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Inspiring Conversations with Peggy & Olivia Earls of Hillside Meadows

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peggy & Olivia Earls.  

Hi Peggy & Olivia, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My husband and I both have fond memories on the farm from our childhood. My grandfather was a livestock farmer in Germany, whom I used to join while he attended to his animals. My husband’s family moved a lot due to his father’s work, but his favorite time was the years they spent on a farm in Indiana. It was his dream to own a small farm someday. So, in 2015 we made the move from subdivision lifestyle to the countryside. 

The home we purchased is a historic folk-Victorian house from 1875, which originally was known as the Baker Farm or Hillview Farm. With 300 acres it used to be one of the largest and most diversified farms of Boone County, where the Bakers, a well-respected African-American Baptist family, raised tobacco, dairy cows, beef, and sheep. At some point the property was divided up, so we started from scratch; we built a barn and fenced pastures. In 2018 we started with a few sheep, goats, and two horses, and since then our little homestead grew into a small farm business. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
When starting a small business in such a tight-net community, the most difficult part is to establish yourself coming in as an outsider. Even though my husband was a Kentucky resident before he joined the military, this particular community was new to us. So, while others in our business can rely on word-of-mouth promotion, we really have to work hard to make connections, educate about our practices, and promote our products. 

In addition, farmers who have been in this business for generations have community support, that we just can’t fall back on. Still working in our day jobs and attending to our farm after work can be overwhelming, especially when there are more jobs to get done than hands available. It is also still quite uncommon to practice sustainable farming. For example, we don’t know of a single dairy goat business nearby, who does not take goat kids from their moms and allows them a natural upbringing by nursing their kids. Even something as simple as purchasing feed can be a hassle; we have to order unmedicated feed at the feed supply store 40 minutes away because it is not routinely on the shelf in feed stores due to lack of demand. 

We’ve been impressed with Hillside Meadows, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
At first, we focused on food production, raising livestock for meat, ducks, and chickens for eggs, and dairy for milk. Having truly free-range chickens, who are grazing on pastures, picking grass and insects, and dusting themselves, the results speak for themselves: eggs full of nutrients and flavor, with orange-colored yolks. The same goes for the duck eggs, producing the best pancakes or pastries one can imagine! Reaping the rewards of the meat production took a little bit longer because we first focused on breeding stock and growing the herd. Finally seeing the results, it is difficult to imagine ever going back to mass production food, and we are happy to share it with our customers. 

The shift from goat milk for food to goat milk skincare was inspired by a friend, who has a daughter with severe allergies and eczema, when researching our competitors, even the ones claiming “natural”, we found that most of them add chemicals, such as fragrance oils, colors and other enhancers. We also learned from consumers that quality is often sacrificed for looks. After we achieved a quality soap bar with foaming, cleaning, lathering, and conditioning properties, the challenge was to make an aesthetically pleasing product. Our goal was to make natural products out of ingredients every consumer understands, no mystery chemicals that make it impossible to read an ingredient list. Most consumers without allergies don’t realize, how many different chemicals go into a single ingredient just listed as “Frangrance” on the back label. This is why we stay true to our goal and only use techniques, herbs, and essential oils to enhance the appearance and smell of our products. 

Meanwhile, we expanded our product list to lotions, cremes, face masks, and sugar scrubs, and we even included an infant and toddler line, the “My Little Sunshine” kit, which includes a zinc-based diaper creme. We are currently perfecting recipes for more products to come. 

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
We are proud to be Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World, an international organization who sets highest standards for livestock care and verifies this with an onsite inspection. This certification represents exactly our beliefs in humane animal care and was the most important certification we found worth pursuing. 

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Image Credits

Peggy Earls
Olivia Earls
Heather Petrie

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