Five years ago, the Cunningham family moved into a small, red house on an overgrown farm in State College, not knowing the transition would eventually lead to a family-owned business.
Upon moving in, their neighbors offered them a Nigerian Dwarf goat, which eventually cleared debris and high grass on the property.
Jamie, the wife of Nathan and mother of Kyle and Kaylyn, was ordering soap that contained goat milk, in order to tend to her dry skin, from out west at the time.
Four years later, the Cunninghams create soap products out of their own home — a business called Whitetail Lane Farm.
Looking back, Nathan never thought this was something he would do.
Now he enjoys the process because it gives him an opportunity to spend more time with his family. However, he mostly takes care of the goats, while Jamie and the kids make the soap.
“I kind of try to stay out of that,” he said. “I’m not as creative.”
The family spends about 20 hours per week making soap and taking care of about 10 goats. Along with bar soap, their products include bath bombs, lotion, scrubs and lip balm.
The Cunninghams sell products on goatmilksoaper.com, Jabebo Studios, Linda’s Cottage Shoppe, craft shows and even at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
However, as of now, the business is just a “hobby” — Jamie and Nathan have full-time jobs.
From the goat to the shelf
A goat only gives off milk for a few months, so some milk sits in the freezer for months at a time before being used.
While all soap is made with sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, many soaps are made with water. However, the Cunningham family uses goat milk to add extra minerals and vitamins, which make the soap moisturizing and nourishing, Jamie said.
Fragrance oil gives the soap scents like Warm Vanilla Sugar, Oats Milk and Honey, Blackberry Sage and Apple Mango Tango. Oils such as olive, coconut and palm are mixed in as well.
Even though the soap takes only minutes to make and is ready to use within 24 hours, the family lets it sit for up to six weeks before packaging.
The waiting time, called the curing period, allows the water to evaporate out of the milk, causing the soap to harden, which makes it last longer.
Kids in business
Kaylyn, 14, and Kyle, 11, have their own line of colorful, fruit-scented soap that is geared toward kids. They’ve sold their line at Children's Day of Arts Fest the past two years.
Their booth usually gets close to selling out, and they make a few hundred dollars profit each year, Kaylyn said, then added she enjoys meeting people and seeing how they react to the product.
Roaming around the farm
When Kyle and the goats were younger, Kyle would bend down and one goat would jump over his back each time, a recurring moment that stands out in the 11-year-old’s memories.
While Annabelle, the mother and ironically the smallest goat, is the oldest at seven years old, some are just over one year old. The new group of kids will arrive in the spring.
Even though seven female goats roam the farm, only two are milking goats, and they give off about eight cups per day.
Along with goats and four horses, the family owns a pig that enjoys rolling in the mud and playing with the horses.
The family also owns a one year old Australian cattle dog named Remi that runs around the farm and plays with the other animals.
When she is not making soap, Kaylyn rides a horse in her backyard to practice for competitions, which she has done for the last five years. Most of her friends at the barn use the soap, she said.
While making soap is only a hobby for the Cunninghams, they hope to someday open their own store and grow the business, as well as their herd of goats.