Interview with Tedi Jansen of Small Acre Farm
Choosing to interview Tedi was an easy choice. A causal observer of Small Acre Farm is to see only goat milk soap, a slightly deeper look is to understand Tedi is also a fiber artist, but digging deeper is to know how truly dedicated, sincere and light hearted Tedi and her family are about caring for all their animals and staying in the creative flow.
Small Acre Farm not only creates sustainable and usable products but models an honorable and admirable lifestyle. I'm proud to call Tedi a friend and introduce another view of her heritage crafts.
What piqued your interest about soap?
It was the goats! Seven years ago we decided to add goats to our farm. I think we had two that had babies that first year. All of the sudden we had about 3 gallons of milk a day. We tried cheese, kefir, cajeta, everything we knew we could do with milk but still had an excess. We had a couple of goat mentors, now very special friends. One of them told me about how his mom made goat milk soap. We made the first batch together. It was ugly and smelled weird and I was captivated!
What is your favorite part(s) of making soap?
I love the planning process, plugging the oils into the calculator, sketching the designs, spending hours searching out scents… When I am planning, anything is possible in my head. I get much of my inspiration from my surroundings so a walk around the farm or a hike in our local mountains often inspires a soap or concoction. My second favorite part is the cut, getting to see if that planning, scheming and dreaming comes through in the design.
Do you do other hand crafts?
I do! I live on a farm and we have sheep as well as goats. I’ve been a fiber artist even longer than I’ve been a soap maker. Don’t tell the goats, but the sheep are my favorite. They are skittish and shy but curious about me.
When they trust me enough to let me touch them and move among them with ease my heart melts.
I am a spinner, dyer, knitter, weaver and felter. The only thing I don’t do is shear the sheep. I just recently launched a separate brand of fiber goods and I am so excited. I am starting with woven scarves. Sometime in the summer I plan to add felted and woven purses. I'm working with the African Community Center in Denver who have a sewing training program for refugees to sew the bags. It’s going to be a wonderful collaboration!
The soap/lotion and fiber are all tied to the farm. I’m really a farmer first, but what started as a hobby to use excess milk and an excuse to have a few sheep in my pasture has turned into a way to help the farm survive and now thrive after I lost my long time job 3 years ago.
Describe the moment when you knew soap making was for you:
I was hooked after the first batch but the passion about the creative process has grown slowly over the years. I was in the middle of my first farmer’s market season when I lost my job. Soaping gave me a needed reason to get up in the morning and however small at first, a way to contribute financially to my family and the farm. What started as a way to survive and keep the farm has turned into a passion and thriving business.
How did you create your signature style soaps?
Our farm is our brand so I have always kept my soaps and labeling pretty simple and straightforward. I’m usually looking for a color or two that represent the fragrance. Our goats and our farm story are really the star of the show and I would rather have a conversation about the farm or something that connects that customer to our farm than fancy design elements. That being said, I just cut my regular soap line in half so that I would have the time, and creative energy to make periodic limited edition soaps this year. I’m having a blast creating more complicated (for me) soaps that I don’t ever have to make again unless I want to. I’ve developed a real interest in natural colorants and these new soaps have given me an excuse to pick up some new ingredients and experiment.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
I’m weird but I love the routine of making those soaps that are familiar to me. There is a sense of rhythm and routine to the farm and those familiar processes that really appeals to me. I’m also enjoying mixing it up with the limited soaps. I sometimes get an idea in the wee hours and then can’t go back to sleep until I have at least sketched it out.
What do you do that supports your soap making, creatively?
I love photography. I do farm photography and often find a color, pattern, texture that inspires a design. I also love doing product photography. Sometimes when I am behind the camera I notice a nuance in a soap that I hadn’t noticed before that inspires some other design.
What were your hopes for your soap business?
My fondest desire is for my business to make a difference. I know that sounds cheesy and self serving but it's really true. We had great mentors when we started with the goats and I love having folks out to the farm who want to learn about the goats, the other animals, farming, soap making, fiber... Recently I had someone I mentored start her own farm and business. I couldn't be more pleased! I’ve just started teaching soap making classes and that been great too! The soap business is really just a part of a bigger plan for the farm and my long term goal to help people make conscious and informed decisions about what goes on their body, skin care and clothing included.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
Being a rule follower, I try really hard to label correctly, be honest and upfront with my customers, research thoroughly. I’m frustrated about competing with soap businesses that make wild medical claims and post those kinds of testimonials. I am Not for more regulation for sure but I’d like an even playing field. I love and try to support people and businesses that broadly share and educate about soap making and the business of soap making.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I’m deeply passionate about small farming. My life’s work is to set an example for making a small farm business successful and to share that knowledge and experience generously with others so that they can be successful too. I am a crusader for community over competition.
What are your favorite parts to making soap?
Definitely the research and design. Right now I'm particularly inspired by natural colorants.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
Mostly I laugh at the failures, those Hail Mary batches that seize or the design element techniques where I end up with a fair amount of batter on the wall or my apron. There’s enough heartache in farming that I can’t take too much else seriously. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I might have to throw a batch away. If I weigh that against a lamb that didn’t make it or the time my dog got bit by a rattlesnake it’s just not that big a deal. Everything in perspective.
What do you want readers to know about you or your soap making business i.e. other products, ingredients, research... Anything you’d like to mention here.
There are lots of places you can find Small Acre Farm: . Farm - soap, lotion, farm stuff, animals
Small Acre Farm - Don’t miss the baby goats in the video on the about page!
Pinterest: namastemamma (don’t judge me!)
Tedi's Photography- Instagram: tljsnaps