By BETSY J. KREGER
Farm, Field and Garden Correspondent
5:12 PM AKDT, August 25, 2012
The 2012 Somerset County Farmers' Market season brought in quite a few new faces and introduced several new products to tempt customers on Saturday mornings. Perhaps one of the most unique of these freshmen farmers' market vendors is Dn'D Farms.
Owners Dessie and Derrick Carpenter spend about two hours each week traveling to the Somerset County Farmers' Market from their home farm in Martinsburg.
Though the drive is long, the Carpenters have such a passion for their product that they are willing to go the distance, even driving to several other markets in Altoona, Johnstown and State College.
By now, most readers are probably wondering what fruit or vegetable could inspire anyone to travel such great distances? But it is no crop that motivates the Carpenters. It is a love of goats and a firm belief that the all-natural goat's milk soaps and lotions that they produce by hand in small batches on their farm offer benefits that cannot be matched by any other products on the market today.
The Carpenters did not set out to sell cleansing and beauty products. Originally, the couple's goal was to raise goats as a side business, building on a love affair that began for Derrick when he was a 7-year-old boy in search of a 4-H project.
Eventually, his love for the animals turned into a business opportunity. Today, the Carpenters raise, milk and sometimes sell Boer, Nubian and Toggenburg goats. In addition to the goats, Dn'D Farms is home to sheep, pigs, rabbits, a milk cow, veal calves, turkeys, 60 laying hens, and anywhere from 50 to 100 meat chickens at any given time.
Although Derrick grew up deeply rooted in the farming community, Dessie herself will be the first to tell you that she had very little farming experience before she met her future husband.
"When I first started dating Derrick, I offered to help him bottle feed a baby goat. To this day, my mother says she wishes she could have seen my face when he told me I had to milk the goat before I could feed the kid," laughed Dessie.
Dessie may not have started out her life as a farmer, but she has certainly settled into the role, even working in a heifer barn at a large dairy operation for a time before she and Derrick decided to build their own farm.
As the farm has grown over the last 20 years, so has Dessie and Derrick's dedication to providing those in the community with the freshest and highest-quality meats, eggs and products possible while also being very contentious about the mark that they as farmers are leaving on the planet.
As a result, the couple makes every effort to maintain a self-sustaining lifestyle. They feed their animals quality feed in order to ensure quality meats, milk and eggs. They plant an extensive garden each summer and preserve as much as they can for use during the colder months. Dessie even hand crafts baskets from natural reeds in her spare time.
"It's a way of life and we do our best to pass our own way of life on to our customers," explained Derrick.
It was their desire to not let anything go to waste that led Dessie and Derrick to branch out into making soaps and lotions out of their leftover goat's milk.
"We always had excess goat's milk. We were raising out veal calves on all the goat's milk and were still dumping excess milk. At one point we were milking around 25 does and we knew we needed another outlet for the milk. After a lot of research, we decided to start with the soaps and lotions," said Dessie.
The road to finding just the right recipes for their lotions and soaps proved to be a long one. The Carpenters wanted to ensure that their products were all natural and contained nothing other than pure goat's milk — no water, chemicals or artificial fragrances that could dry skin would be used in Dn'D's products.
According to the Dn'D Farms' website, keeping the soaps and lotions as pure as possible allows the beneficial qualities of the milk to shine through. Specifically, the goat's milk contains vitamins and minerals that make the skin smoother and healthier. Goat's milk also has a pH level similar to our skin, which can protect the skin from bacteria and chemicals.
It took over a year of research and plenty of trial and error before Dessie and Derrick found a recipe that met all of their criteria, but they have clung to that recipe for years and will continue to use it in the future — even it means putting in some extra effort now and then.
Each week, Dessie and Derrick make at least 2-3 batches of soaps and lotions.
"Milk can be very tricky and if not done properly, you can very easily ruin a batch of soap or lotion. (When it is finished,) we dry all soaps for a minimum of five weeks. The drier a bar of soap is, the longer it will last," said Dessie.
At the farmers' market Dn'D Farms offers their soaps in unscented, orange n' oatmeal, almond n' coconut, and oatmeal, milk n' honey varieties. The lotions have an even more expansive scent list including brown sugar and spice, cherry almond, lemon sugar, coconut lime verbena, sweet cranberry and a unique blend of apples, cinnamon and cloves called hayride and bonfire.
In addition to their soaps and lotions, the Carpenters have developed foot creams, lip balms and scrubs. Their newest products are perhaps the most intriguing however. This year, Dessie decided to expand her herb garden. While looking to find ways to utilize her herbs, she stumbled upon various recipes for natural insect repellants.
"I know how many chemicals that store brand repellants have in them and I was determined to make an insect repellant that is just as effective, but is also good for your skin," explained Dessie.
Using herbs like catnip, lavender, peppermint and spearmint in a witch hazel base, Dessie found a good smelling way to keep the bugs off without spraying irritating chemicals onto the skin. In the future, she hopes to add all-natural homemade cleaning products to her list of environmentally friendly merchandise.
The next time you are busily searching for the freshest local produce at the Somerset County Farmers' Market, don't forget to stop by and take a look at Derrick and Dessie Carpenter's Dn'D Farms market display where you will not only find high quality meats, but all-natural alternatives to the chemical-laden cleansers and repellants laying around the house.
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