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From the Hearts and Hands
of Sun Ridge Farms

By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Melissa Donner

When Lindley and Susan Smith bought a beautiful, historic farm on the scenic outskirts of Jonesboro 17 years ago, they were looking for a place where they could gather with friends and family and a place where they could minister to others and pour out love on them. Today, the family farm is home to two businesses that are used to make lasting impacts on the lives of those they touch.

The Smiths bought the 75-acre farm from Bobby Clark in 2003. At the time, the property featured an old barn and a farmhouse that had been built in 1940. The family built a new barn and house on the land and soon made the farm their own.

“Raising our children on the farm provided many opportunities for them to learn life skills and appreciation for hard work, raising animals, cooking and riding horses competitively,” said Susan. “But our oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who has cerebral palsy, wasn’t able to directly contribute to the day-to-day work and accomplishments the other children gained. In order to give her purpose and to have something that was just hers, we bought milk goats.

“While she couldn’t physically care for them, she thoroughly enjoyed being a part of baby goats being born, caring for them and watching the milking of the mama goats. My sweet husband, Lindley, who hauled our other three children and their horses all over the country (for competitive barrel racing), also took Elizabeth and me to goat farms, farmers markets, and cheese making and soap making classes all over the country.”

Susan said that after many classes, trial and error, and even many failures, they finally learned that for their purposes and passion, goat milk soap and body products were the best fit. She could milk two high-quality milk producing goats for five months and fill the freezer with milk for soap for a year, since soap requires frozen milk.

“After several years of making products and giving it away to family and friends, we created our business, Sun Ridge Essentials,” said Susan. “We named our farm Sun Ridge Farms because we are located on Crowley’s Ridge with the most beautiful sunsets in the area.”

Since officially establishing Sun Ridge Essentials in the fall of 2014, the luxury bath and body product business has grown to include sugar butter scrubs, body butter, whipped body butter, milk and butter bath salts, goat milk shave, butter bath bombs, lip butter and goat milk lotion.

The products are all free of artificial colors and unnecessary chemicals. In the popular Clothesline Cotton Goat Milk Soap, ingredients include goat milk, sustainable palm oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sodium hydroxide, rosemary oil extract, titanium dioxide, essential and/or sulfate-free fragrance oil.

Susan says that there are many important reasons to use goat milk in bath products, particularly because it contains lactic acid, which is a natural exfoliant, and it is rich in fatty acids, which allows moisturization to soak in deep and be locked into the skin.

At the same time Sun Ridge Essentials continued to grow, Susan began thinking about passing the torch to someone else. In this case, she is handing the reins over to her youngest daughter, Caroline Smith Borgstadt, and her son-in-law, Sam Borgstadt. Although the new owners reside in Nashville after meeting at the University of Arkansas and marrying at Sun Ridge Farms, they frequently travel back and forth to Jonesboro to make product and grow the business’ online presence.

“Last Christmas, I helped my mom run the Christmas pop up at The Farmhouse,” said Caroline of the family’s other business. “I’ve always loved shopping locally and encouraging others to do so, and it was so special to see how the community was so supportive of the artisans. I knew creating and making things from scratch brought me more joy than anything else I had done, but I wasn’t in a position to pursue anything full time. Knowing this desire and how much we loved the products, my dad approached us with the idea of us stepping in as the owners. We are so thankful for the opportunity and are having so much learning, as well as dreaming up future products.

“… For us, we love the products so much, and the Jonesboro community has been so supportive. It’s always meant so much that people have chosen it since 2014. We started thinking about everyone who we haven’t reached; we want to bring it to our friends in Nashville and different people out there who haven’t heard of us yet. We want to expand Sun Ridge Essentials, but we also want to keep the integrity of what she has created here.”

“Susan’s vision is the life of the company,” added Sam. “She started it in 2014 with the belief that people should care as much about what they put on their body as what they put in their body. She has graciously stayed on to help teach us how to make the products.”

