In just a year's time, Anne and Vinnie Valenza have expanded distribution for their soap business from one farmer's market to between six and eight per week. The Valenzas are among the weekly vendors at the Clayton Farmer's Market.
"Our product is made of natural ingredients," said Anne Valenza, who along with her husband operates Hanley Fold Farm. The title follows an English naming tradition in which the family's last name (Valenza's maiden name is Hanley) is followed by the words "Fold Farm".
Valenza grew up in Michigan.
"Hanley Fold Farm originated in Dorr, Michigan in 2005 when Anne discovered the wonder of goat milk soap at a conference on dairy goats," the farm's website states. "She was amazed by the naturally moisturizing qualities of this soap. Anne left the conference with smooth hands and a determination to learn how to make goat milk soap.
"Using her strong background in biology, and an ample supply of milk from the family goats, Anne went to work, making batch after batch until she created the soap now produced by the Hanley Fold Farm. She frequently shared the soap with friends and family."
Valenza went on to attend nursing school at Saint Louis University. She started visiting farmers markets with her soaps in about 2008. After marrying in 2010, her husband's father—a longtime St. Louis businessman—helped redo the label for her products.
The soaps are made in the Valenzas' home and must cure for between four and six weeks before being sold. They include varieties such as clove coffee, which removes onion and garlic smells from hands. Other scents include lavender, lemon poppyseed, peppermint, rosemary mint, spruce, spearmint orange and vanilla. Valenza offers about 40 scents in all and brings 10 soap varieties to each market, though customers can pre-order and arrange for pickup at a market.
Ingredients that go into the soaps include olive, coconut and castor oils, lard, tallow and oatmeal.
Hanley Fold Farm also offers five flavors of lip balm—coconut, huckleberry, coffee, mint and unscented—and wooden soap dishes that keep the soap from becoming soggy.
Numerous fans have shared their support for the brand on the farm's website.
"Hanley Fold Farm soap is an excellent product," wrote Bryan Kirchoff of St. Louis. "It has great texture, lather, and variety. I also like the idea of supporting an independent, family business."
Linda Rabenberg agreed.
"I love this soap!" she wrote. "I offered several different bars as prizes at my sister-in-law's baby shower, and guests couldn't keep their hands and noses off them. My personal favorite is the lilac. The bars last a long time and feel wonderful on my skin—a wonderful little luxury!"
Visitors to the Hanley Fold Farm booth in Clayton may also purchase Joe and Joanna's honey, which is collected in St. Louis. The Valenzas also operate booths at markets in Ferguson, Lake Saint Louis, Maplewood, Kirkwood, Tower Grove, Wildwood and St. Charles.