By Doug Skinner
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,” says the 1970s song, and those of you traveling Interstate 65 between Indianapolis and Louisville may recognize the billboard sign for Goat Milk Stuff.
You know the one, the big billboard with pictures of adorable goats on it, advertising all kinds of goat-based edibles and skin care products. Come with me and let’s check it out.
Located in Scottsburg, Goat Milk Stuff is the family business of the Jonas Family — parents Jim and PJ, Brett, 20, Colter, 19, Emery, 17, Fletcher, 16, Greyden, 14, Hewitt, 13, Indigo, 11, and Jade, 10.
Driving up to the farm, you get the impression of a Kentucky horse farm, only for goats. Neatly manicured grounds accentuate the five white barns with red roofs, plus a chicken coop and greenhouse.
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Entering the retail soap building to check in, I could instantly tell where I am even with my eyes closed. All of the many fragrances competed to delight my sense of smell. In the barn housing the goats, well, let’s just say there’s a non-fragrance, but it makes up for it by being meticulously clean and full of friendly, cute goats. The sweet shop — with it’s large selection of goat milk candy, gelato, goat milk, yogurt — and milking parlor round out the five buildings.
PJ Jonas told me they seek to honor Jesus in all that they do and that plays a big role in their family and their business. The children, all eight of them, are homeschooled and taught, “everything is a God issue” — including making and selling goat milk soap.
Their adventures into soap making originated in 2006 out of PJ Jonas’ desire to not use the chemicals found in soap on the children’s skin. She wanted a natural soap that would moisturize their skin and last a long time.
While making her first batch of soap, she decided to swap in goat milk, which they had been drinking for health reasons, for the water that the recipe called for.
She put a bar in the shower and her husband’s fingers soon stopped cracking and splitting. Since this was a problem he had suffered with for years, PJ Jonas realized this was one of those “aha” moments.
Since PJ Jonas enjoyed making soap and was so impressed with its quality, she turned it into a family business. In 2008, Goat Milk Stuff was born, and she drafted the entire family into the adventure. Just like she wanted them to be healthy, she also wanted them to have the qualities of self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and responsibility, as well as learn how to handle money, run a business and above all, how to work hard.
The family got their first dairy goats in 2005 because they wanted healthy, raw milk for their growing family, quickly falling in love with alpine goats, a breed known for their milk production.
Now they use goat milk for everything — drinking, cooking, cheese making, fudge- and caramel-making, and, of course, soap making. It takes a lot of milk to meet all the demands and uses they have for it.
They have some super-milkers in the herd: Fabulous, Valley, Zeyda and Payton all go back and forth fighting to be the “top producer.” They will each give over 2 gallons a day at their peak. This year they are milking 76 goats twice a day with plans to add 26 more.
The entire family is involved with taking care of the goats, whether it is milking twice a day, cleaning stalls, trimming hooves, doing vet work, handling goat registration paperwork or simply loving on the goats. The goats are a huge part of the family.
Goat milk doesn’t sell itself, so on the retail business side, each child has a specific job from answering the phones, molding the soaps, making the candy or gelato, packaging the orders and shipping them out, as well as on-site retail sales.
Every goat has a name and answer when they are called — unless they are being stubborn. They each have a personality, and you can definitely tell the goats the children have spoiled. Unable to keep all their goats — most of their goats have twins and triplets each year — they make sure that all of the babies go to good homes for breeding or pets.
Goat Milk Stuff is the only Grade A goat milk farm in Indiana allowed to sell pasteurized goat milk for human consumption. PJ Jonas knows she has her work cut out for her when promoting goat milk in Indiana cow country. Her goal, thus the signs that brought me here, is to get people in the door and let them taste test for themselves.
My wife and I had delicious goat milk nougat candy, dark chocolate nut candy, and bought two fragrant bars of soap containing honey, milk and oatmeal.
Every now and then I get to introduce my readers to a feel-good story. These are real people, remarkable people — intelligent, hardworking, innovative, loving and with a great sense of humor. Normal with a capital “N.” Eight children, who are also homeschooled, are taught hard work, the value of a dollar and how to earn a living. They truly live their motto, “Work Hard, Get Dirty, Use Good Soap.”
Visit their website, goatmilk stuff.com, for directions and hours to schedule a goat farm tour, baby goat experience, to shop online, or as I recommend, go in person. The smells and goat cuddling are worth the drive. Check out their Facebook page as well. Until then, follow their motto: “Work Hard, Get Dirty, Use Good Soap.”
Doug Skinner is a semi-retired veterinarian. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.