Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.
What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Steve Reid and Judith Irving, creators of our delectable Caramel Sauce Set.
When did you know you wanted to be makers?
Fat Toad Farm started out as an experiment in homesteading. As a family, we wanted to see how self-sufficient we could be. We began this adventure with some chickens, a garden, and hand-milking a lovely French Alpine doe named Jupiter in our garage. We slowly started to produce more milk than we could use as a family. At that point, my daughter Josey returned home from a five year stay in Mexico. She told us about a Mexican confection called “cajeta” (traditional name for goat’s milk caramel) that she said was very popular all over Mexico and that she had learned how to make. We made some small batches of it on our kitchen stove and it really was quite delicious! We gave some to our friends and family and it was a big hit. We soon realized that we had a really unique and delicious product on our hands and decided to take our “hobby” to the next level. Fast forward eight years and we are now milking 60 goats in a modern milking parlor, making our goat’s milk caramel sauce in our own commercial kitchen, and selling it to over 300 specialty food stores throughout the United States.
What was the most exciting thing about starting your own business?
We have always been excited and grateful to be able to working from our home, on our own farm, using our neighborhood land and working as a family. After years and years of “working out,” this has been a rare privilege. Being able to make decisions and seeing them being implemented from beginning until the end is also very exciting, and sometimes nerve wracking. The ability to make changes and improvements to our business rests solely on our shoulders which can be quite overwhelming and empowering at the same time.
What does your typical day at work look like?
On any given day you will catch Steve or Colene milking the goats early in the morning (6:00) and me [Judith] doing chores. Jenny and either Calley or Christine arrive at 7 to the caramel room Monday through Friday, to start the caramel production process. Jenny stays in there meticulously hand-stirring our velvety caramel sauce for about five hours in traditional copper kettles.
After morning chores are complete, you’ll find me printing off orders and labels at my computer and then preparing the days shipments from our “shipping center” at the back of our small farm store. Inside the farmhouse, Calley and Christine will be at the kitchen table, computers revved up, developing new marketing materials, products, and flavors, and generating all of our social media.
Midday, I do chores again, the caramel finishing team starts “bottling” the caramel until 3, I often do farm tours or handle basic financial work. By 4, the milking and chore team are back at it, the caramel team is done and wrapping up their administrative work. By 7 p.m., milking is done, the chickens are put to bed, the 2 baby goats that get bottles have been fed and everyone is off to whatever it is they are doing that evening to wind down. (Check out the video below to see everyone in action.)
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Walking around the farm you’ll see different kinds of toad figurines of all different colors, shapes, and sizes. In the beginning, when we were trying to think of a name for the farm, we had been walking through our fields and we kept finding these fat, healthy toads hopping as we walked along. Toads are a sign of a healthy ecosystem and fertile lands which we took as a good omen. That is when we became Fat Toad Farm. I think having real toads present as well as little trinkets, helps us remember how we started and how far we have come.
What are some of the things you’ve heard people say upon tasting your caramel creations for the first time?
“Oh my goodness!”
“I could just eat this straight out of the jar with a spoon.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my husband.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my wife.”
“This has no calories, right?”
“Mmmmmmmmmmm. Just one more taste…”
“Sweet, but not too sweet. Just right!”
“You can really taste the goat’s milk!”
“This is lick-the-spoon good.”
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can get through today.” Surprisingly, we heard the quote on NPR and we all initially just laughed. Once we really thought about it though, it stuck with us. Here on the farm, things can get pretty hard but we have realized you just have to find the light and continue to work towards it.