FROM THE CRITTENDEN PRESS, OCT. 13, 2016
Goats are not generally associated with beauty. In fact, the animal is hardly associated with anything attractive with their floppy ears, a reputation for eating just about anything and a penchant for frisky behavior. Why, even the term "goat" is often used to describe an undesirable person.
But as is said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Laura Bull finds the goat to be a handsome farm animal, supplying her family with meat and an array of dairy products she says are healthier than those offered by cattle. The goat also offers up just about all the beauty products one can find on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies.
That’s right, the goat is apparently the Estee Lauder of livestock.
While most people know goats are raised for butchering and milking – even if they may be a little skittish at the thought – few are probably aware that goat's milk can be turned into soap, exfoliates, lotions, body butter and even shaving lotion for men.
Though just a hobby at this stage, Bull spends a good portion of her time turning goat milk not used in the kitchen into all natural bath and beauty products. Last week, she was plying many of those wares at the 29th annual Christmas in Marion Arts & Crafts Show at Crittenden County Middle School, just as she has done the last few years.
Besides the healthful benefits of consumption – Why, even supermodel Christie Brinkley is said to drink only goat milk! – Bull claims the natural vitamins and minerals in the milk are much better for human hair and skin than the chemicals used in most commercial products.
"Milk has nutrients," she explained, "that the water they use to mix with chemicals for commercial products does not. Commercial products have a lot of toxins."
And the prices are not far off those of the mass-produced supermarket products.
"A lot of people tell me I sell things too cheap," Bull said Monday morning at her rural Crittenden County home as she showed off items from large totes gathered on the floor in preparation for Saturday's arts and crafts fair.
Travis, her 9-year-old son, is the biggest supporter of Misty Meadows Farms, Bull's name for her line of products. Home for fall break, he meticulously explains each product his mom sits on the table to display for a photo.
"He's my little salesman," his mother said. "He goes around touting my products."
Bull began selling her goat milk products about four years ago, and makes several festivals and fairs around the area, building a loyal customer base.
"I have regular customers that search me out," she said.
A native of the Boston, Mass., area, she met her husband, Jim, in Nashville, Tenn., and moved to Crittenden County about 16 years ago after a short stint back in Boston. The couple wanted a rural life. Bull had planned to open a thoroughbred rescue facility, but government red tape made the venture too costly. They settled on farm animals and her husband stays busy with a pilot car service escorting wide loads.
For seven or eight years, she has been displaying at Christmas in Marion alongside her mother, first with ceramics, and the last few years with her beauty products. Her mom and dad, Lucian and Bob Perry, have been in the last few days from their home in Massachusetts to help set up for Christmas in Marion. Lucia sells hand-painted wood ornaments.
"I enjoy it," Bull said of Christmas in Marion. "I like letting people know the benefits of goat's milk."
For one, her lotion doesn't leave the oily residue most commercial products leave behind on the skin.
The Bulls' first love was horses, but now they have a variety of animals on their farm. Initially, they weren't all that interested in goats outside of their ability to help clean up the fields with their massive appetites.
"We got into it a little more after we got our first one smoked," she said, indicating they make for a tasty meal.
From there, the Bulls began raising goats that would eventually keep the kitchen stocked. The couple wanted their own meat and milk without preservatives and chemicals found in supermarkets. The animals are all fed non-GMO products.
She currently has about 20 meat and milk goats altogether, with nine expecting litters of kids in January. The milking comes twice a day, with some goats give as much as 2 gallons each milking. Jim leaves most of the goat work to his wife, who calls each animal by name.
"If you don't like high maintenance, I don't recommend goats," she explained.
They can be very susceptible to parasites and diseases other livestock more readily fend off.
With a little research on her own, she discovered the benefits of all natural goat milk products. Leftover milk not consumed at the supper table is converted to her beauty products. The preparation is not terribly difficult or involved, but the wait can be four to six weeks for soaps to cure and cut. Raw soap is formed in a slab about a yard long before it is measured for various weights.