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Easthampton goat farm produces milk used in soap

  • Joe McCoy, owner of Sage Meadow Farm in Easthampton, feeds his goats last week. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joe, left, and Stan McCoy share goat cheese at their farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Soap rests on a rack in the studio at Keystone Mill. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stan McCoy makes goat milk soap Wednesday in his studio at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Stan McCoy gets a container of an oil mixture from a tank while preparing to make soap Wednesday in his studio at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Stan McCoy pours goat milk soap into molds in his studio at Keystone Mill last week. At left, some lemon verbena soap. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stan McCoy pours goat milk soap into molds Wednesday in his studio at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Lavender-scented goat milk soap by Sage Meadow Farm rests on a shelf Wednesday at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • At left, Sage Meadow Farm shaving soap kit made by Stan McCoy rests in his studio at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. The container is a coconut shell. At right, various leaf-shaped soaps made using goat milk. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Goat milk soap by Sage Meadow Farm rests on a shelf Wednesday at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Stan McCoy moves some of his Sage Meadow Farm goat- milk soap in his studio at Keystone Mill in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stan McCoy spends time with one of his seven goats at his Sage Meadow Farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Goat milk soap from Sage Meadow Farmn. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joe McCoy spends time with his goats Wednesday at his Sage Meadow Farm in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Stan, left, and Joe McCoy feed their goats at their Sage Meadow Farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Stan, left, and Joe McCoy feed their goats at their Sage Meadow Farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Joe McCoy milks Thelma, a 4-year-old goat, last week at his farm in Easthampton. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joe McCoy milks Thelma, a 4-year0old goat, at his farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Joe McCoy spends time with Daenerys, left, and Gem at his farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—

  • Joe McCoy prepares to use a milking machine to milk Daenerys, one of his seven goats, at his farm in Easthampton, Wednesday. JERREY ROBERTS—



@cmlindahl
Sunday, June 12, 2016

EASTHAMPTON — Twice a day, every day, the goats know the drill.

As Joe McCoy nears the gate, they crowd round, clearly excited to see their owner. And once he enters the barnyard, the goats greet him in the same way a more common domesticated animal might, by nuzzling their heads against him.

“They’re somewhere between a cat and a dog as far as affection goes,” McCoy said. “They’re really social.”

One by one and in a particular order, the lactating goats get milked by McCoy.

“Gem, you’re next,” McCoy said after Thelma had been milked to depletion. But even if Gem had a perfect grasp of English, it wouldn’t matter for the intelligent animal: “They know their order,” McCoy said.

McCoy and his husband, Stan McCoy, run Sage Meadow Farm at their Clapp Street home. Joe, a veterinarian, focuses on tending to the animals while Stan manufactures soaps at his studio in the Keystone Mill on Pleasant Street.

Since starting their caprine adventure three years ago with three goats, the number has doubled on the McCoys’ farm. In addition to their goat milk soaps, which come in scented varieties from lavender to “herb garden,” they also make cheese for themselves and their friends with their goats’ bountiful yield of milk.

On a good day, that could mean four gallons, Joe said.

Stan started making soap in his kitchen, where he produced sudsy gifts for friends. That landed Sage Meadow’s first client, a store in Ohio. They were picked up by Nash Gallery in Easthampton and Outlook Farm in Westhampton and found early success at farmers markets and festivals as well as on their website, www.sagemeadowfarm.com.

At last year’s Cultural Chaos fair in Easthampton, they sold 200 bars of soap, and then 700 at the recent Cottage Street Open Studios. To date, the McCoys estimate they have sold some 5,000 bars of soap.

And in May, the McCoys started marketing their soaps to a wider audience by getting them on the shelves at Big Y supermarkets in Amherst, Northampton and Southampton.

Goat beginnings

About five years ago, Joe decided he wanted goats.

He and Stan show Jack Russell Terriers and Joe figured they could show goats as well.

For two years they took classes on raising the animals and using their milk. They took taking cheese- and soap-making classes at Goat School in Saint Albans, Maine.

“By the time we were done, I wanted them as bad as he did,” Stan said.

But they still weren’t set on making soap. Stan, who works as a Verizon technician, began playing around in the kitchen with different recipes and discovered he enjoyed making the products.

Though today the Sage Meadow line at Big Y consists of seven varieties of all-natural bar soap, Stan admits it was a learning process with plenty of “soap fails.”

“I’ve made some real doozies that didn’t work out,” he said. “We have a huge learning curve to everything we’re doing.”

The soaps are made by combining a unique blend of oils that have different properties with lye and goat milk. Then the scents are added, as well as other additions such as ground oatmeal. The bars are then left to harden for several weeks.

Symptoms of that learning curve include the minor, like Stan learning that certain natural colors do not produce well when mixed with lye, to the more serious consequences of the caustic chemical.

Once processed as soap, lye helps keep people clean. But during the saponification process, Stan soon learned that gloves are necessary after he burned his fingertips.

“I would go to open my iPhone and I couldn’t,” he said.

He’s got most of the kinks worked out now, and is working on perfecting his craft. Though the soaps sold at Big Y are all natural, others sold by Sage Meadow still have some artificial scents. Stan said he hopes to move to a fully natural line.

The McCoys said they haven’t yet turned a profit because they invest it all back into the business. But they hope to expand their offerings.

And they eventually hope to begin making cheese for commercial sale at the studio once they are fully licensed.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.