March is Women’s History Month, and on social media, I’m continuing to highlight women from Buffalo history all month long. For my blog posts though, I’m highlighting women in Buffalo who are making history right now. This week, it’s Kerry Planck, owner of Alpine Made.
Kerry is on my list for a few reasons.
Her company, Alpine Made, crafts the most gorgeous goat milk products on her certified organic goat farm in Wales, NY. And, if you read Part One in my Goats series, you already know a little bit about Kerry. She spoke at that networking event that I attended in January where I met Jen Zeitler from Let’s Goat Buffalo.
Anyway, when I sat down with Jen and she told me her story, I immediately knew I had to meet Kerry too. I mean, it’s not every day you hear about someone willing to share so much with someone else.
How It All Began for Kerry and Alpine Made
When I asked Kerry how it all began, she responded that it was when she bought three goats at the Erie County Fair. But it couldn’t be as simple as that. So when prompted, Kerry said that she already had chickens she kept for organic eggs and as organic meat birds. She explained that she and her two sons eat almost completely organic. When she bought the goats, she began making cheese and soap products for her family, both to save money and to live sustainably.
Kerry has a Bachelors in Environmental Forest Biology and a Masters in Biology. She worked for a number of years for the USDA, where she spent her days helping dairy farmers keep their herds healthy and teaching them how to manage a herd effectively. Kerry liked her job, but felt like there was something else she should be doing.
Enter those three goats. She was already using their milk to make cheese and soaps for the family. To her, the next step would logically be a value added farm enterprise. Which Kerry explained is the process of using a farm product to create and sell another product. She experimented with soaps and other skin care products made from the goat milk produced on her farm. Her education taught her the importance and the patience required for experimentation. In the meantime, she worked on getting her farm certified as organic. And also in the meantime, her little herd grew.
Fast Forward Ten Years
Ten years later, with a ton, and I do mean a ton, of hard work, Kerry’s business is really taking off!
There are now 40 goats in total. 12 are owned by Jen Zeitler and Let’s Goat Buffalo, which Kerry boards in the off-season. Kerry tells me there are 8 babies expected this spring, and there will hopefully be 8 more in September. Some will remain with Alpine Made, some will join the goat grazing crew.
There are now 20 different goat milk products, and many more if you count the different scents, oils etc. All are either certified organic or classified as natural products. There are soap and shampoo bars and a good assortment of lotions, creams, a salve, lip balms, beard oils and a sugar scrub. All of the goat milk used in the products is from Kerry’s goats, and is certified organic.
Due to the space involved in creating the products, Kerry has moved Alpine Made into an old church building she purchased two doors from her house. The basement of the church is incredibly large, clean, and in fantastic shape considering the age of the building. And there’s plenty of room to grow. The former vestibule of the church is a very quaint little store for the sale of Alpine Made’s products. The soaps are of course available on Kerry’s website as well.
In addition, Kerry takes her show on the road to 20+ artisan markets in and around Western New York. These include 5 in Rochester and the Bidwell Farmers Market here in Buffalo. Her products are also available in a dozen Wegmans stores across NYS and Pennsylvania, and in 28 Whole Foods stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Kerry has registered her house as an Airbnb, due to the public’s interest in meeting her goats. She also hosts ‘Goat Yoga’ sessions in the good weather. People love these goats! It’s easy to see why too. When I met Kerry at the farm a few weeks ago, I gained a whole new perspective on them. They’re adorable and super friendly! Very easy to fall in love with.
Kerry is also busy writing grants to be able to hire help to keep up with all of this growth. She is getting help from Greg Ricciardiello, who technically handles sales, but I’m told he’s willing to help with whatever is needed. Greg is in the process of learning the business. If all goes as planned, Kerry expects to make him an equity partner some time in the future.
Have I mentioned how hard Kerry works?
Make No Mistake about Alpine Made
Kerry has a definite mission. Being an environmentalist all her life, she has put her passion into her work. She put people, animals and the environment before everything else, and good things began to happen.
Kerry believes that organic farming practices are going to become more and more important in the future. Not only for our food, but in every aspect of our lives. Alpine Made has soaps and skin care covered for us, thanks to Kerry.
Kerry deserves all the success she is beginning to experience with Alpine Made. She has worked very hard. Her success is due to her tenacity, her intelligence, and her work ethic in the predominately male field of farming. When I sat down with her, I sensed a humble, giving person. But also one that would fight for what she believes in. I like that about her.
My Impressions of Alpine Made Products
Kerry believes in her products. With good reason. They are nothing short of amazing. Let me explain. A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided that we would switch to bar soap. We didn’t like the idea of all those plastic body wash bottles going into landfills. But most bar soaps are very drying. Well, we’ve been using Kerry’s Buffalo Beer Bath Goat Milk Soap that I received at that networking event I mentioned earlier (the event was at Flying Bison Brewery so the soap she chose to share was appropriate!).
The first two times I used the soap it appeared to dry my skin. But by the third time, it was like my skin had healed. This soap is frothy, smells amazing and I haven’t used moisturizer since, save for my hands. (I’m washing them so much more, due to coronavirus warnings.)
But what I am most excited about is the Goat Milk Shampoo Bars. This eliminates the shampoo bottles too. But do they work? I was skeptical. But yes. Yes they do. I no longer use conditioner on my hair, although my hair is relatively short. Kerry tells me that some people (including her) still need to occasionally condition their longer hair on the ends. Imagine how many plastic bottles of body wash, shampoo and conditioner you’ve used in your lifetime. And now they’re no longer necessary. (!)
Look, I get it that Kerry did not invent all of these products. But she’s doing a damn good job of creating them locally, and in the most environmentally responsible way possible. And, she’s getting them into stores that we regularly shop in, putting them right in front of us. Making it easier to do the right thing for the environment and our bodies.
And Last But Certainly Not Least…
I want to talk a little bit about Kerry and her relationship with Jen. This is what I love about Buffalo businesses in general, but in this case, Buffalo businesswomen. When Jen needed someone to stick their neck out for her, Kerry did. If you haven’t read their story, read about it here. Kerry & Jen both recognize that nobody succeeds all on their own. Everybody gets a leg up from somebody else at some point. And for this, they both land on my list of Buffalo women making history.
The fact that they both continue to help each other nourish their businesses in a socially and environmentally friendly way speaks volumes about their character. The two have become friends as well as business associates.
I’ll repeat what I said last week. Meeting Jen and Kerry has been an absolute joy for me. These two get it. They understand the importance of helping each other succeed, and that the good of the community, the land, the people and the animals, has to come before profits. The profits will come, but not before these.
*Almost all the photos in this post are compliments of Kerry Planck. Thank you Kerry!
Next week I’ll tell the story of Katrina (Galla) Allen, a Buffalo businesswoman who is succeeding against all odds. Looking forward to sharing her exceptional story. Stay tuned.