MIDDLEBORO â Jennifer Monsini didnât originally set out to become âThe Hippie Farmerâ when she started selling goat milk soap in 2014, she said.
But over the course of the last five years, sheâs taken on that new identity and developed a brand based out of her Middleboro farmstead, offering organic, handmade toiletry and self-care items.
Her farm roots span back to her childhood, where she grew up on her parentâs bed and breakfast on a farm in New Hampshire, she said. She moved to Middleboro five years ago and wanted to start her own farm.
âI wanted goats and couldnât afford them, so I got the goats first and then I ended up learning to do soap from a friend who did the same thing to afford her goats,â Monsini said. âGoat milk soap, then goat milk lotion and from the goat milk lotion, I ended up doing all of this. Itâs just kind of brought one thing after another. I wanted products that were good for my family, that was the main thing.â
Since then, her goat milk product operation has expanded from making soap in her kitchen to a larger-scale operation in her converted garage-turned-workshop. Shelves making up a section of one wall are stocked with her various products including dish soap, laundry detergent, tooth soap, bug spray and lotion. Next to that is a basket display full of various soaps already packaged, while several racks next to it allow other soaps to cure.
Along with the homemade products, all the packaging she uses is compostable and plastic free, she said.
âMost of my customers are the plastic-free people, so Iâve been very lucky in trying to get the older population to start switching over, which is wonderful,â she said.
She estimates that her biggest sellers are the soaps, natural deodorants and shampoo bars. The deodorant, for example, doesnât use aluminum or baking soda, she said. She also makes CBD salves using herbs that she grows on the property.
âIâm trying to get more into the herbalism, growing more herbs on property,” she said.
When sheâs not selling her products at area farmers markets, Monsini sells them at the white farmstand in front of her house and online on her website (thehippiefarmer.com) as well. Products run at about $5-6 for soap, $12 for beard balms, $20-25 for beard and facial oils, $15 for conditioner and $5-8 for lip balm, among other products. She also offers products for young children, such as “monster spray” at $12 and baby salve for “bums, folds and rolls” for $20, as well as $10 shampoo bars for dogs.
A number of people stop by the farmstand, which is filled with her products as well as fresh quail and chicken eggs, she said, and some travel a ways to see her â especially some more unexpected customers.
âI have truckers who stop at my farm stand,â she said, noting that their favorite scent is lavender. âThey come in and theyâre getting my lotion and my soap. They know me. Iâm just a little person on a farm in Middleboro.”
Lavender is her best-selling scent for her products at the farm, she said, but her personal favorites are the black and tan, which is made using beer instead of goat milk, and patchouli, which originally led to her âHippie Farmerâ brand.
She originally started her business as Monsini Farm after her familyâs name, she said, and had named the individual soaps after farmers, such as one named the âSouthern Farmerâ and the patchouli soap, named the “Hippie Farmer” soap.
âBecause I have dreads, everyone would come up and theyâd see the hippie farmer soap,” she said. “Theyâd say, âAre you the hippie farmer?â From them, I just have to kind of stick it at that. Iâm the hippie farmer. I became the hippie farmer to my customer.”
She officially changed her brand name about three years ago, she said, and moved into her new workshop about three months ago once it was completed by her father. At any given time, she usually has between 12 to 20 different types of soaps, which run at about $5 a bar. Leading up to the holiday season, Monsini has seasonal soaps such as a candy cane soap, which contains peppermint essential oil, and cinnamon chocolate soap.
There was also a demand from customers to make a soap that smelled like Christmas trees, she said â thus “Christmas Tree,” containing essential oils, pine, fir and lavender, was created.
She estimates that she spends about eight to nine hours making products for The Hippie Farmer, which she balances during the day along with homeschooling her three children. From start to finish, it takes her about four hours to make about 500 bars of soap, she said.
She noted itâs a dangerous process to make soap due to the sodium hydroxide used in the process, as it can cause burns on the skin and can be fatal if consumed, according to the Center for Disease Control. With the kids at home, Monsini said that she has to make sure everyone is out of the way. After the dangerous mixing of the chemicals is over, the soap needs to sit for 4-6 weeks or more while it “cures,” allowing it to harden, she said.
Looking forward, sheâs hoping to expand by growing more of her own herbs on the farm to include in the soaps, she said, and to start maple sugaring to sell maple syrup. She also hopes to grow loofah to make loofah sponges that are also compostable, she said.
âItâs hard for me to keep up because itâs growing, which is great,â she said. âItâs something I love to see, especially with the less plastic. Itâs important because I donât think weâre going to have much left here if we donât reduce our plastic use.â