niche marketing Marketing in the age of Covid-19

By Chris Holland Covenant Creek Farm

In the early 1990s, having a few goats became the fashion- able homesteading thing to do. A dairy goat could provide milk for her babies and put milk on the family table. Goat milk was an amazing discovery for me! I had spent a lifetime of allergies to dairy products (ice cream was silent but deadly). My horrible allergic reaction to soap was even worse.

My introduction to all things natural came from a new friend and mentor. I am not sure that the title of “Goat keeper” would have stuck without her guidance and knowledge. She was an amazing Herbalist and Homesteader moving toward total self- sufficiency.

As I began experimenting with soap making, she suggested incorporating goat milk as it is a natural ingredient that is good for the skin. It is reported that Cleopatra’s beauty came from lux- urious baths in fresh goat milk. Goat milk has a pH that is close to the pH of human skin. That helps with a natural exfoliation or removing the dead skin layer to reveal naturally moist and glow- ing skin. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals that help feed and nourish the skin. Goat milk is naturally homogenized, which means it keeps its milk fat or cream and that provides the luxury for the skin.

In 1993 the Internet was an infant with very little infor- mation — unlike today. Books and libraries were our friends. After a great deal of research and total fear of working with lye, I tried my first batch of all-natural Lavender Oatmeal Goat Milk Soap. My excitement was overwhelming that I cooked something so amazing on my stove. It felt so good on my skin and did not leave me dry or itchy. Sadly, it was quite ugly. I then knew where the saying “Ugly as homemade soap” originated. I gave my ugly balls of soap to ev- eryone I knew. They were in love and wanted more. Covenant Creek Farm Goods was born.

Chris Holland, center, with her children, Jonah and Chelsea, at the Starkville (Miss.) Community Market recently.

The early years marketing was easy. Word-of-mouth advertising was keeping us busy. These days were fun and exciting, creating new products and improving the beauty of the bars. My husband worked 8 to 5 off the farm leaving me to work at home. The two Saanen dairy goats had to be milked twice a day. Their four kids had to be bottle fed four times a day.

I juggled the outdoors with the indoor work. Coordinating the daily care, milking and bottle feeding with creating fabulous in-de- mand products would be challenging if it weren’t for human children. Hence, large farm families in the 1800s. That was creating your own workers.

I made enough goat milk soap, herbal salve and floral waters to set up my first vendor booth at a small festival. I cannot express my excitement over making $30 at that event. This was the first of years of direct sales to the public at fairs, festivals and flea markets. Our products are made with fresh milk from our own goats and pro- duced on our farm. This is called a Value-Added Farm Product.

12 Goat Rancher | August 2020

2005 marked the beginning of Internet sales. We offered a homemade ,information-only webpage with a phone number to call to place an order. It would be a few years before a real website came along. I hired a wonderful web designer who put it all together. We moved from word of mouth to creative ways to promote the website. 2020 began with a renewed excitement for the upcoming market season, an updated website offering new products and several new wholesale customers. We were excited about the herd of Saanens and LaManchas and thoughts of attending American Dairy Goat Associ- ation shows. We would see our customers and love all the hugs — then, spring 2020 happened and it felt as though the entire world crashed. All of our markets and festivals were cancelled. We learned new phrases and terms like quarantine, essential workers, social dis- tancing, pandemic and mandatory facemasks.

Farmers no longer were able to gather to sell their produce to

the public. They had to watch the product of their labor sit and spoil. Grocery stores had large spaces of empty shelves where products were once displayed.

Milking nine does was producing an abundance of milk to go

in the freezer. By the end of April we could no longer order plastic bottles for our lotions and sprays. The manufacturers had shut down

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