The 'Singing Goat Lady'
By Don White, The Farmer's Pride
Life's journey leads to Ky. Proud goat milk products
Had someone told Nancy Hayes that at age 59 she would be known as "The Singing Goat Lady," she would have told them they had to be kidding.
"That's how I'm referred to by the upper management people at Kroger, but I can't sing a lick," says the owner/operator of Singing Hills Goat Farm LLC.
Siting smack-dab next to the Daniel Boone National Forest and less than two miles from where her 23-foot pontoon boat is docked on Laurel Lake, the two acres she calls her "slice of paradise" were supposed to be where the Lexington native would spend her retirement years.
Goodness knows the third-generation farmer, Eastern Kentucky University graduate, Kentucky's first female park ranger, 22-year employee of Toyota Manufacturing in Georgetown, and a person who spent eight years working at sites of some of the nation's worst disasters for FEMA, has earned it.
But after purchasing a few kids some 10 years ago, she soon found herself with enough goat milk to supply a small army.
To sell the product, she would have to become a licensed dairy, an undertaking too costly for such a small operation.
Never one to cry over spilled milk, and with a sense of determination passed down by high achieving and industrious ancestors, she developed a plan that fit in perfectly with rapidly developing market demands for natural products.
After coming up with a recipe for goat milk-based soap and lotion, she was well on her way to achieving her goal to become sustainable.
Nubians, Wiley and Jazzy, are milked by hand twice daily. "I have milkers, but it's just so peaceful to sit here and do it by hand."
Milk is stored by the gallons and formed into ice cubes, to which are added Shea butter and a scent after they are warmed.
Soaps are produced by pouring the mixture into molds of horse and goat heads and allowing them to harden. The soaps cure for 4 weeks, 1,000 at a time.
Hayes also produces 10,000 to 12,000 bottles of lotion per year for 140 outlets, mostly in Kentucky, with 109 of them being Kroger stores.
Getting her product into the giant grocery chain came about as a result of the involvement of the Kentucky Proud program.
"Kentucky Proud called me. They had 50 people in for an expo and picked me for lotions. I was just in the right spot at the right time to get tied in with Kroger and it's been a wonderful relationship. The folks at Kroger are my biggest supporters and are a joy to work with."
The combination of luck and hard work isn't something to which Nancy is a stranger.
Her grandfather, "Tip" Hayes, was owner of Donerail, the 91-to-1 shot winning the 1913 Kentucky Derby.
Growing up under the watchful eyes of her dad, Bill Hayes, on their 117-acre horse farm near the Kentucky Horse Park, she was mowing the fields as a teen and assisting her family in one of the first equine medical businesses in Fayette County.
She says her dad designed the first ever ambulance for horses... the tope the ones used today are based on... but failed to get a patent on it.
Her mom, Jane Hayes, was owner/operator of New Deal Tobacco Warehouse in Lexington and developer of property in the Burnside area of Pulaski County in the 1990s when she and her husband lived in Lakeland Estates off Highway 90.
Nancy has two brothers, one with a carpet cleaning business and the other raising Angus cattle in Harrison County.
A story about the Hayes family was published in the May 1974 edition of National Geographic.
Nancy takes it down from a sheep and shows it to friends when she has the time, which isn't often.
In between the milking, feeding, mowing, farm maintenance, crafting of products, and trimming of hooves, she likes to steal moments to simply enjoy her surroundings.
"At least once a day, I look out at the flowering bushes, my goats, the wild turkeys who come to feed on the grain, and say 'I love it here.'"