MiVT: Contrary's Whey

Published: Nov. 12, 2018 at 2:47 PM EST
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Nancy Bissonette is a registered nurse at the UVM Medical Center. She was having a problem finding a soap that wouldn't irritate her skin.

"Perfumes, additives, any of that stuff just makes my skin hurt," Bissonette said.

Bissonette and Ellie Mesler would run into each other from time to time during their night shifts at the hospital. Ellie was using milk from her goats to make cheese, so Nancy figured maybe Ellie could use that milk to make a soap.

"How do I make a soap that nourishes, cleans, feels creamy and rinses, but is very valuable for people with a super-sensitive skin?" Mesler said.

"Then she took a class and then she made it and it's incredible," Bissonette said.

It took about five months to get that first bar right.

"Soap-making is a science," Mesler said. "It does involve chemistry and it's also an art form. Every single batch is a chemical, magical moment."

Mesler makes six types of allergy-free soaps.

A trip to her farm in Milton will get you a bar of soap for $5. Contrary the goat is the namesake of the farm and the soap. When lactating, a goat produces half a gallon of milk a day. That's enough for about 60 bars of soap.

"So I can have a little Nigerian dwarf who gives me a half a gallon of milk a day and I can fulfill my dream of making some cheese, making some soap," Mesler said. "It's like the perfect combination."

And it's the perfect solution for Bisonette's hurting hands.

"My skin is just so much better," she said. "It's hard here, but when I go home and I get to use it, it's good."

These days, Mesler works one night a week at the hospital and three days making soap.

"It's work, but it all works," she said.

For anyone who thinks there's no chemistry here, it's quite the contrary.