By Mary Ellen Graybill
When it comes to making goat’s milk soap and breeding Nubian goats, Half-Fast Farm is all business.
A few miles north of Columbia, PA, high on a scenic hill, Jan Rullo doesn’t have just a few goats to take down the brush and wild roses on the 22 acre farm that she bought in 2009.
Jan Rullo holds one of her kids. (Photo by Mary Ellen Graybill)
Jan also has a horse, a cow, dogs, five cats, a parrot, some hens, goldfish, and 25 goats, not to mention a husband, four visiting sons and seven grandchildren. Granddaughter Cheyanne, eight, gets to stay over during the week. The farm is located near the “Running of the Goats” a goat race held every September at Governor Stable Park, in Falmouth, Pa.
“‘Half-Fast Farm’ specializes in Nubian goats,” says Jan. In just two years, her farm has become memorable not just for its unique name, but also well-known in national goat circles for the playful creatures, known as wonderful companion animals that are used as pack animals for hikers and campers all over the world.
“We have ties to some of the most popular names in the goat world such as Kastdemur out of Reading, California, Lynnhaven, New York State, Beavercreek Goats at Lincoln, South Carolina, Windy Acres in NW Kentucky, and Infinity Lines, in Tennessee,” she says. She and husband Wayne, retired from the federal government for the past 16 years, enjoy their trips to these places, which provide a break from the work of the farm – such as this year’s re-fencing woods, and trying to “keep a balance” so the animals don’t graze down to the roots and leave fields stripped of grass covers.
“We want to be good stewards of the land,” Jan says. “And, I’m trying to let the goats live a natural life … I try not to stress them anymore than I would want to be stressed if I was living with some … human being!” she laughs.
Breeding is also a way to make a profit since goat’s milk and cheese, even meat, are just now beginning to reach their potential in America, she points out.
“We strive to breed colorful, spotted goats … we buy only goats from herds that are free from diseases and …we sell goats for show quality, family milkers, companion animals, pets and breeding stock,” she will explain.
Jan says that she will board goats born on her farm for people who want a pet goat, but by township ordinances can’t keep a goat at their home.
One thing Rullo wants to clarify is the fact that goats are not going to eat cans and junk. They like paper because it comes from trees, and they are browsers not grazers like cows and horses. Requiring immunizations bi-annually, hoof trimming like horses and cows, they also require de-worming regularly.
They don’t like wet feet, and they don’t like to be rained on. Other than that they are herd animals, happy as a group of 25 animals living together. At the farm, the head goat is Iris, a doe.
Iris is the queen
“She is the queen,” says Jan. She will be the first to start a meal of hay, to settle down for the night and will sound the alarm if a coyote is in the vicinity. (It’s happened!)
The other goats are named for their spots or colors: Rose Blue, Squaw Gotta-a-lotta dots, Walk-on-Starlet, Gypsy Rose, Rose of Sharon, Licorice Lady, Kaleidoscope, and Disco Dottie. The males are named Bubba, Lincoln, and George.
It’s all been a labor of love. In the first year at the farm she and Wayne, a skilled woodworker craftsman of walnut cabinets and other treasures of wood, made a garden and put 10 acres in pasture.
“We pounded every pole, strung every foot of fence by hand and prayed we were doing it right,” she says.
She has a thing about goats ever since getting her first two wild goats for “mowing” the milk thistle, berry bushes, honeysuckle, and even poison ivy. By the time the second one was in a pen, the first one had jumped out and it took off running.
“We had a relay race for over five miles to chase these goats down!”
After those firsts two goats went to auction, Jan was driving down a back road, and saw a sign that said, “Baby goats for sale” and stopped.
“I met a little black goat that was days old. She was pure black and she had these long floppy ears and when she would run, they’d flop in the air like flaps.”
She named it “Mudflap” and that started the goat’s main business – the production of milk, milk and more milk.
“I have had as many as 50,” she explains. “Gestation periods last only 150 days for goats,” says Rullo. And, goats make milk for about 10 months between “freshening” and can be milked for up to two years, sometimes longer.
More goats, more milk … more production
Soon, with more goats there was more milk, and Jan soon discovered the benefits of goat milk soap and, with the help of a bio-chemist, she started making goat milk-based soap. She added scents like rose and lavender, friends wanted a bar, and business started. Then she made a body butter, started sewing wash cloths, and surgical caps for a local hospital. Wayne made reasonably priced cutting boards, wood crafts. Jan Russo added a line of spices, including a popular Jalapeno salt.
Finding a use for the milk was the main objective, at first.
Goat’s milk is known for its lipoprotein and the lipids which help seal in moisture while preventing dryness and cracking of skin. There is lactic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid that allows the skin to renew itself faster, say reports in science journals.
“gentle enough for a kid”
Unlike most commercially made bar soaps, goat’s milk soap is actually very good for sensitive skin. “Gentle enough for a kid,” is the saying about goat milk soap; and it makes good “scents” to use it!
Goats are fun, says Jan.
“They make better pets than dogs sometimes,” says Rullo. “If they are walking with you, they will stay right with you, without a leash. They won’t go off to smell the trail, or chase a bunny or anything else.”
“I just absolutely adore the goats!”
If you go to visit: Half-Fast Farm is located at 3394 Turnpike Road, Elizabethtown, PA 17022, north of Columbia located conveniently off North 441 in the corner of North West Lancaster County, with a view of the Blue Mountains and west York Springs.
Visitors are always welcome to buy some fresh eggs on the honor system from the free-range Rhode Island Red hens.
For more information on Half-Fast Farm, call Janice E. Rullo at 717 361-9032 or 717 903-1985.