Melissa and Darric Lowery have turned their five acres in rural Thurston County into a bustling cottage industry. They breed and raise animals and grow an extensive garden. Sweet River Farm produces eggs, honey, soaps, and lotions and perhaps more importantly allows the Lowery family to be intimately connected with the way they live, work and eat.
It’s modern homesteading – a self-sufficient lifestyle that connects elements of the past with those of the present. For example, Melissa makes soap in her kitchen (people have been doing that for generations) but she sells it on Etsy (modern touch).
Melissa grew up raising rabbits and chickens, but she had not considered these hobbies could develop into an all-encompassing life picture. Not that long ago, she and her husband Darric were both working and living in Camas. After experiencing some health challenges, the Lowerys wanted to make changes. It became more important to not only know where their food came from and how it was raised or grown but to be part of process. This prompted the move to the acreage and the birth of Sweet River Farm.
Sweet River Farm’s rolling pastures back up to the Black River. Though the Lowerys have been on the property for less than two years, you can already find sheep, goats, laying chickens, fryers, beehives and a huge garden. It’s also home to their two young children – Levi and Ada – plus an indoor cat and a couple of barn cats.
“I love homesteading!” exclaims Melissa. The kids are playing outside in the late spring sunshine, alternating between feeding goats and chasing each other down the hill.
It’s true that Melissa makes her own hours – meaning she doesn’t drive to an office each day. However, by my reckoning she has chores that are endless. That’s life on the farm. She might be making soap or cheese, milking goats, or checking on her beehives, yet all the while breathing in the sweet, farm air or perhaps her freshly baking bread. Darric is a habitat biologist and works both on and off the farm.
A small flock of sheep graze peacefully in the front pasture. They are Dorpers, which are bred for their meat. Sweet River Farm sells sheep by live weight. That means people buy the whole animal and make arrangements for butchering.
The back pasture is home to a breed of goats called Kinders. The Kinder is a relatively new breed that is half Nubian and half pygmy. They are ideal for homesteading. The females are proficient for milking and the wethers (castrated rams) are great for eating. The goats produce from about 1/2 to one gallon of milk daily.
I made friends with Cinder, Isis, Ricotta, Colby, Chai, and Bandit. The goats are pleasantly curious and fun to be around, though one was overly interested in licking my knee.
Lowery uses the goat milk for lotions and soaps. She found that Darric’s sensitive skin did not react to products from the goats. Melissa now has an extensive line of both soaps and lotions that are available on Etsy. She also sells her products at the Rochester Farmers Market. One of the most popular scents is sweet apple, but she also produces scent-free soaps, too. There are even vegan options.
Not everyone has the inclination to raise animals and tend to a big garden. However, it’s possible to choose this kind of lifestyle when you live in Thurston County. Our community supports local farmers and purveyors who provide us with cleaner, thoughtfully produced meat, eggs and produce such as beets and greens.
Find Melissa and her vegetables, eggs, honey and body products at the Rochester Farmers Market. You can also contact her to arrange a soap making class for your own group.
Eat Well– Be Well