Amidst the grassy fields painted richly green and the winding scenic routes of the Madison County countryside, sits Serenity Acres Farm, a homestead with a huge mission: goats. These goats are special. Their milk is used to make some of the purest, gentlest and freshest soaps and skin creams around. After hearing rumors that nationally-recognized skincare products were being produced at a goat farm in my very own county, I set out to see what all the fuss was about. Serenity Acres is located in the rural community of Pinetta, a small historic settlement just north of Madison. Despite their discreet location, Serenity Acres is making a name for themselves across the United States and I was determined to figure out why.
A minute on Google will quickly reveal that Serenity Acres Farm is well-known for their goats, how well they treat their beloved animals and the high-quality, chemical-free products they produce—cruelty-free. In fact, their farm is Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, an independent, non-profit farm certification program which “has the most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare and environmental sustainability across the globe.”
When I arrived, owner, Julia Shewchuk, and the family dog, Boo, greeted me at the gate and I followed them as we headed towards the farm. As I exited my vehicle, at least five fully-grown Great Pyrenees surrounded me, pushing past each other to give me tons of love and affection – “Guard dogs,” according to Julia. While they may be ferocious at night, in broad daylight they were my buddies.
Upon arriving, it was evident Julia and Wayne Shewchuk take pride in their farm—a dream turned reality many years ago. We began to explore the property together and Julia explained how her passion began. The Shewchuks moved to Pinetta to get away from the city life; to settle down and start a small homestead. The couple refurbished an old cabin, modernizing the inside and preserving the original structure and features on the outside. As part of their wish for a healthy, all-natural lifestyle, and due to Wayne’s lactose intolerance, the family sought out alternatives to dairy products made from cow’s milk. After researching, they discovered the amazing health benefits of goat’s milk.
Only about two percent of goat’s milk is curd (fat globules that, in excess, can become difficult to digest), however 10 percent of cow’s milk is curd, therefore proving irritable during digestion. Goat’s milk also contains less lactose than cow’s milk and, for those with a slight lactose intolerance, it can be a reasonable option.
Julia informed me that cow’s milk contains A1 casein, a protein found in cow’s milk that many are sensitive to. It can cause allergic reactions, ranging from abdominal cramping, to hives and a runny nose. It is extremely inflammatory and can cause gastrointestinal issues, acne and eczema. However, goat’s milk only contains A2 casein, making it extremely similar to human breast milk. Goat’s milk is less allergenic and is actually anti-inflammatory, due to the high levels of vitamin A, which improve skin health.
Today, the Shewchuks own over 50 happy and, quite spunky, goats. The goats roam freely on the farm and are well taken care of. They are only milked once a day, however they produce a lot of milk. In fact, years ago, as the farm began to expand, the Shewchuks began to have more milk than they knew what to do with. Julia considered all the health benefits of goat’s milk, including its anti-inflammatory properties and how it improved skin. It was at this time that Serenity Skincare was born and Julia began making soaps and creams that provide the ultimate nourishment for the body.
Serenity Acres produces 15 different bars of soap, five different body creams, six different body scrubs, a shaving soap and a deet-free insect spray made from essential oils. They’re gaining recognition across the United States and, in 2016, they were recipients of the 2016 Bronze Stevie Award for Startup of the Year, by the International Business Awards. Serenity Acres Farm’s skincare products are sold in stores in Washington, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida.
While Julia showed me around, I was able to meet the young people who were staying on the farm as part of the Serenity Acres internship program. Youth from all over the world travel to the farm to take part in this internship, which involves working with the animals and learning how to run a farm and dairy. In exchange, they are offered food and lodging. Serenity Acres provides interns with a fully-furnished community house with bathrooms, a laundry facility and wireless internet. Young adults who are interested in farming, veterinarian practices or those who simply want to take a sabbatical before college find a temporary home at Serenity Acres, gaining experiences that will last them a lifetime.
The heart of North Florida beats strong and, from its ground, grows innovative entrepreneurs, headstrong business men and women, poets, musicians, medical professionals and artists who have achieved what they have, not in spite of, but because of these stomping grounds. Serenity Acres Farm is only one of many amazing aspects of the place we call home. May we continue to seek out this special magnificence and teach our children that their home is a place to be proud of, not a place from which to escape.
To learn more about Serenity Acres Farm or book a tour to find out for yourself, visit www.serenitygoats.com.