
“This can be profitable, but our real intention of making and selling soap is to offset the costs of our goats,” Martha said. “We have 30 goats and they’ve not been an income-producing venture. This is the first time they’ve actually earned their keep.”
“Right now all the money we make from the soap goes back into the business or into the farm expenses.”
In 1961 the family started cultivating the land and began raising beef cattle. Several years later they purchased a Jersey cow and were instantly hooked on fresh milk. Today the farm remains much the same, with the addition of a new goat yard.
Descendants of the original beef herd can be found, as can a few hobs, chickens, geese and donkeys. Goats, however, receive the most attention.
“We produce a product from our own farm and we use it and like it,” Becky said. “We’re not out to make a lot of money and put others out of business.”
Fragrances include apple orchard, cherry, fresh-cut hay, honey, rosemary and more, along with a variety of oils.
“Goat’s milk is high in fat, which, combined with the other natural oils we use, makes a fabulous moisturizing soap,” Martha said. “Commercial soaps have a water base and in the process naturally occurring glycerin is removed and put into other products.”
For more information about Pine Lane Soaps, contact Fix, Martha or Becky at 513-260-4352.