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From goat to soap: Family business focuses on healthy skin

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Harper Lee Barrow, 2, pets Sugarlicious, one of the goats that supplies milk for products made by Arba Soap Co. in Greene County.

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By BRENDA MONTY
The Standard-Laconic

Sunday, December 23, 2018

ARBA — Joey and Melissa Barrow of Arba and their four children are all about natural living and goats.

After the family experienced first-hand the health benefits of bathing with natural soap made from goat milk, they decided to make their own.

A year ago, Melissa started her own business, Arba Soap Co. With the whole family in on the process in their kitchen at home, they not only make handmade luxury goat milk soap but also make other natural bath and skin care products such as body butter, salve, bath bombs, sugar scrubs and soy candles.

Joey and Melissa are Greene County natives.

Joey, 43, grew up on the family property on Jesse Hill Road in Arba with his parents, Barbara and the late Luther Barrow. He earned a degree in agriculture business and farm management at N.C. State University.

Melissa, 33, grew up in Shine with her parents, Stanley and Terry Harper. After high school, she attended Lenoir Community College in pursuit of a career in cosmetology and later worked at a Goldsboro hair salon for several years. After their second child was born, Melissa became a stay-at-home mom.

The couple now has four children, Brylee, 11, Jacob, 9, Nathan, 4, and Harper Lee, 2. Brylee and Jacob are students at Bethel Christian Academy in Kinston.

The young Barrow family was familiar with goats long before making soap was ever a thought. They kept a few to serve as natural lawn mowers at their home on the same property where Joey grew up.

The history of Arba Soap Co. began just a few years ago.

Melissa and the children were always bothered with sensitive skin that caused an array of conditions and need for medicated skin creams.

“I began researching skin conditions and natural remedies on the internet and stumbled upon goat milk soap. I ordered some from a maker on Etsy,” Melissa said. “I used it on all the kids and really saw a difference immediately. The goat soap soothes our skin. We don’t bathe with regular soap anymore, and we don’t have to use medicated skins creams anymore.”

Melissa continued her research and realized that if they acquired a few of the right kind of goats, they could make their own goat milk soap and other natural products.

The Barrows learned all about soap making and dairy goats, which are different than meat goats. They visited websites, watched videos and visited goat dairies.

The high fat milk of the Nubian dairy goat breed is best suited for soap making.

Nubians are have sociable personalities, come in a variety of colors and have charming long floppy ears.

Females are called does and males are bucks. Baby goats are called kids. Neutered males are known as a wether. Females that have had babies, or “kidded” are called nanny goats. Females typically give birth to two or three kids at a time.

Typically, goats are bred in the fall and give birth in the spring.

The Barrows purchased their first two American Dairy Goat Association registered Nubian goats in December 2016. In March 2017, they bought four more, one of which had just had three kids, which jump-started the soap-making goal.

They now have a herd of eight that includes four males. Abraham — which means “father of many sons” — is the sire. He has lived up to the name; all four females are expected to “kid” in late February or early March.

A Great Pyrenees named Everest guards the small herd.

“You don’t have to drink goat milk to get the benefits from it. With the soap, you are getting the benefits,” Melissa said.

Goat milk is packed with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and fatty and amino acid. It keeps skin soft and moisturized, prevents premature aging, keeps skin acne-free, relieves skin irritation and inflammation, heals skin infections quickly, maintains pH balance of the skin and protects skin from cancer.

The Barrows make their soap using the old fashion cold process using only a few large pots. Melissa starts with a gallon of frozen goat milk, which she chips up in a large pot.

She then adds lye, which forms the soap through a chemical reaction between an acid (fat or oil) and a base (lye) known as saponification.

The lye is added to the milk slowly and mixed well.

Other pots, usually three, contain various mixtures of coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil or sunflower oil. At times, Melissa also adds lard, a natural pork fat, to help create a hard, longer-lasting bar.

The milk mixture and the oil mixtures are then combined. To create different styles of soap, spices and essential oils for scent and natural clays, activated charcoal or other minerals for color are added.

“My soaps are never over scented. They are made for sensitive skin or allergies,” Melissa said.

To create unique soaps, Melissa may add honey, oats, pumpkin or even coffee grounds.

“You have to be careful how you mix and how much you put in, because it has to come out perfect to become soap,” she said.

Each pot of mixture is then poured into loaf molds to set and then cut into bars. Each mold yields approximately 20 bars, and every four-ounce bar is 25 percent goat milk. She usually makes three different types of soap in each batch, 20 bars of each.

The bars are then set aside to cure, or harden, for up to six weeks before packaging.

If allowed to air dry between uses, a bar will last about a month. Each bar sells for $5.

“I’ve put a lot of time and research into this. So you are getting more than a bar of soap. To me, it’s not just a bar of soap,” Melissa said.

The soap is the only product that contains goat milk. She makes candles with soy wax and essential oils. Salve is made using bee’s wax, grape seed oil and sweet orange essential oil.

Bath bombs are made from citric acid, baking soda, cornstarch, arrowroot powder and olive oil. The body butter is a combination of shea butter, coco butter and grape seed oil.

“After we started making the soap and giving it away, everybody liked it. Then we had people who wanted to buy some and then more and more, so we made a batch. Mostly it just started by word of mouth,” Melissa said of the business.

“Arba Soap Co. suddenly became our opportunity to support my family and for me to work exclusively out of our home, while also providing connection with creativity and respect for the earth that our children will inherit.

“The ultimate goal of Arba Soap Co. is to provide a service in an eco-friendly way that is good for the planet, animals and our skin.”

Arba Soap Co. offers customized labeling on products for special occasions, such as weddings, shower gifts or teacher gifts.

“We have a good time making our products. We’re all involved in it,” she said. “Between the goats, milking and the soap, it keeps us all busy. It gives up something to do together as a family.”

Arba Soap Co. products are currently available at The Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, the Royal Marketplace in Goldsboro, the Coastal Farmhouse in Swansboro and Boro Girl in Cedar Point.

Arba Soap was also part of the BBQ Festival on the Neuse in Kinston earlier this year. The family hopes to get involved in other events in 2019 and well as establish a strong online presence.

“I want to have somewhere people can order more of the product even if they never see me again,” Melissa said.

Arba Soap Co. is on Facebook. An Etsy store and website are in the making.

To learn more or contact Arba Soap Co., go to Facebook, email arbasoap@gmail.com or call 252-624-4238.

The Standard Laconic is based in Snow Hill and serves all of Greene County.

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