While still working full time as an e-commerce consultant, Sam is using his experience to help grow Sun Ridge Essentials. He helped the small business launch a new, user-friendly website and is working to expand the brand’s presence to their home base in Nashville and beyond.

Susan says that as the company’s new owners, Caroline and Sam, are working to learn the production side of the business as she phases out.

“Making soaps in small quantity – the ratios of all the products and oils make a difference in how hard the bar is, how long it lasts, how much it lathers – it’s such a scientific process,” said Susan. “… You have to know what you’re doing and be very careful. We cure for a minimum of four weeks and we don’t sell until six.”

The new owners say they are very passionate about continuing the science of how Sun Ridge Essentials’ products are made because it’s so important to them that their customers have clean, natural, fresh products to use on their skin.

“Part of who we are and how we started (Sun Ridge Essentials) is that everything is small batch and hand-crafted,” said Caroline. “Because we are the ones so entrenched in making it, we know everything going into each product – things that are clean and not overly processed. … If I can get a cleaner ingredient, I want that option because it’s going on my skin.”

Susan says that while ingredients are expensive, even in bulk, they never cut corners, which often happens in mass-produced bath and body products.

“We want to continue to make great products for great people so that more customers can enjoy them,” added Sam. “We are so grateful for our customer base here in Jonesboro. We would not be able to hope of expanding without them being so loyal and supportive.”

Susan is also staying on to help work with the women of In His Wings Ministry, a nonprofit organization that works to free women from addiction by sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ. The women of the faith-based ministry regularly come to Sun Ridge Farms to help make the hand-crafted bath products and to learn about farm living.

“All of these girls are really smart and a huge help; it’s rewarding to see them enjoying the process,” she said. “We want them to love coming to the farm. We think it’s helpful for everyone to learn farm cooking and farm living; they’re getting a full picture of working with your hands in so many ways – that’s beneficial for them.”

Caroline says that the women are employed on a weekly basis to help fund the ministry and that they learn as much from the women as the women do from their time at the farm. And with the continued growth of Sun Ridge Essentials, those extra hands are needed. To accommodate the growing luxury bath and body product business, the team recently moved product production from the Smith family home to The Farmhouse, the farm’s original homestead.

The Farmhouse itself recently became the Smiths’ second business and another way for the family to connect with the community and to work with the In His Wings Ministry. The Smiths continued to use the old farmhouse as a rental for the first 15 years they owned it, but in recent years, that all changed.

“A few years ago, after all the other children were grown and gone, we began praying for another venture for Elizabeth and our property,” said Susan. “The original house to our property was built in 1940 along with the adjacent barn where they raised cattle. We had the house in rental for years, and so many sweet families have lived there, but it eventually had deteriorated and needed a lot of work or to be torn down.

“We prayed over what to do with the little house. We had a vision of renovating and repurposing things we had and using them for a venue. Elizabeth was so thrilled as we painted, French stenciled the floors, ironed her linens, polished silver and displayed all her beautiful things to share with others. (Now) we have a simple but beautiful little French country house we call The Farmhouse.”

“It was a real labor of love,” added Caroline of her mother’s work to restore the home. “It’s been a great place to host wedding showers, luncheons, bridal portraits and so much more.”

The Smiths once again partnered with In His Wings Ministry to help clean, serve, set up and bake pastries for events for up to 25 guests or for two overnight guests. The fee for the use of the house goes to help the ministry and the women it helps to support.

“We have (also) solicited local craftsmen and artisans for seasonal shows; we have a really good turnout with that,” said Susan “Everything we sell is handcrafted locally. We typically have six or seven vendors and a mixture of jewelry, painting, pottery, ornaments, etc. People love coming out here. We also sold a lot of baked goods, and we usually do one in the spring, too.”

For more information about Sun Ridge Essentials, go to sunridgeessentials.com or email shop@sunridgeessentials.com. For more information about The Farmhouse, located at 4370 County Road 745, call (870) 930-7009 or find The Farmhouse on Facebook.