When I “bought the farm” just over two years ago, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I only knew that my ultimate goal was to make it biodynamic—everything that is used on the farm is somehow derived from the farm.
I’m still a long way off from this very ambitious outcome, but I am several steps closer.
I decided that the 60-acre farm would be ideal for goats, and the herd quickly grew to 80. The goats graze freely on the pesticide-free fields, and drink the mineral-rich waters that once made Sharon Springs one of the most famous spa destinations in the world.
I started making cheese and yogurt, ice cream and even butter. But what else could I make from goat milk? Soap was the obvious choice.
According to history, goat milk’s moisturizing properties were recognized by none other than Cleopatra who bathed in it nightly to protect her skin from the arid desert air.
I apprenticed with a wonderful artisanal soap maker in Dorloo, N.Y., and after a couple of months had perfected the recipe (which includes goat milk, olive oil, coconut oil, and soy oil–and no other chemicals) and the process. I started making the soap for my own use, soon realizing that the dry skin that used to plague me during the winter months was no longer a problem–and the winters in the Adirondacks can be brutal!
I started giving the soap to friends who came to visit me on the farm, and they in turn gave it to family and friends, and before long, people were contacting me for more and reporting that it helped their psoriasis, their eczema, and any number of other skin ailments. (Of course, I would never make such claims, but am more than happy to pass along the anecdotes.)
What is special about goat milk soap? Most “soaps” are not soaps at all, but detergents. The glycerin has been removed for use in other products and replaced with petrochemicals and alcohols. Because of the odors imparted by these ingredients, synthetic fragrances are added to mask them. All of these ingredients can be drying to the skin and are especially deleterious to people with sensitive skin. If you suffer from skin ailments, the products that you use on your skin should always be the first culprit investigated when dealing with an exacerbation.
My company, BEEKMAN 1802, has grown a lot from those first days in the little room on the side of the barn. I am so glad to have found customers who believe, like me, that our skin is exposed to enough chemicals and pollutants during the course of the day and that we don’t need to use more to get it clean. I’m equally thrilled to find that more and more people visit the site because they too are looking to lead more self-sufficient, sustainable, and healthy lives. I learn something new from each guest.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.