An Interview with Kerry Beiter
Tell us a little bit about yourself! When you’re not busy keeping your shop stocked with awesome soaps, what are you up to?
First and foremost I’m a mother of two young, energetic boys who’ve grown up tending to our goats and chickens on our organic, goat farm in western New York State. I met my husband Eric in graduate school as students in the Biology Department at Binghamton University. We’ve always had a passion for environmental issues and in 1999 we were able to spend a semester together working on a reforestation farm in Costa Rica.
Once we graduated, Eric started teaching, and I worked in the Agriculture Industry for a few years before having our first son in 2004. After being married for 12 years, having two children and a certified organic goat farm, we decided to expand into a soap making business to put our raw, organic milk to important use. I had been making cheese and soap for our family for years and decided to start a small business utilizing our amazing goat’s milk for soaps and other skincare products. Hence, Alpine Made was born.
So…why soap? What about soap keeps you dedicated to the business?
My husband and I have always believed in organic products! If we don’t grow or make the organic foods we eat, we buy them from local organic farmers through CSA programs, or at food co-ops. When I was pregnant with my first son, I knew that if we could only choose a portion of our foods we ate as organic, due to cost constraints, we knew it had to be our meat and dairy foods we bought. We decided that raising our own dairy animals would cut down on food costs over the long run, so we bought our first 3 goats at a county fair soon after Aidan was born and the farm grew from there.
When I began making and using my goat milk soap, skin issues like dandruff and dry, cracked skin went away and I understood from then on how damaging commercial soaps were for us. My family uses nothing but our goat milk soap and eventually I’d like to make all sorts of other goat milk skincare products such as lotion, creams, and lip balms.
What made you commit to operating a certified organic farm that produces goat’s milk?
I always knew I was an environmentalist at heart as a child. I went to college to receive a BS degree in Environmental Forest Biology and an MS degree in Plant Ecology. Even though my career path veered in the direction of agriculture, I wanted to incorporate what I learned in college into my farming operation and mission. We farm not only using certified organic practices, but we are also sustainable in our methods as well. For example, we use solar power whenever possible, to power our water pumps and heat our livestock water. We’ve also taken time, through years of planting, to create a diverse, plant and animal environment at our farm. This diversity of plants has attracted wildlife to our property and we’ve designed our pastures to allow our domestic livestock to live contently alongside this wildlife we’ve purposely attracted.
Goats are the perfect dairy animal to have in a diverse plant environment because they prefer the large choices of plants to eat over grazing on traditional grass and clover pastures. They also produce delicious milk too. We raise the Alpine dairy breed and recently had our logo created with that in mind. Alpine Made symbolizes goat milk skincare products made for people who desire a fresh, unrefined, natural product.
Any plans for 2013 that you want to share? Line expansions, new methods of selling, all of that fun stuff!
Like all of us trying to build a small business, we have some long-term goals that we mention in our business plan and slowly strive towards. Short-term goals include building up our artisan product line and showcasing it on our website (www.alpinemade.com). We have concentrated on our goat milk soap line for the present but hope to launch a goat milk sugar scrub, lotion and skin cream in 2013.
It takes an enormous amount of time to develop not only the product line but also the appropriate labeling and packaging for the products. At the moment, it’s just me running the show, while my husband works full time outside of the farm. I have a decent understanding of chemistry and being a trained biologist has helped me understand all of the experimentation and testing that’s needed to develop wonderful skincare products using our raw, organic goat’s milk. I research and stay as informed as I can about the latest information in this industry before creating any new products. I learn something new everyday and that’s what makes building our artisan, goat milk soap and skincare business so much fun!