Reprinted from FarmWorldOnline.com
by Deborah Behrends
Billboards along Interstate 65 in southern Indiana beckon travelers to visit Goat Milk Stuff in Scottsburg. Just a mile from the highway, visitors will find a bright retail store containing soap, lotion, balm and all sorts of skin-care products, along with tasty treats like cheese, caramels and fudge – all made with goat milk.
Probably the most surprising – in the retail operation, at least – is that it’s often staffed and managed by 9-year-old Jade Jonas.
The entire operation – from the care and milking of the goats, to the creation of the products, to the selling and shipping – is all handled by the Jonas family, with the help of six full-time employees during the week. The family includes parents Jim and PJ and their eight children” Brett, Colton, Emery, Fletcher, Grayden, Hewitt, Indigo and Jade.
And if visitors have a little time to stay, they may be treated to an introduction to some of the goats behind the operation. A full tour, though, requires advance reservation.
With no farming background, Jim said they wanted to create a business that would not only sustain their family, but that they could pass on to their children. “By the grace of God, we found land here we could build on,” he said.
Jim hails from New Hampshire, PJ from New Jersey and they met at the University of Virginia. After graduation in 1994, they went to work in their chosen fields, knowing they wanted a large family. With a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in education, he taught while her degree in systems engineering took her into the corporate world.
As their family grew, they made decisions that led them to their three-acre farm in Indiana where the cost of living was lower – a crucial thing for a family of 10. To help provide for their growing homeschooled family, they acquired a few farm animals, but decided they liked goats best.
PJ started making sweet treats from goat milk, along with soap they discovered was good fro Jim’s cracked knuckles. IN 2008, they made the leap into a family business. Initially an online-0nly business, Jim said they embraced social media to spread the word.
“We’ve very public – our family, our business – we believe in transparency,” he said.
So transparent, in fact, that Facebook followers can watch the birth live of kid after kid, at all hours of the day and night, as they occur. They are expecting about 140 little goats this spring. Many of the cute, bouncy babies will be sold, but some will add to the Jonas herd.
The family members take turns keeping watch throughout the night during kidding season.
“Sometimes things happen naturally, but sometimes they need a little help,” explained oldest daughter, Brett, who often takes the night shift. Most of their nannies give birth to twins, but some even have triplets.
Even with visitors in the “nursery,” the children go about their work – Brett feeds a newborn his bottle of colostrum. Grayden weighs the twins just minutes before and gives each a shot of the mineral selenium and a visitor helps clean and dry one of the twins with a blow dryer.
In the meantime, Jade trades places with Indigo and takes a break from the store to show a small group of visitors to the pen where the babies are held. “They are just so cute! I want one,” explained visitor Lindsey Barnes of Louisville, Ky.
Kids are available for sale, ranging in price from $25 to around $400 for kids that have been budded and wethered, Jim said.
This spring, Goat Milk Stuff is adding a tasting room where visitors can taste and buy the candy and gelato made on-site. “We have a birthday party scheduled here next week,” Jim said in mid-February.
Foodservice is where son Emery has found a niche. Jim said he created a candy bar that sold out quickly. H also enjoys tending the flowers and chickens. Along with all family members being avid readers, Jim said that like Emery, they’ve each found areas where they can excel in the family business. Along with the online store, retail store, and tours, he said they also offer their products for fundraisers – another large part of the business.
As for the next step…Jim isn’t sure what comes next, but he knows the Jonas family will do it together.
Find Goat Milk Stuff online at www.goatmilkstuff.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus and Pinterest, or by phone at 812-752-0622.