RI Family Discovers Joy of Farming
NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. — “What’s one more?”
It’s a philosophy that the Travis family applies to pretty much everything. Seven children, plus three foster children, hedgehogs, chinchillas, alpacas, a peacock, puppies, projects, and various other plants, animals and friends, but there’s always room for one more.
That’s how Lillian “Lili” Travis, the daughter of an ambassador who once turned up her nose at “the outside thing” and had never heard of 4-H, explains the 15 goats in her backyard.
Her 11-year-old daughter, Rachyl, remembers when the goat bug bit her. She was 7 at the time, and local breeder Linda Wilkie introduced her to milking. Older sister and mentor, now 21-year-old Jaklyn Travis, was a budding farmer even then, but she had no interest in helping her younger sister milk goats.
Still, unable to deny young Rachyl her simple heart’s desire, Jaklyn Travis went looking for an affordable addition to their family. She found a bowlegged goat, Butterscotch, on Craigslist for just $100. It was much less than the $250 other goats were going for.
“I didn’t care that she was bowlegged,” Jaklyn Travis remembers.
“She’s the most spoiled goat on our farm,” Rachyl said.
Butterscotch is spoiled now, but in the beginning she was lonely.
“Mom found out we needed to have two goats,” Rachyl said. “That’s why Butterscotch kept crying.”
So what’s one more?
Deciding that there must be an excuse for making such a costly purchase, they bought another goat, Juno, for their mom’s 40th birthday.
Slowly but surely, there were more goats. So many goats that Rachyl couldn’t keep up with them all.
“I had to teach my mom,” she said. Her brothers and their friends got in on it, too. “They used to have milk battles. They’d just squeeze milk at each other.”
Eventually, there was too much milk for even the Travis family. Rachyl said, “I had all of this milk in my freezer and I didn’t know what to do with it.”
With her sister’s help, Rachyl figured out how to make goat’s milk soap. She gave that away, too, until she realized she could sell it at local markets and shops. She still sells her well-known soap at the North Scituate Farmers Market on Saturdays, and since November 2012, has rented out the front of The Country Mutt, a dog and cat grooming salon in Scituate Village.
“The owner is so nice,” gushed Rachyl. “She wanted to meet me, not just my mom.”
Jaklyn Travis laughed: “We make it smell nice in there. Not like wet dog.”
A homeschooled sixth grader, Rachyl excels academically, finds time for 4-H and sings in the church choir. She’s a cheerleader, too, spending time with old school chums she says support her by “visiting me at the farmers markets and making their moms buy my soap.”
Rachyl’s coach is a former cheerleader, assistant coach and head coach who led her team to two state championship titles. Her name? Jaklyn Travis.
So what is a typical day for Rachyl?
“My sister wakes me up at 7 a.m. Then we have breakfast together. Then my brother, Noah, measures the oils for the soap while I take the milk out of the freezer. Then before I go outside, I get my zero suit, hat, gloves, shoes and Carhartt jacket on in the winter.
“Jaklyn and I take care of the animals while my brother, Kelub, waters them. After I am done with the animals, I come inside and I mix the oil and the milk together and finish the soap. Then after I am done with the soap, I do my schoolwork. Then I go back outside and put away all the goats with my wonderful dad. Then I come inside and eat dinner. Then I go to bed.”
It’s a long day for young Rachyl. Older sister Jaklyn Travis is just as busy, spending most of her day working at a neighboring dairy farm before coming home to handle most of the family farm’s chores.
Jaklyn is also the backbone of the farm’s social media — Facebook, Instagram, blogs, Twitter, selfies and felfies — selfies snapped at the farm — are all a big deal at the Travis Family Farm.
Jaklyn Travis doesn’t have much to say about all of the work she puts in, though. In an email she wrote: “My little sister is the mastermind of this business she made me realize how important it was to our community to make all-natural skin products. She is truly an entrepreneur, from business meetings, farmers markets, handling finances, etc. On top of all that, sure still manages to be an 11-year-old kid, keeping her grades up and doing extracurricular activities. I love farming and it is all I ever wanted to do and she made a way to make money doing it. I am proud to be her older sister.”
“God blessed me with such a great family,” Rachyl said. “I couldn’t do this without them. Especially my older sister Jaklyn.”
Each member of the family is responsible for some detail of farm life, while at the same time juggling other obligations.
Kelub, 17, also homeschooled, “gets the lovely jobs like lugging around hay bales and shoveling manure.” Noah, 13, makes soap decks with his father, David Travis. Izek, 9, takes care of the inside menagerie. Mical, 23, the oldest of the seven children, owns his own construction company and still helps out when he can. Jekub, 19, makes soap deliveries, mucks the stalls and is also handy with a hammer and nails. Jekub Travis is interested in chickens and gardening, growing herbs, and pursuing an organic education, as well.
“I try to raise my own meat or eat locally raised. I believe that consumers are the reason factory farming is still here,” he said.
Supporting local farmers is very important to the Travis family. They barter with others — soap in exchange for fruit — at the local market, for instance.
“Veggies, whatever we can do for each other,” Lili Travis said. “The farming community is really awesome People need to be educated. I didn’t know. They don’t know. They just go to the store and buy chicken.”
“Do what you can,” Jaklyn Travis said. “If you can’t buy half a cow, buy a dozen eggs.”
Lili Travis said that, for the most part, local support for the family farm is good.
“The vendors/farmers at the Scituate Farmers Market and St. Thomas Farmers Market and Petersens Farm Farmers Market are wonderful. They support Rachyl. They love her. They encourage her with their words. They encourage all of us,” she said. “Some have been farmers for just a short time, but others have been doing this one generation after another. We also have 4-H that is great. The 4-H fair is a wonderful place for the kids to show off their hard work and get rewarded for it ”
One thing Lili Travis would like to see change is that in Scituate, residents are only allowed one pig. Hogs, however, don’t do well alone, according to her research. They need company. Living in a small neighborhood as opposed to on a large farm can be challenging.
“Not everyone supports farming. It can become an issue when new neighbors move in and are not used to it or educated about it and they try to make life difficult,” she said. “But then on the flip side, we have new neighbors that move in and love us.”
Lili Travis would also like to share the benefits of goat’s milk with her friends and neighbors, not just goat’s milk soap.
“I would love the opportunity to distribute raw goat’s milk. I would like to share the benefits of it to people. It would be nice to be able to give it to people who were raised on goat’s milk, but don’t have the opportunity to own goats. So many times I hear, I was raised on it. Wish I could still get it.’ Or we run into people who have an allergy with cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is easier to digest,” she said.
In Rhode Island, goat’s milk can’t be sold for human consumption. Rachyl can sell the milk to crafters and to farmers who use it for puppies, baby goats or other animals.
“It is a shame that we are not able to share it with everyone who inquires about it,” Lili Travis said. “And if we could sell it, it would help us support our farm. I just don’t understand why it is legal in other states. It should be the same across the country If I lived in Massachusetts, which is just half an hour, I could sell it. Just seems unfair.”
Not sure where to begin? Rachyl herself uses coconut soap for her face, and oatmeal, milk and honey soap for bathing. Goat’s milk soap is all they use at the Travis Family Farm. It’s even replaced dish soap and shampoo in a pinch.
The Travis Family Farm and Rachyl’s soap are online at www.rachylsgoatmilksoap.com.