Got Milk? A Pine County Farm Family Cashes in on Goat Milk
By: Beth Probst, photography courtesy of Northgate Farms, Living North
John and Dawn Mead know firsthand the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. The two, who both grew up on farms in central Minnesota, knew they’d follow a similar path. “Farming is a part of who we are and we just knew it always would be,” Dawn says of her childhood. Today, the couple and their eight children live on a “glorified hobby farm” near the area they grew up. The family is busy raising fruits and vegetables for the immediate and extended family. “On an average year we’ll can 500 jars of food,” Dawn says, most of which gets consumed by the family. But, an unfortunate situation with their son has evolved into a business that’s extending beyond family.
“One of our sons had terrible skin issues,” Dawn remarks. “Doctors were pushing for more severe treatments such as steroid injections which I wasn’t comfortable with. Because of this, I spent a lot of time looking into natural treatments and what I could make.”
Meanwhile, Dawn has always had a passion for milking cows but recognized it wasn’t practical on their current farm. Wanting to help, John purchased Dawn a goat for her birthday - and the rest is history. “It didn’t take long for us to realize that goats are not solitary animals,” she says. “Soon we had added a baby goat. And then, we knew in order to have a milking goat, we needed a buck.”
From there, the family just kept growing. Today, this translates into
11 goats and a lot of milk.
Just over a year ago, Dawn took her experiences creating natural treatments and combined it with all natural goat products, creating a line of goat milk lotions and soap. The soaps start at $4.50 while the lotions run about $13 a bottle. The goat milk lotions are nearly 100% natural and buyers have the option of getting fragrance free lotions and soaps, which can be tough to find in a regular department store.
As for the goat milk, it serves multiple purposes. In addition to being natural, the goat milk in the soaps and lotions act like nutrition for the skin. Goat milk contains caprylic acid, which provides a lower pH that can prevent the drying affect that may happen with other products. It also contains lactic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy, which can help rejuvenate the skin through exfoliation.
As parents of eight children ranging from 7-26, and grandparents of two, things can get pretty hectic around the Mead household. With that said, there’s plenty of helping hands to keep up with the growing business.
The kids play a major role in the business, helping out in everything except the actual mixing of the products. “Accuracy is extremely important in making this stuff,” Dawn explains. “I want to make sure I know exactly what is going into every product we sell to our customers.” With that said, Dawn is quick to point out that she couldn’t keep up without her kids’ help. “My 16-year old daughter helps out with all of the labeling and marketing. The rest of the kids at home take turns helping me market the items at local farmer’s markets.”
As for the future, Dawn and John have several things in the works. Recently, the couple added beehives to their growing production line. “A lot of our clients have been asking for pure, raw honey,” Dawn says. Right now, the family is busy drying herbs which are used in a variety of forms ranging from herbal tea and shampoos and conditioners for the family to healing ointments.
The couple’s most popular summer product is “Gotcha”, an insect deterrent which includes four all-natural repelling ingredients. While not milk based, the emphasis on natural remains. Looking ahead, Dawn sees business growing, but at a manageable rate. “The business is definitely growing with us,” she says. “We don’t want to get too big but I would like to continue to see some expansion.”
To purchase any of the Northgate Farms products, visit northgatefarm.webs.com
Beth Probst is a freelance writer in Iron River and communications officer for the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.