Among the items at the Pope County Farmers Market in Arkansas, one specialty item stands out: goat milk soap. Delinda LaRue is the artisan behind the sought-after product line that’s become known for its quality ingredients, unique fragrances for both men and women, and skin-softening properties. Delinda owns Viney Creek Farm, where she raises Nigerian Dwarf goats, known for milk with high butterfat content - more than twice that in cow’s milk - which helps her create quality soap.
While Delinda grew up around her grandparents’ farming operation in northwest Arkansas, it was just six years ago that she and her partner, David, decided to purchase a few goats as pets. It didn’t take long before they were both fascinated by the idea of raising goats and later showed them competitively. Over the past six years, Delinda has grown her operation to a herd of under 20. She’s also set high standards for her animals, culling and selling the goats that don’t meet breed standards.
“We competitively breed, so anything that doesn’t fit our standards will go to someone who’s breeding and doesn’t mind that they’re not exactly the right height or that their neck is not quite as long as you want,” she said. “We’re continually trying to improve every generation.”
Her goat rearing may have started out as a hobby, but they quickly became a full time job. During the spring, Delinda spends two hours a day milking. She also can spend six to seven hours a day conducting farm chores. According to Delinda, a good dairy goat can produce four to five pounds of milk a day, which she freezes to create her soap. Any free time is quickly filled with assisting the Pope County Farmers Market, including managing a social media campaign that increased Facebook followers by nearly 900 in just a few months, and of course, crafting her goat milk soap.
“A batch of soap might take three hours to make,” says Delinda. “I bet 50% of that is set up and tear down. I need a dedicated space for soap making.”
Her need to expand her operation’s facilities is what led her to Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and its Fresh and Local loan program, designed specifically to support small producers who sell directly to consumers. Beyond the simple application process, Delinda says her favorite part about the new loan is the relationships she’s built with Farm Credit employees.
“I really feel like I’ve made connections that will help our farm -- far past this small loan for this immediate project,” she says. “I feel like I can call on Farm Credit whenever I need them.”
In addition to the weekly farmers’ market, Delinda sells her soap at local stores and online.