In recent years, people have become attracted to more sustainable products that are free of unnecessary chemicals and harmful fillers. Turns out, our community is full of these amazing businesses that provide an array of products using natural ingredients and materials. The Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) has identified businesses specializing in production of these natural goods as an industry sector they want to grow. An industry sector they feel the people of Thurston can feel proud of.

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Callisons is a world-renowned mint production company that operates locally in Lacey. They produce 80% of the mint used worldwide! Photo credit: Doug Walker

“The mission of the EDC is to create a dynamic and sustainable economy that supports the values of the people who live and work in our communities,” Says Michael Cade, the Thurston EDC’s executive director “The growth and expansion of this sector has strong alignment with our mission. We will continue to expand this sector and its networks of suppliers and economic drivers for our region’s economic and community benefit.”

Thurston County already has an impressive concentration of world class natural product producers. The EDC wants to not only bring attention to these local companies and celebrate them, but also to  attract more natural businesses to the area.

The natural product companies in our area range from small businesses to large-scale manufacturers with a global presence. Alaffia is a health and beauty product manufacturer in Tumwater. They originally started out in a hotel in in Thurston County, and through the help of the Thurston EDC, they were able to expand and become a world-class manufacturer. Callisons is another world-renowned company that is headquartered locally. They are the largest mint flavoring producer in the world and they are right here in Lacey. If you brushed your teeth this morning, you likely used one of their products.

Fungi Perfecti is a locally-owned business that recently moved their world headquarters to downtown Olympia and who’s production facility is in Shelton. Their mission is to provide products sourced from mushrooms that support immune health and teach people about the important role fungi play in our world. Earth Friendly Products ECOS is a cleaning product company that brought manufacturing to Lacey in 2011. They are passionate about creating a better world through sustainable and affordable cleaning products that are safe for people, animals, and the planet.

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The Holy Lamb Organics production facility is located in Oakville and operated out of The Little Bit. The Little Bit was built in 1902 and has served this small rural community for over 85 years. Today, Holy Lamb Organics goes through about 10,000 pounds of wool a month right here in Oakville! Photo credit: Kristina Wunsch

These companies are truly changing the market with their commitment to health, safety and sustainability. Another such company is Holy Lamb Organics, a local natural pillow and mattress manufacturer in Oakville. Owner Jason Schaefer has a personal mission to enhance people’s lives through improved sleep by removing the unnecessary chemicals often used in pillows and mattresses today. He has seen firsthand just how life-changing natural products can be. “My wife had been having trouble with her asthma and started getting terrible migraines,” he shares. “We tried an organic mattress and her health improved overnight.”

Since then, Jason has been committed to marketing and developing quality products sourced from natural materials that support better sleep. He took over Holy Lamb Organics from the original owner Willow Whitton in 2017, and he has continued to uphold the company’s mission. Willow had discovered how great wool is for wicking away moisture and regulating temperature, so she developed a wool pillow that helps create an improved sleep environment. Today, Holy Lamb continues to produce pillows and has expanded into the mattress and topper market to give people a healthier way to get a good night’s rest.

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Holy Lamb uses organically sourced wool to fill their mattresses. The woolly down fill gives you all the benefits of wool, plus soft, squishable support similar to a down-feather product. These tiny puffs of wool are also used in their most versatile pillow option. Photo credit: Kristina Wunsch

All their wool is sourced from organic sheep farms located in the Pacific Northwest. The wool then goes to a Woolgatherer Carding Mill in Northern California, where they bale it and ship it to Texas to be cleaned. “It is cleaned in a zero-waste facility using water and mild detergents,” Jason explains.

Currently, EDC staff is interviewing companies like Jason’s, with an eye toward learning their supply chains connections.  “For example,” says Aslan Meade, the EDC’s director of strategic alliances, “Could the EDC recruit a business like the Carding Mill to locate in Thurston County, so that Holy Lamb doesn’t have to send their product to California?  We’d love to locate a mill like this at the new SW WA Agricultural Business & Innovation Park we are building in Tenino.  The more pieces of the supply chain that are located close by, the greater the economic impact and the more our investments and resources stay circulating among the business owners and residents of our community.”

A key part of the Holy Lamb process is to keep some of the lanolin in the wool, which is a naturally occurring oil that keeps the wool from getting dry and scratchy. “People that use our products get some natural moisturizer from them because of the lanolin,” Jason shares.

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Rhona is one of the amazing seamstresses at Holy Lamb Organics. She has been working with this wonderful company for going on 12 years! Every product starts at her table as fabric and ends with her on the finishing seam. Photo credit: Kristina Wunsch

Finally, the wool is batted, or combed, to take out some of the tangles and vegetable matter. The batted wool is delivered to Holy Lamb Organics in Oakville, where it is then used to make pillows, comforters, and toppers. The wool used for mattresses is also processed through a needle felter, which reduces airflow to make the wool more flame retardant without chemicals. “Our products breathe very well, so people don’t roast in our beds because air can flow around you all the time,” Jason says. These mattresses also last considerably longer than their polyester and plastic-based competitors, so you can expect to have a Holy Lamb Organics mattress for the next 20 years at least.

If you are interested in trying one for yourself, Holy Lamb recently opened the Olympia Bed Store, which showcases an array of options to explore. You can also go down to their manufacturing location in Oakville to see the entire process for yourself. “Transparency and authenticity are our guiding values,” Jason says. “Our goal is to get you in a good sleeping situation no matter where you are.”

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Shirley and Shae of Holy Lamb Organics are working together to make one of their Natural Latex Mattresses. All of their mattresses are handmade from start to finish. Photo credit: Kristina Wunsch

The Thurston EDC is proud of the growth and success that companies like Holy Lamb Organics have experienced here, and they want to both help Thurston’s new and smaller companies to grow, as well as   to bring more businesses like this to the area. “We love that we have these companies that are both financially successful and socially conscious.  That’s the kind of economic development we are committed to,” Aslan says. “Again, our mission is to build a vibrant and sustainable economy that matches the values of the people that live and work here.”

Be sure to check out these wonderful local businesses to support their efforts in our community! Additionally, if you know of a local or out-of-state manufacturer of natural products, contact the Thurston EDC to help them get connected. Together, we can continue to build the pride of natural product manufacturing in Washington and improve our local economy.

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