Greeley woman raises goats to make lotion, soap out of milk
Dawn ‘til Dusk
For more information or to buy the goat’s milk products, go to Dawn ‘til Dusk’s website at http://www.dawntilduskfarm.com.
Dawn Swanbom originally wanted to raise goats so she could make goat cheese. After a few too many failed experiments, she realized she was an awful cheese maker, and was left with a freezer full of goat’s milk and broken dreams.
That’s when her daughter suggested she make lotion out of it. With a freezer full of milk, a farm full of goats a’milking and cheese that was clearly not working out, she had nothing to lose.
Four years later, Dawn ‘til Dusk, her lotion and soap company, is thriving. Dawn and her husband, Lee, brought her products to the Greeley Arts Picnic Saturday and Sunday, where she answered questions about her all-natural products, skincare and of course, the goats themselves.
“She’s got great products,” said Rhonda Welch, Greeley Arts Picnic coordinator. “What I love is she’s great about her displays and her presentation. It’s really a wonderful, joyful little booth.”
This year at the Arts Picnic, Dawn had a computer set up and playing a slideshow of photos of her goats, so people walking by the booth could get a little slice of what’s happening back at the Swanboms’ south Greeley farm.
Across from their white, ranch-style house are the goat pens, where about a dozen goats live, milk and play, from the babies born this spring to their full-uddered mamas to the big burly Billy goat dads. The babies are always bleating, climbing on the wooden crate in their pen and sticking their little heads through the wire fencing.
“They’re like a dog, but they’re like your kids, too,” Lee said.
Each goat has its own personality, Dawn said, which makes it harder that she can’t keep them all. The boy kids can’t be milked, so they’re sold to a farm in Berthoud, where they become walking weed-eaters.
“There’s only so many men you need in your life,” Dawn said.
For the other goats, the Swanboms try to keep their lives as comfortable as possible. It’s part of their philosophy of doing things, as they call it, “the right way.” The goats are contributing to their living, so it’s their responsibility to treat them with respect, Dawn said.
Goats only produce milk for a certain amount of time after they deliver a kid, but since Swanboms’ lotions and soaps are gaining popularity, the farm needs milk year round. This year, they will install a schedule where they’ll go through birthing twice a year, but with different goats, so each nanny — or mom— goat can rest in between. Unlike at large dairies, where the babies don’t spend much time with the mothers, the Swanboms leave the kids with the nannies for a month before switching them to bottle-feeding.
When it’s time to make a product, the Swanboms pasteurize the milk, then add natural ingredients like shea butter, almond oil and avocado oil to make the lotions and soaps. Goat’s milk contains C and B vitamins, and Dawn has dozens of stories about people who’ve tried it and seen it work for everything from dry skin to red patches to acne.
“They say Cleopatra used to bathe in goat’s milk, and that’s why she was so beautiful,” Lee said.
The Swanboms try to make as much for themselves as they can, whether it’s the goat-milk soap or raising chickens for meat and eggs, turkeys, honeybees and vegetables. Dawn even tried to raise sheep so she could use their wool to make fabric, but that experiment didn’t go too well, she said with a laugh.
While goats are like pets for the Swanboms, Dawn hopes they’re also a retirement plan. Both Dawn and Lee still work full-time jobs in addition to running the farm and the beauty product business, but Dawn hopes that will change soon.
The Arts Picnic in 2014 was the Swanboms’ first big show, and this year’s event was their third. Dawn ‘til Dusk also has a booth at the Festival of Trees’ Sip and Shop ladies night out event in Greeley in December. Dawn said though she has clientele from all over the country, her customers from Greeley are some of the most loyal.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Dawn said. “The people of Greeley really are about supporting local.” ❖
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.