Feb. 06--With thousands of dollars on the line, a local farm is turning to Facebook friends for votes.
CMT Farm of Superior, which produces handcrafted goats' milk soap as well as natural, hormone-free beef, eggs and honey, is in the running for a share of $50,000 in grants through the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.
Winning one of the grants would allow owners Carolyn and Travis Jones to complete a soap workshop that was started more than a year and a half ago. Today, the farmers are still stirring up batches of soap in their kitchen. The process uses lye, a dangerous chemical that looks similar to salt. Jones said she has to clean carefully before preparing dinner for her family of four. So, they applied for the grant.
"You've got to take a chance or you're not going to know," Jones said.
The family eased into farming after moving to a 50-acre parcel in the town of Superior seven years ago. What started with two horses has grown into more than 20 head of beef cattle, eight milking goats, two miniature donkeys, one miniature horse and 40,000 bees, give or take a few.
"We stand by proverb 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again,'" Jones wrote in their online grant application. Farming has been an education for Jones, whose only previous experiences with animals involved dogs and the occasional fish. She has expanded the lesson to the community, as a vendor at local farmers' markets and events, often with baby goats in tow.
"We also do special farm requests," Jones said. For example, the family brought a newborn calf and baby goat to Cooper school for a kindergarten farm lesson. The farm donated milk to feed Hope the bear cub in 2010. The Minnesota black bear became a worldwide star when her birth was broadcast over the Internet. Now, that milk is turned into Hope's Soap as well as soaps under the Gitchee Goat and Garden of Spices labels.
Completing the soap workshop would offer more community engagement, Jones said.
It will also provide an opportunity to teach soap making classes, be a stop on sustainability and farming tours and allow us to grow our farm/soap business to new levels, she wrote in her application.
A number of other local businesses have joined in the race for the grant. Dream Nuage, which opened its doors in November at the Superior Business Center, is vying for votes.
Jennifer Johnson, owner of Dream Nuage, is a self-professed lip balm freak. The recent University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate had been making candles off and on for years. She decided to craft her own organic lotions, bath soaks and lip butter. There are no chemicals, dyes or preservatives in any of her products.
"I liked organic products and started reformulating recipes," Johnson said. "I just want people to be healthier."
Winning the grant would enable Dream Nuage to purchase enough ingredients for an extended amount of time, and would allow for expansion, in turn, benefitting more lives.
"I would be able to create more sustainable products, allowing people to understand the importance of organic and make better choices for themselves and their families," Johnson wrote in her online profile.
MAC Sport & Marine of Superior is also competing for the grants. If the marine and power-sports dealer won, the funding would be used to repair leaks in the front display windows and ceiling and replace an ancient small colored printer, according to the online application.
White Winter Winery in Iron River has also joined the online contest
"We are in the process of expanding our beverage offerings to include distilled spirits," wrote the owners on their online application. "We would use the grant money for research and development of this product line."
Only Facebook members can vote. They can vote once a day through Feb. 23 to help launch businesses to the top. The top 100 vote-getters nationwide will then move on to a second phase, which includes submitting an essay about the business. More information on the contest, and the competitors, is available at http://smallbusinessgrant.fedex.com. Businesses can sign up for the contest through Sunday.
More information on CMT Farm is available at http://www.gitcheegoat.com.
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