Life is indeed short. There’s no time to waste and it’s never too late to try something new. Especially something that carries on Crozet’s spirit of farm business.
Bob and Kathy Ramsay wanted some livestock on their secluded small farm on the south side of Crozet, which they’ve named Wynott Farm. Bob’s family had moved from Maryland to Missouri when he was 10 years old and there he grew up on a small farm his parents, Jim and Jeanne Ramsay (who now live next door), named Wynott Farm. Bob—and his brother, who has an operation called Wynott Quarter Horses—have carried on the name. The family came back east to Virginia in 1975.
“We like to say about the soap, ‘Have you tried it? Wynott?’” said Ramsey.
Kathy started out with chickens and still raises them.
“She recommended goats to me,” recalled Bob, who was not initially taken with the suggestion. “About eight months later, I thought, yes. I came across an Internet group on mini-Nubians that included someone from Charlottesville, who it turned out we knew.”
Now they raise mini-Nubians, a breed that began to be developed about 25 years ago when Nubians, a dairy breed, began to grow too large and breeders sought to reduce their size. Nubians were crossed with Nigerian Dwarfs. Breeders are trying to retain all the other Nubian characteristics such as long, dangly ears and Roman nose, Ramsey said.
There are now four does, eight kids and of course, a buck. While they’re fresh, the does are milked twice a day, 12 hours apart, on the sixes. The Ramsay refrigerator is crammed with containers of creamy-looking milk.
The goats, inside a fence of welded panels—goats are good at defeating a fence—are guarded by two Karakachans, an old breed developed in Bulgaria that by reputation is willing to take on bears. The large dogs raised exclusively with the goats, regard them as part of their pack and defend them accordingly.
Ramsay bought a seven-goat herd from an elderly woman who was selling out. Since then he’s also bought goats from Wisconsin, Wyoming and one that hails all the way from Washington State. He transports them with a camper shell on his pickup. That separated from the truck once while travelling and blew off, but amazingly none of the 17 goats on board decided to jump out. Since them he confines them in dog crates for transport.
“We got the mini-Nubian breeding business going, and one day I saw goats’ milk soap for sale. I came home and said, ‘Let’s start making soaps! It was like a high school [science] experiment. There are five qualities in soap recipes, things like ‘handiness,’ ‘lather.’ We loved the soap.”
Soap-making takes the goat milk, which reacts with lye, the cleaning agent, and adds fats such as coconut oil and shea butter and finally scent oils. Once the ingredients are properly blended in their kitchen, the soap is poured into wooden molds to cure. Molds line the hallways of their home. Once ready, the Ramsay’s package the five-ounce bars in a burlap wrap secured with their Wynott logo sticker. Kathy’s mom Ros Ludwig helps with that. The soap is offered in 10 scent varieties based on five essential oils, mainly used in combinations, such as lemon/eucalyptus, cedarwood/rosemary, coffee/peppermint or lavender/teatree (their best-selling scent). There is also an unscented bar.
Six months ago they had a logo designed for them and from there it’s been all about getting soaps to markets. They are making about 500 bars a month now. They rest while the goats are dry in January and February. (Like most farmers, they have full-time nonfarm jobs, Bob at State Farm and Kathy as a nurse.)
Kathy took some bars to the Crozet Farmers Market and sold nine at $6.50 each the first time out. Now the soap, also available in a 2.5-ounce size, is offered at the Charlottesville City Market as well as a dozen stores including Parkway Pharmacy and the new Crozet Artisans Depot. It can be found in shops in Charlottesville, at Michie Tavern, in Staunton, Lexington, and at The Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft, too. It can ordered online though their website, wynottfarm.com.
“I’m just thrilled for only doing it for two years. I love talking about it,” he said.
“I learned a whole lot from the managers at the city market,” said Bob. “They were very encouraging.”
A new project is a gift shaving kit that includes the Wynott soap, a shaving brush and a small, locally made pottery mug.
“Everything in the soap is natural, no chemicals, no alcohol, no detergents,” said Kathy. “Goat milk is good for you and your skin; it helps people with sensitive skin. It moisturizes and it has lactic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells. It’s packed with vitamin A, which helps reduce wrinkles, and it has vitamins C and B and zinc, too. It’s pH level is very close to that of skin. You won’t go back to another soap. We know Cleopatra used to bathe in goat’s milk. She knew it was good for her.”