Soap stars of Cohuna

Growing up, Sarah Mostyn always dreamed of life on a farm. Although her childhood was spent on the Gold Coast, her heart belonged to the rural landscapes of her grandparents’ dairy farm in Bamawm. Today, Sarah’s dream is a reality at Windella Farm in Cohuna, Victoria, where she lives a life deeply inspired by her grandparents and childhood passions. Australian Farmers sat down with Sarah to learn more about her journey, the challenges she faced, and the thriving farm business she has built. 

Sarah’s journey to starting Windella Farm began with a move to Cohuna at the age of 30 with her partner Shayne, joining her sister Alyce who had already settled there. Initially working as an accountant, Sarah found herself yearning for more fulfilling work.  

“I always wanted to live on a farm and used to beg my mum to let me go live with my grandparents,” Sarah reminisces. 

Sarah and Shayne wanted to get into farming but lacked the capital for dairy farming. After two years of research, they decided to breed dairy goats, recognising the potential in the growing goats’ milk industry.  

“It was quite difficult to find commercial herds of dairy goats in Australia. It’s not like cattle where you go to sales and pick up 50 head at a time. Goats milk was growing in popularity but you had to seek out individual farms and breeders to buy goats to grow your own herd,” says Sarah.  

Sarah loves that every day is different running Windella Farm. Photography by Shayne Mostyn

The skincare side of Windella Farm started serendipitously when a local dance teacher asked Sarah if she made goats’ milk soap, as she suffered from psoriasis.  

Sarah fell down a “rabbit hole of research” and self-education, resulting in so much soap it became the local currency. 

“What began as a really addictive hobby turned into dance classes being paid for with goats’ milk soap. I started giving it away to all my friends and family. People loved it. They’d never had handmade artisan, natural products at their fingertips before.” 

Overcoming challenges

Sourcing dairy goats involved complex logistics, including quarantine, pest, and disease management, and extensive health testing to ensure a healthy herd. 

“Ensuring our herd was healthy long-term involved extensive testing for diseases like CAE and Johne’s,” Sarah notes. 

Just as they were ready to fill their first export order, a ‘blue tongue exclusion zone‘ was introduced, halting exports. Then, the drought hit, making it too expensive to grow feed for their herd. Over two years, they reduced their herd from 120 to 15-20 animals.  

As farming became more challenging, the ‘side hustle’ of making goats’ milk soaps and skincare grew, prompting a shift in focus to the business while maintaining a smaller herd for their products.  

“We switched focus to the business while maintaining a smaller herd for the goats’ milk soaps only,” Sarah explains. 

These lucky goats are the star producers on Windella Farm. Photography by Shayne Mostyn

Sarah’s background has played a significant role in shaping her approach to farming and business. Her comfort around livestock comes from her family’s farming history, while her accounting skills have been invaluable in managing the business’s finances.  

“Being able to do the books, BAS, and tax myself saves a lot of money,” she says. 

A typical day at Windella Farm is wonderfully varied. Sarah might spend her days driving interstate for events, making and cutting soap, cleaning the workshop, packaging products, milking goats, handling farm maintenance, creating social media content, doing bookwork, fulfilling orders, and building wholesale relationships.  

“I love that my days are so varied,” she says with a smile. 

Commitment to sustainability, quality and safety

Windella Farm is committed to sustainable farming practices. The Mostyn’s prioritise sourcing local and eco-friendly ingredients, use recyclable and biodegradable packaging, and plant trees annually to offset their carbon footprint.

The farm also hosts a dam to encourage wildlife and keeps bee hives to aid in pollination, focusing on recycling and reusing as much as possible.  

“All our packaging is either recyclable, biodegradable, or made from recycled materials.

“We also plant trees annually to help with carbon offsets and have installed a dam to encourage water birds and other wildlife.” 

Quality and safety are paramount at Windella Farm. The farm has extensive quality control measures and tests all products before release to ensure they are suitable for all skin types and sensitivities.  

“We have extensive testing prior to product release to ensure suitability for all skin types and sensitivities,” Sarah explains.  

With over 10 years of experience, she ensures their product packaging meets Australian labeling requirements and constantly learns from industry experts when working with new ingredients. 

Goats’ milk is the star ingredient in Windella Farm’s skincare products. Photography by Shayne Mostyn

The unique benefits of goat skincare

Goats’ milk, the star ingredient in Windella Farm’s skincare products, offers numerous benefits for sensitive and problem skin. Its pH level is close to that of human skin, making it a gentle and nourishing addition to their soaps.  

“Goats’ milk contains lactic acid, which helps to rejuvenate the skin and remove dead skin cells. It is also packed full of essential vitamins and nutrients that aid in repairing damaged skin tissue and provide anti-aging benefits.”  

Many customers with conditions like dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and dryness have experienced significant improvements with Windella Farm’s goats’ milk soaps. 

Community contributions

Sarah is deeply committed to her local community in Cohuna. Five years ago, she started the Cohuna Farmers & Makers Market, which operates 14 times a year, providing a marketplace for local farmers and makers, encouraging tourism, and fostering community engagement. She manages the market with a small volunteer committee, creating a vibrant local hub for both farmers and artisans. 

 “I also run free community events when grant funding allows,” Sarah adds. 

A fulfilling lifestyle

Running Windella Farm has profoundly changed Sarah’s lifestyle and perspective on life. She lives the dream she always wanted, inspired by her grandparents.  

“Without realising it, I have built the life that I’ve always wanted. 

“My paternal grandmother is my greatest inspiration to this day. She was a very strong, independent, and creative woman. She has really inspired my creative business, and I feel connected to all my grandparents by way of my ‘cottage industry’ business that I’ve built,” Sarah says. 

Working from home means every day is ‘bring your dog to work day’. 

“I love that my business is a reflection of all the work that I put into it. 

“I reap the rewards and am responsible for its success. I’m a little rebel at heart and hate being told what to do, so being my own boss suits me very well. I am free to be myself and my brand reflects myself and my values.” 

Advice for aspiring farmers

Sarah advises those considering a similar path to approach it with a level head. Finding a niche that isn’t oversaturated and looking for opportunities to add value are crucial. She recommends not quitting your day job until the business can sustain you and focusing on products that ensure repeat customers.  

“Fast-moving consumable products are great because they ensure repeat customers. Building a loyal customer base is key to growing your business.” 

Currently, Sarah’s goal is to navigate the economic challenges facing retail. She is focused on building the wholesale side of the business, enhancing brand awareness, and growing their online presence.  

“I’m very excited that I have three products in the Clean + Conscious Awards which have made it through to the finals,” Sarah shares. 

“For the last few years, I wanted to enter these awards, and this year I backed myself, invested in entering three products, and all three have made the finals. I’m really chuffed to have this recognition.” 

She is also working on launching a bicarb-free deodorant, a new lanolin lip balm, and branching out into the men’s grooming space with their new brand Buck ‘n’ Beard. 

Sarah’s journey with Windella Farm is a testament to her resilience, passion, and the influence of her family heritage. Her story is an inspiration to anyone looking to turn their dreams into reality while staying true to their roots and values. 

Kimberley Furness

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