More than Milk with the Goats of Basilwood Farm
Aug 26, 2016 11:00AM
By Kimberly Horg
Fresh From the Farm
By Kimberly Horg
Photo by Mariano Friginal
A hop, skip and a jump away from Fresno is the small foothill community of Prather. After growing up in the city, Jill Spruance decided to buy property with her husband, Kim, and make Prather her new home away from Fresno. She marveled at the feeling of being out of town without really being far from her hometown. It is that feeling that she now tries to give to visitors at Basilwood Farm.
For more than 20 years, the Spruance family has built upon a dream and a way of life. Goats wander the five-acre micro farm on any given day. The animals serve a great purpose to her family’s livelihood – they are milked for soap.
Soap making was not on her radar until after her daughters were grown. Dairy goats were added to the farm’s livestock for personal dairy needs, including milk, yogurt and cheese.
“We had more milk than we needed, so I began researching what else we could create with the milk,” she says.
Spruance has always appreciated being able to create items that were not only useful, but beautiful. Soap making quickly became an outlet for her to do that as well as be able to share handmade products.
“I think it is important to bring your own sense of expression to every little tiny corner of your life,” she says.
Prior to becoming a goat milk soap maker, she was a home educator for 15 years. Basilwood Farm and the soap production established itself in 2010. After several months of research, she created her first batch of cold-process soap.
She says she was shocked at the difference in her skin when she started using it. Her skin is no longer dry or itchy, but it’s much tighter, healthier, moisturized and vibrant. From there, it naturally morphed into a business.
“Soap is an item that we all need to use every day, and the fact that we can create one that not only cleans but moisturizes and protects your skin to make your life healthier and happier is a very rewarding experience,” Spruance says.
She says her product sets itself apart from other goat’s milk soaps because it’s created from raw, whole milk (not dehydrated or watered down) so it retains the probiotics to further enhance the skin. This allows the full benefit of the moisturizing.
She learned her tricks of the trade from chemists, soap makers and scientists who have written books and articles on the subject. Additionally, she forged friendships with veteran soap makers from all over the world who mentored her online. In her ongoing learning, she incorporates new techniques, recipes, ingredients and products into her arsenal.
Basilwood is family-owned, and her husband, daughter Shelby and son-in-law Philip all are part of the team. The CIO (Chief Inspiration Officers) are Maxwell, Caeden and Paige, the grandchildren.
“They are major inspiration contributors to our team. Caeden, who is now 4½, loves to help me put together color combinations and swirl techniques for new soap ideas,” Spruance says.
At any given time, she has 35 to 45 scents available. She likes to keep everything fresh, so she offers seasonal scents along with the staples. The most popular facial soaps are Caeden’s Choice and Detox. The favorite body bars are Sweet Almond Luxe, Pink Champagne, Crisp Apple Rose and Sea Glass.
Spruance says playing with colors is where it generally begins. As the colors take shape, an image begins to form, which eventually leads to how the scent will be blended to achieve the overall theme for a soap.
In addition to goat’s milk soaps and lotions, Basilwood has an ever-widening selection of bath and spa products for every member of the family, from babies to dads, as well as ShamPooch for the furry family members. They’re available at 40 locations throughout California.
“I have been using Basilwood products for three years now, and I am a huge fan. The soaps are beautiful and fragrant and my skin is no longer dry, and feels great,” says Kaye Blakely of Stockton. “It is such a treat to share my love of these terrific products.”
Basilwood Farm also has Cheese, Please! workshops during the summer, where participants learn how to make chevre, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. In the fall, Woolie Workshops allow guests to turn Basilwood Farm Goat Milk Soap into works of art with hand-dyed sheep’s wool. Spa nights are another fun opportunity to try out facial products, and Create Your Own Scrub Night will be introduced this fall.
15759 Morgan Canton Road, Prather
www.basilwoodfarm.com • (559) 332-3276
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Open year-round on Tuesdays, 10am to 2 pm;
also open Saturdays during the summer from
10am to 2 pm