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HomeSpun Chick takes pride in goat's milk products

by Maxine Herr
Karey Hochhalter owns and operates HomeSpun Chick which makes goat milk products (photo by John Kary)
Karey Hochhalter owns and operates HomeSpun Chick which makes goat milk products (photo by John Kary)

Clayton Scheaffer keeps nanny goats on his Foothills Ranch near Buchanan, to provide supplemental milk for calves born to his beef herd.

“In my part of the country, I can’t go to a dairy anymore and buy a gallon of milk, but I knew the value of goat’s milk,” Scheaffer said as he explained how the calves thrived on the rich nutrients. But the milk’s value eventually became the inspiration for a new business for a friend he employed on his ranch.

Karey Hochhalter began making soaps and lotions from the naturally moisturizing milk after her son, Jayden, tried a soap recipe using goat’s milk for a 4-H project. After he earned a reserve grand champion prize for the soaps, his mother decided to continue making the soaps as homemade gifts for family and friends.

“I did a few batches … and everyone loved them,” Hochhalter said. “Then the gift shop in Jamestown was looking for people to showcase their products and work one day a week, so I took my goat milk soaps there.”

That shop, Gifts From The Heart in Jamestown, helped Hochhalter kick off her new business, HomeSpun Chick, in 2012. The shop owners, Larry and Cindy Gilge, urged her to join Pride of Dakota to continue marketing her products.

“Joining Pride of Dakota has been very beneficial for my business,” Hochhalter said. “Since joining, I have had many contacts from people who saw my business listed in the Pride of Dakota directory. Many people want something created in North Dakota to take home or send to relatives outside of the state.”

Hochhalter participated in the Pride of Dakota showcases at the Capitol this year as another way to introduce her products to potential customers.

“They get to see my products up close and personal and talk with me directly instead of through emails,” she said.

Because of the exposure through Pride of Dakota, Hochhalter was asked to provide inventory for other stores, such as Susie Q’s Craft Emporium in Mandan and ND Embroidery and Gifts in Medora.

Hochhalter’s success with the soaps led to customer requests for lotions, so she enrolled in classes to add a new product line. She hopes to add shaving creams and other men’s products next year since her masculine-scented soaps get rave reviews, even from Scheaffer.

“I’m an old farmer,” Scheaffer said, exposing his hands. “But now my old weathered farm hands are nice and smooth. This is good stuff.”

Goat’s milk is unique in its molecular makeup, Hochhalter said. It has the closest PH level to human skin, which protects from invading bacteria and chemicals. It is less allergenic than commercial soaps and consists of alpha-hydroxy acids that soften the skin by breaking down the glue that holds dead skin cells together. HomeSpun Chick’s website even boasts that Cleopatra’s beauty secret was to bathe in goat’s milk.

“Many people get winter itch or dry skin but everyone who has used my soaps says their skin doesn’t itch in the winter,” Hochhalter said.

Unlike cow’s milk, the cream in goat’s milk does not separate from the milk, giving the soaps a creaminess that keeps skin supple and moisturized, she said.

Making the soap begins by straining the milk and freezing it immediately. Hochhalter said while working with the milk, it needs to stay at a low temperature – below 100 degrees – to avoid undesirable smells and discoloring. She then mixes it with oils and other ingredients until it resembles pudding. She puts it into loaf molds, insulates them under blankets for three days and then cuts them into bars. The bars go on drying racks for up to six weeks to cure. Finally, she decoratively sculpts and packages the bars.

Hochhalter needs 21 ounces of milk to make a batch of 18 bars, and a single goat milking will produce about three to four batches. She’s added to the goat herd at Foothills Ranch to sustain her business, and Scheaffer worked alongside Hochhalter and her sons last summer as they constructed a soap studio and milking parlor.

“I’ve committed to helping Karey make this thing go,” Scheaffer said. “We built the facility and she rents the use of it and she helps with other parts of the farming when she can. It’s a good partnership.” Scheaffer is a member of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative.

The single mother of three is grateful for Scheaffer, who often cares for the goats if Hochhalter needs to attend her children’s activities. In addition to Jayden, 15, her other sons include: Bayley, 17; and Rylan, 11.

“He has graciously given of his time to help my dreams come true,” she said. Besides good friends like Scheaffer, her faith and family drive her success. Her three sons willingly help with soap-making and do extra chores to provide her time to devote to the business.

“They have been great cheerleaders,” she said, “and I couldn't make this business work without them.” 

Maxine Herr is a freelance writer from Bismarck.

Holiday Showcases set

The Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcases will be held at four locations in November and December, offering unique products including gourmet food, wine, art, books, jewelry, apparel, children, pet items and more.

Admission is $2; bring a reusable cloth bag and save $1. Kids ages 12 and under are free; military members/families and retailers receive discounted admission.

Dates include:

•      Grand Forks Holiday Showcase, Nov. 5-6,  Alerus Center, Ballroom

         9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday

•      Minot Holiday Showcase, Nov. 12-13,  N.D. State Fair Center, Magic Place

         9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday

•      Fargo Holiday Showcase, Nov. 18-20, Scheels Arena

         4-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

•      Bismarck Holiday Showcase, Dec. 2-4, Bismarck Civic Center, Exhibit Hall

         4-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Pride of Dakota began 30 years ago as a way to promote North Dakota businesses and products by creating an identifiable state brand that would designate products as “made in North Dakota.”