20 Feb Better Together: Mirasol Farm
Casey and Olga from Mirasol Farm make organic herbal skin care products almost entirely from plants grown on their small farm in Wisconsin. The ingredients they can’t produce in-house are sourced from organic agriculture around the world. This couple has built a loyal following making exquisite hand-crafted soaps, salves and oils for over a decade.
Tell us the story of how you met.
We were both working on issues of violence against women – Casey for an organization that trains battered women’s advocates, and Olga as a consultant on child abuse and domestic violence. The field is small enough that our paths were destined to cross – when they did, we both felt like we’d known each other for a very long time.
How did Mirasol Farm get started?
Mirasol Farm is a place – our home and organic farm – as well as our business name. When we met, Olga had been living in D.C. and Casey in northern Minnesota. Very different backgrounds, but our common dream was to find a way of living simply and working from home, so we bought a retired dairy farm in western Wisconsin and spent a year fixing it up with the idea that we’d do some sort of sustainable agriculture. It’s been our labor of love. The Land Stewardship’s Farm Beginnings Project helped us focus and distill our ideas. Five years later, we’ve built on Casey’s love of making soap to growing and [abbr title=”Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or ‘wild’ habitat, for food or medicinal purposes.”]wildcrafting[/abbr] herbs into a variety of organic bath and body products.
What led you to sell on Etsy?
A friend of ours who’s in the know said it was THE place to be if you wanted to sell handmade goodies. Without her foresight, we probably would have wandered around aimlessly for a while before finally landing here ourselves. Don’t get me started on how amazing Etsy is for start-up artists and crafters, with a crazy friendly infrastructure, good solid advice, and a supportive community.
What’s a day on Mirasol Farm like?
Being farmers, our lives are pretty active and our days vary widely according to season and weather. Without fail, we walk our three fabulous dogs every morning before letting the chickens out to roam. Then, like most modern farmers, after checking our email we’ll seasonally plant, weed, harvest, weed again, mow, or shovel (snow) and go inside to make jam, salves, soap, and creams. We usually package up orders and drive into town to the post office just before it closes. In the evenings after dinner Casey works on new listings, does some research, or labels small things while we unwind.
Olga’s consulting work on violence against women and children is still very important to her and keeps her pretty busy. Casey does most of the creating and behind-the-scenes work of the Etsy business, with Olga involved in almost every big decision and stepping in when needed. We do all in-person arts and crafts shows together.
What are the challenges of doing business together while maintaining a personal relationship?
We love working together and deliberately chose a life that supports that. But as other artists and crafters know, the biggest challenge of working from home is running a small business while continuing to sleep, eat, and be a good partner and friend. It’s an intensely personal journey, translating broad priorities into daily decisions. Putting work aside to relax is VERY difficult. I’m writing this on a laptop on my dining room table, for example, and Mirasol Farm’s tax and bookkeeping files cover every surface. I’m embarrassed to say that it’s looked like this for weeks! Having someone over for dinner isn’t in the cards right now.
What happens when you lock horns?
It’s hard to admit this, but we really don’t. We’re one of those weird couples that don’t argue. Maybe we need help!
What’s the process like from idea to product launch? Give us an example from one of your favorite products.
Most of our ideas for new products start as special requests or gift ideas from customers or friends. For example, a good friend became pregnant several years ago. She was also a doula at the time, working for a non-profit organization that helped pregnant women in prison. The idea arose to develop an Organic Mama product line with postpartum bath tea and massage oils – first for Casey’s friend, then as a fundraiser for the nonprofit. The bath tea recipe has been tweaked over the years – again, thanks to feedback from customers and friends. It’s a very interactive process.
What’s the line of products that you’re most proud of and why?
Still soap; it’s Casey’s first love. Even though organic ingredients are expensive and limit our profit margin, we’re especially proud of making organic soap. Most exotic oils – like coconut and palm, both essential soap ingredients – come from countries and peoples far away, and we feel that our buying decisions help support organic farmers around the world, healthy rivers and forests, and the human family.
My husband was wildly excited about your jams – have you thought about making more edible products?
Oh, that’s very sweet! [Eek – no pun intended.] If the next stage in our business development actually happens – a separate studio building with an industrial kitchen – then yes! But right now our kitchen space limits production and the type of edible products we can make.
Casey and Olga are the essence of handmade – products made from ingredients grown and harvested on their own farm. Visit Mirasol Farm on Etsy to learn more about their organic products, or order a sample pack of soap mini-bars! Mirasol Farm is also on Facebook, where Casey and Olga regularly announce upcoming craft shows they’re attending in Wisconsin and nearby Minnesota.