By Colin Finch, WSU Intern, with editing by Russ Adderson, PGFC member/owner Orchard Farm Soap truly is a small family operation. The farm, named for its location on Orchard Ave., Moscow, ID, was started by Kate Jaeckel and her husband, Brad Jaeckel, Manager and Instructor at Washington State University's Organic Farm. Brought to Moscow on a search for good topsoil and affordable housing, Kate, her husband, their daughter (and soon to be son), found their new home in the Palouse and set out to work on building their small business out of the barn in their backyard. In that barn Kate makes use of every inch of space, repurposing oil barrels into workbenches on which she makes homemade soaps and body care products. The farm grows a variety of calendula, lavender, mint, rose petals, comfrey, yarrow, and rosehips to use for the herbal side of the business; all the plant infusions are then made on the farm here by Kate, who dries them in the barn. All in all, this ends up being at least 30 gallons of dried flowers being stored in Tupperware containers in the loft of her shop. Orchard Farm Soap also grows a wide variety of flowers specifically for the cut flower portion of their business. Originally started by her daughter to pay for a school trip and continued by her son the following year, selling cut flowers has become a passion project of Kate’s and an important part of life on the farm.
This year, despite no longer having her kids' help on the farm every day, Kate told me that “I really, really just enjoyed it so much that I totally didn’t mind staying motivated and keeping going with it, and the flowers are just really inspiring to be around. I love having them on the farm, I’m super excited to see the season come together every year, and it’s just fun to watch the farm go from nothing to this rainbow of colors.” Although today Orchard Farm Soap has found its niche by being able to provide the people of the Palouse with quality botanicals and skin care items, at times their farm has grown a variety of fresh vegetables that they sold to the local co-op in Moscow. When I asked Kate what she thought the support of her community has meant to their small business, she was quick to mention just how impactful the local co-op and community farmers markets have both been throughout their time in the area. “The whole reason we have a business is local support. We raised our kids at the farmers market, this will be our 19th year at the farmers market… we started working for Mary Jane Butters when we got here, and she was really supportive of us building this whole farm dream. So, we ran her farmers market booth that first season, then the second season we kind of sporadically did farmers market with a garden, and then we really got into farming and selling at the market the year after that.” Kate began selling her soap at the market as well, found she enjoyed having a non-perishable good, and from there the rest is history.