At very first, I was captivated by the delicious aroma and luscious feel of Faye Farms’ handmade soaps. After learning about this soap maker’s sustainable, natural philosophy of “using the whole buffalo”–or, in this case, pig!–I was really intrigued. With respect and understanding, Heather Faye of Faye Farms makes the most of living off the land, and comes away with some great soap, too…
KCQ: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
HF: I have always been a business owner. When I graduated from high school, I bought myself a herd of milk cows. I have always loved working with animals and being close to nature. I married a dairy farmer and we have 3 boys. In June of 2007, we moved our entire farm and family from Bayfield, WI to Udall, KS. It was a big leap of faith to uproot everything we had ever known, but we were seeking less snow and a longer grazing season. In September of 2009, Faye Farms took a whole new direction when we dropped our commercial milk contract and started selling everything our farm produces directly to the public. Making a conscience decision to keep our farm small and working directly with our customers has been rewarding beyond my dreams. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love and to see firsthand the joy it brings to others.
KCQ: What do you produce on your farm?
HF: We have a diverse farm that focuses on grazing and heritage genetics. We sell raw milk from our herd of Ayrshire cows and pork from our Hereford hogs. We also raise poultry for meat and eggs and are in the beginning stages of establishing a fruit orchard. Last but not least, soap! I love being able to use ingredients from our farm to add to my soaps.
KCQ: The fruit orchard sounds exciting; what kinds of fruits do you plan on growing?
HF: Anything I can manage to get to grow! We already have young peach and apple trees planted. We also have a number of Mulberry trees that were already established on our farm. Last year I discovered that we have a mature apricot tree on our farm. I need to plant some more apricots so that it has a pollinator, though.
KCQ: How did you first become involved with soap making?
HF: Getting into soap making was a cumulation of a search for more natural products, not wanting to waste any part of the pigs we were raising for meat and my crafty nature. When I mastered soap making and started giving it away to family and friends, the demand for more just kept growing. Years later, soap making has ballooned into a major income source for our farm. Not only is it a way to add value to our milk and lard, it is a way for me to express my creativity.
KCQ: What are some of its benefits of using lard in soap?
HF: Lard is a wonderful fat to soap with. It makes a long lasting bar of soap with a lovely creamy lather. I also chose to use lard in my soaps for ethical and environmental reasons. Since I have chosen to raise meat animals, I feel it is my duty to honor that animal by not wasting any part of it. I also love the fact that I can lesson my carbon footprint by using a major ingredient in my soaps that I can produce myself or buy locally.
KCQ: Could you briefly describe the soap-making process?
HF: Just three ingredients are required for a true natural soap: an oil or fat, a liquid, and lye. As a soap maker, the fun lies in the fact that there is an endless combination of oils, liquids, scents, colors and specialty ingredients you can use to formulate a soap. The soap making process begins with a good recipe. A soap maker must know how each ingredient will react and what properties it will bring to the soap. Then there is a little math involved. Each individual oil in a soap formula requires a specific amount of lye to turn it into soap. Not enough lye and you get a greasy mess, too much lye and you have a soap that is extremely harsh on your skin. Just the right amount of lye will create a luxurious soap that gently cleans without stripping your skin of it’s natural oils. Then we move to actually making the soap. All ingredients are weighed with a scale according to the recipe. Once all the ingredients are weighed out, the lye is diluted with a liquid and any hard oils are melted. Next, all of the ingredients are mixed together and poured into a mold. Once the soap has hardened it is taken out of the mold and cut into bars. The bars of soap are then placed on a curing rack. While curing, saponification finishes up and liquid evaporates from the soap which results in a harder bar.
KCQ: Are your soaps safe for washing other things, such as clothing? I certainly wouldn’t use these yummy soaps on just anything, but being a knitter, I was wondering if they would be appropriate for special wool pieces?
HF: Yes, they are. I make a simple soap specifically for laundry. You can grate it up and use as is or for more cleaning power mix equal proportions of my soap, borax and washing soda.
KCQ: I noticed a soap on your site called ‘Horse Kisses‘–I love it!! The alfalfa is a great touch. Are most of your scents inspired by farm life? What are your other inspirations?
HF: When you have a passion for soap making an odd thing happens. You see potential bars of soap EVERYWHERE. Soap is such a feast of the senses that anything can trigger inspiration. I pull inspiration from my farm, from Kansas and from all the things I love.
KCQ: Aside from online, where are your soaps available for sale?
HF: Year round you can get Faye Farms Soap at Whole Foods located at Central and Woodlawn in Wichita, Kountry Kupboard in Rose Hill, and the Windswept Winery gift shops in Udall and Winfield. I also sell soap at our farm in Udall. May thru October, I attend the Old Town Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.
KCQ: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about?
HF: I also make guest sized soaps for Bed & Breakfasts, and I love making custom batches of soap. Last year, I made loofah soaps for a local pumpkin patch using the loofah they had grown on their farm.
If you can’t visit Heather Faye in person at the market, be sure to check out the Faye Farms website at fayefarms.com. You can also ‘like’ the Faye Farms facebook fan page, located at www.facebook.com/FayeFarms.