SHULLSBURG, Wisc. – Goat milk is sculpted into beautiful peaks and swirls that look like whipped icing or a scrumptious Schaum Torte.
That’s the work of Ella Woodworth, who, on the farm she grew up on near Shullsburg, makes beautiful soap out of goat’s milk. The milk from the teen’s tiny herd of Alpine dairy goats is one of her fundamental art supplies, and the barn is only a short distance away.
It’s been over ten years since Woodworth, now 18, started milking goats. But even before that, she had tried goat milk. Her doctor suggested substituting pasteurised goat milk for cow’s milk since she had trouble digesting cow’s milk as a baby.
According to her mother, Tammy Woodworth, “some of the proteins in goat milk are more readily absorbed.” In addition to being easier to stomach, A2 milk from cows is now more widely available than it was when Ella was a newborn.
The Woolworths bought an Alpine goat from Shullsburg native Mary Owen in 2012. And they’ve kept on bringing them up. When Ella Woodworth was in third grade, she joined Little Britches 4-H and began displaying goats. She’s kept on bringing them to 4-H and FFA fairs to display. She also entered the 2019 Wisconsin State Fair with a goat-milk soap and won both a judge’s choice and an award of excellence for it.
When I asked her what she wanted to do, she replied she wanted to try something different, so she displayed Boer goats at the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair. She also owns ten Alpine goats and two Boers at the moment.
The Alpines, she observed, are kind yet distinct individuals. To get away quickly, they will often knock over a cable spool and shove it over by the fence.
They enjoy being on their own, she added.
The American Dairy Goat Association praises the Alpine for its versatility and resilience, noting that this breed can survive in a wide range of environmental conditions while remaining healthy and producing high-quality milk.
Alpine goats are great milk producers, according to the Alpines International Club. Good quantities of milk with a high butterfat and protein content are produced by these animals. The group also notes that between freshenings, the goats might keep producing for a year to three years.
“That generates lucrative year-round milk and minimises breeding expenses,” claims Alpines International.
Initially, Woodworth milked the goats by hand, but he now uses a machine. She claimed that this allowed her to breastfeed both of them simultaneously. Their daily milk output is between 6 and 8 pounds, and they need to be milked twice a day to keep up with demand.
About 16 ounces of milk are required to produce a batch of soap, which typically consists of five 20-ounce silicone-lined loaf pans. To make a batch, you’ll also need 40 ounces of vegetable oil and 6 ounces of lye. She like to use coconut or olive oil, or shortening purchased in bulk from a warehouse club, in her cooking. She revealed that she frequently uses Amazon to buy lye.
She said that she and her mother had taken up soapmaking as a pastime. We modified an existing recipe we discovered on the internet.
There was a learning curve involved in terms of time and temperature that they had to overcome. At various temperatures, milk sets in a variety of ways. However, Woodworth warned that excessive heat might cause the soap to melt and collapse.
“But I have fun with it,” she said. “You need to be patient and not worry too much about making errors.”
This enterprising teen’s soapmaking pastime has evolved into a modest side company. In 2017, she and her brother, Zach Woodworth, established Farm Fresh Art. The soap is available at the Shullsburg Farmers Market and at JACE Boutique in Shullsburg. Her sibling, a junior at UW–Madison, makes and sells handmade rustic yard art. They’re also both selling wares on Facebook.
After graduating from Shullsburg High School this spring, Ella Woodworth will enrol at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in the autumn. Her earnings from Farm Fresh Art will go toward tuition and living costs.
Look up “Farm Fresh Art – The Woodworths” on Facebook, or check out adga.org and alpinesinternationalclub.com.
This is an original piece I wrote for Agri-View, a Madison, Wisconsin-based agricultural journal owned and operated by Lee Enterprises. To learn more, check out AgriView.com.