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The natural way

How an Elkhorn family keeps together by keeping things simple

Charlotte Huntley/The Week

(Published March 29, 2007, 4:00 p.m.)

A basket sat on the table. It was filled with cobalt blue bottles of lotions, and around them were decorative soaps in shades of ecru. The afternoon sun shone through the window onto the wooden floor where the black cat was sunning himself. Outside the snow was melting, but inside the family room, people comfortably shared space with the cat and a brown-and-white dog.

“Whatever we’re doing, whether it’s the produce, or the animals, or these products,” Mary Bub said, nodding at the lotions and soaps, “we’re always trying to do it in the most natural way. That always makes it a little more challenging.”

And the family has risen to the challenge. After a long history of growing good food products for themselves and taking care of the land, MoonStar Farm became a reality for Caryn Bub Standal and her family.

Her parents, Don and Mary Bub, liked to grow things organically, and Caryn and her dad were always interested in animals. When Caryn was growing up, they lived on a 50-foot-by-120-foot lot in Pewaukee, and Caryn “...brought home every stray cat there ever was,” Mary said, “and dogs. She had rabbits and guinea pigs...”

“Whatever they’d let me have,” Caryn broke in. “I tried for goats, but they wouldn’t let me.”

Caryn finally got goats when her own children raised them for 4-H. They had mini-Nubians, an experimental breed at the time.

About four years ago, Caryn had an idea. She wanted a place that her family and her folks could own together, as well as a place for her horse so she wouldn’t have to board it. She found a 77.5-acre farm on Potter Road, which included a house, a 100-year-old-barn and a silo. The barn needed work, but it was very near what Caryn had envisioned. She called her parents.

Her parents thought about it and in less than a year, they had built a house on the land and started living on Potter Road

Caryn said, “I honestly hadn’t planned on building a home here because I was right in Mukwonago, and I thought I’d just drive back and forth and it’s fine.”

The farm grew and her children, Jake, 15, Kate, 14, Nik, 12, and Tess, 10, began attending school in Elkhorn. If there was a problem at the farm, Caryn drove there to take care of it. Soon her trips back and forth were more and more frequent until she realized that all this driving was not ideal. In fact, it was stressful. She and her husband, Mike Standal, decided to build a home for their family east of her parents’ home, behind the barn next to the road, and the family moved in. That happened this summer.

And the goats—Caryn got her goats, but she also wanted a way to make the farm pay for itself. Her part of the farm is the animals—besides goats, there are cattle and chickens, all of which are grass fed, and she sells the eggs and meat.

Americans tend to be more comfortable eating beef than goat, but Caryn said, “Goat is really good. It tastes great. It’s a very healthy meat and very lean. It’s even better than lamb.”

In addition, they had goat milk. Caryn and her parents looked at several dairies to see what they would need to do to sell the milk. The problem was that they didn’t have enough milk to go that route, at least not yet, so Caryn thought of another way to use it.

Soap. And lotion.

Caryn used soap recipes that she found, but the lotion, she said, “I developed the lotion through a lot of trial and error. It took a long time.”

Mary said, “She’s always been a researcher. We pretty much developed the product based on her research.”

The hardest part was finding a good preservative. Commercially made lotions use parabens—methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben—which are like estrogens. “They are not a good idea. They’re a great preservative,” Caryn said, “but they’re just not very good for you.”

The FDA acknowledges that parabens were found in cancerous breast tumors, but insists that parabens are safe. However, in its March 24, 2006 post, the FDA states: “...the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public, and will consider its legal options under the authority of the FD&C Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.”

Caryn uses Biovert, a natural enzyme, to preserve the lotions, creams and oils.

The lotion is smooth and, well, milky, but it leaves no greasy feel on the skin; the scent is gentle, yet interesting. The beauty of goat milk soaps and lotions is that goat milk has the same pH as human skin, so it is not harsh or an irritant.

“What makes us different—we mill our soap a little differently than other folks do,” Mary said. They don’t use water and, “We use different kinds of molds. We wanted to make a product that was good, that was useful, but that was also appealing. People buy it and put it in their guest bathroom, but we always have to say, ‘You have to use it, because it’s really good.’”

Mary said that they have great customer feedback; they have heard from people who have skin problems like eczema or psoriasis. Most lotions burn their skin, but when they try MoonStar Farm’s lotion, their first comment is, ‘It doesn’t burn!’ “That’s encouraging to us,” Mary said. One mother uses the lotion on her baby because that’s the only lotion the baby’s skin will tolerate.

Goat milk is vitamin-rich, it is very mild and non-irritating, and it is a natural source of alpha-hydroxy acids, which rejuvenates the skin.

Products they have developed so far include face cream and body lotion, bath balm and bath oils. They are still working on producing a liquid soap.

MoonStar Farm test markets products at the Expresso Love Coffee and the Kona Café in Mukwonago. Mary belongs to Wisconsin Rural Women’s Initiative; she writes a newsletter and takes care of mail orders. She said, “One of our goals is to direct-market here from the farm.”

On the agricultural side, Caryn’s sister, Christy Harteau, is the produce manager and she and her family do most of the produce work, which includes garden vegetables, herbs and garlic. Christy and her husband, Roger, bought an acre that had been carved out of the acreage next to Potter Road, where they built their house.

MoonStar Farm sells their produce at four farm markets: Walworth County Farm Market in Elkhorn, South Shore Farm Market in Milwaukee, and the Whitewater and Waukesha Farm Markets. They also will be a part of the Walworth County Farm Tour.

Mary was able to identify the secret for the family’s success.

She said, “There is no impossible dream.”

That may be.

But it also takes a lot of hard work.

MoonStar Farm is located on W339 Potter Road, Elkhorn. To phone, call 723-4156 or 893-3142, or e-mail at mmbub@juno.com.

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