8/15/2010 7:00:00 AM Afterthought Farm makes comfortable and sustainable living
Afterthought Farm in Owaneco started with three French Alpine dairy goats. Products from Afterthought Farm will be available in the Agriculture Tent at the Illinois State Fair.
Vicki Boliard and Thomas Vavrik have created a natural product line, and they make batches of soap and lotion daily from goat milk.
by Kendra Crede Breeze-Courier Writer
OWANECO - Afterthought Farm is no afterthought. Vicki Boliard, of the Taylorville area since 1984, and Chicago native Thomas Vavrik have created sustainable living on their Owaneco, IL farm. "It all started with dairy goats in 2005," says Boliard.
She had purchased three French Alpine dairy goats to begin what she used to call an interest. Now it has become not only a way of life, but is a dream career for Boliard and Vavrik. They are happy to share and teach sustainable living. According to Boliard goats are "click-ish."
When the first two goats declared the third goat unpopular, she bought three more goats to be friends with the "ousted" and lonely goat. While the goats lived happily, Boliard started making ice cream out of the goat milk. She decided that there must be other uses for goat milk, after she gained 40 pounds in a month. The goats produce six gallons of milk a day.
Now these modern farmers have created a line of herbal soaps, lotions, and candles. "We make people and pet shampoo," says Boliard. They make four batches of soap and three batches of lotion every day. They have designed several specialty products like acne and laundry soaps, muscle rubs used by local massage therapists, and diaper rash lotion. Everything at Afterthought Farm is natural. "We are better than organic," says Vavrik. He reports that there are 250 chemicals that can be sprayed on produce and plants to still be considered organic. No chemicals are used in products, completely made from scratch, at Afterthought Farm. All of the soaps and lotions contain goat milk instead of water. Boliard explains how the goat milk is better absorbed than water because of alpha hydroxy acids and the skin's pH.
Vavrik weeds the gardens by hand. Afterthought Farm has an exotic herb garden and flower garden. In a large scale vegetable market garden, Afterthought Farm grows pear trees, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, Nan King cherries for pies and more. "Local means seasonal," says Vavrik. "You can't get a pineapple here."
The products from Afterthought Farm are used in a variety of ways, and Boliard and Vavrik watch the markets carefully and plan their seasons accordingly. Boliard says, "We can watch the Dow Jones Industrial Average go down during the day, then we will go to a farmer's market and sell out of our products." Vavrik says the flowers do well in bouquet arrangements for weddings, parties, and gift baskets in holiday markets. The grooming and kennel boarding services keep Afterthought Farm going through the winter months. Besides dairy goats, the farming entrepreneurs raise chickens for slaughter, and they plan to have turkeys for Thanksgiving.
"The Illinois Department of Agriculture is doing a great job of making big distributors available for the little guys," says Boliard.
Afterthought Farm will participate as a vendor in the Agriculture Tent at the Illinois State Fair this year. Eighteen Illinois food companies were selected to give away free samples of their products. The companies featured will rotate daily. According to Marketing Representative Larry Aldag, "This is a wonderful opportunity for Illinois food companies that don't have large marketing budgets to introduce their products to thousands of potential customers and build name recognition. Our goal, of course, is to create demand for Illinois food products so grocers will stock more of them on their shelves." Afterthought Farm will be vending at the Illinois State Fair on Monday, August 16, 2010 through Friday, August 20, 2010.
Afterthought Farm is working out a deal to sell cheese with Food Fantasies in Springfield, an all natural health food store.
"There is no excuse not to support the local farmer," says Boliard. "You can get a week's worth of food for $30 to $50 dollars at a farmer's market.
"We got started on this because we thought there were better alternatives to commercial products," says Boliard. Shoppers can find Afterthought Farm's online store front at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Boliard and Vavrik regularly sell their products at farmer's markets: Shelbyville Farmer's Market (Tuesdays), Springfield downtown (Wednesdays), Springfield fairground (Thursdays), Virden Farmer's Market (Fridays), and St. Louis' Soulard Farmer's Market and Springfield downtown (Saturdays). Where Afterthought Farm has a permanent stand, "Soulard is the oldest farmer's market west of the Mississippi," says Boliard.
Afterthought Farms has plans for expansion and further diversification, growing the grooming and kennel service, garden products, and a winery. New on the farm are 16 baby ducks and their mother. The ducks live in a bottomless enclosure that can be moved in the grass. The ducks eat the crab grass and weeds and rejuvenate the lawn. Moving the enclosure around the farm yard keeps the ducks with full stomachs and improves the grass patch by patch. "We have customers who believe in us," says Boliard. The goal of Afterthought Farm is to eventually turn every speck of acreage into sustainable living. Kendra Crede can be reached at email@example.com or 824-2233.