Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Sweet Harvest Farms products are made with natural oils, clays and herbs.

When purchasing an item from a company called Sweet Harvest Farms, you might assume you are about to taste a delectable treat. A food product, with perhaps a bit of sweetness grown in large crops.

Your first glimpse of your Sweet Harvest Farm product may lead you to believe it had been in the hands of an accomplished baker or skilled pastry chef. It would have beautiful swirls of color with sprinkles and layers. A specialty cake, you might think.

Yes, appealing to the senses — but certainly something you would not want to eat.

The brainchild of 63-year-old Cynthia Young-Jennings, Sweet Harvest Farms makes soaps and other handcrafted bath and beauty products.

When C.J., as she is known to friends and colleagues in the handmade soap industry, talks soap, you can be sure she is speaking of what is technically soap and not one of the many substitute cleansers we’ve come to call soap.

“Do they use lye? You can’t have real soap without lye,” C.J. says. “What a lot of people do is they make a base. There [are] like four or five huge manufacturers worldwide that make soap. It starts out as soap but they use inferior oils.

“They siphon the soap glycerin out of the end product to sell to very high-end cosmetic companies. So, once the soap glycerin is gone it is not true soap. The glycerin is what the skin needs.”

“I started out with $100 in my pocket and just plugged along until 2009, when it just took on a life of its own to the point where I can’t make it fast enough.” Cynthia Young-Jennings, Sweet Harvest Farms

C.J. suggests taking a closer look at the packaging on your body cleansing product stored in your bathrooms.

“The new Dove packaging says, ‘Beauty Bar’ because it is not a soap,” she says. “Most all of these products, ones we’ve used for years, are beauty bars. There really are only about 50 true soap makers in the United States today.

“The minute you’ve used my product, you will know that you probably have never used real soap before.”

C.J. utilizes a cold-processed soap recipe that retains 100 percent of the moisturizing natural glycerin in a truly handmade soap. Sweet Harvest Farms soaps and lotions are made with the highest-quality organic food oils, clays and herbs available, the company says.

This painstaking task of making small batches at a time takes place in her small two-car garage in Tampa, Fla., with the help of her husband Duane Jennings. They have been married for 34 years and have four children. Two of her daughters and two other friends make up the manufacturing team at Sweet Harvest Farms.

C.J. started making handmade soaps in 1998 and her soaps remained a rare, specialty product until she could manufacture enough product to sell wholesale.

“I started out with $100 in my pocket and just plugged along until 2009, when it just took on a life of its own to the point where I can’t make it fast enough,” C.J. says. “If it’s true soap with lye, it is a very laborious job. The fact that I can still make a high-quality product, and make more of it, sales have gone through the roof.”

C.J. has stayed in the business for the long haul and it is finally paying off. And she can continue to make her soap without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, phosphates, harsh chemicals, mineral oils or petroleum by-products that are not healthy for the skin.

“People don’t realize that everything you put on your skin is eventually absorbed into your bloodstream and then goes to your liver and kidneys,” she says. “If we are concerned about our internal health, we are careful as to what we eat. We look for healthy foods.

“Our skin is the same way. If we put healthy soaps on our bodies, we are protecting ourselves from the outside, too.”

Sweet Harvest Farms products can be found at select markets and fairs primarily in Florida but are also available for purchase online. The company is also among the sponsors for our 10th Anniversary Celebration on Nov. 14 — you can tune in here.