Bethel’s Taveren Farm Focusing on Local

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People / Mar. 31, 2016 10:01am EDT

By Jeremy Frost


Larry Girard, Ashley Pulsifer, and their daughter Aia are the owners of Taveren Farm. (Herald / Jeremy Frost) Larry Girard, Ashley Pulsifer, and their daughter Aia are the owners of Taveren Farm. (Herald / Jeremy Frost) Taveren Farm in Bethel takes its name from the immensely popular fantasy novels of Robert Jordan, collectively known as “The Wheel of Time” series. For those not familiar with the books, many elements of magic, lore and spirituality are blended amongst an immersive world and cast of characters.

As Larry Girard explains, in the stories Taveren (pronounced: tah- VEER-ehn) means “shaper of destiny.” It’s a fitting name for the business that his partner, Ashley Pulsifer has developed.

The couple had been committed to living a more natural lifestyle and were enjoying many of the advantages that went along with it before they made the plunge into the successful business they have today. Canned vegetables from the garden began to fill their pantry, the neighbors started to smell homemade bread in their oven, and soap that Ashley made from scratch replaced the commercial products they had in their kitchen and bathroom.

It didn’t take the enthusiastic pair long to find ways they could share in the benefits of their lifestyle, and their friends and family began to covet the various gift baskets they would receive as presents and housewarming favors.

About two years later, a particularly fateful Christmas basket, one filled with Ashley’s homemade soap, challenged the couple to think about sharing their products with a larger audience. The recipient of the gift basket was a friend who had struggled with eczema for years. Days later, he called them and offered his profuse thanks. He had seemingly tried everything under the sun and nothing had worked— until he found Ashley’s soap. In a mere manner of days, his skin was clear. The following summer, Taveren Farm was born.

Goat’s Milk

It’s likely that plain old goat’s milk was better at treating their friend’s eczema than the powerful chemicals and oils found in the commercially available soaps and lotions that most people are used to. This is because all soap is made the same way, and relies on a chemical process called saponification. It sounds complicated, but it’s not and essentially relies on some sort of fat or oil for a base.

It turns out goat’s milk makes an excellent candidate, and it’s what Ashley used for the soap in her friend’s gift basket. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals and has a high fat content, which as Ashley explains helps to make it “one of the best moisturizing soaps out there.”

Taveren Farm’s friends and customers are not alone in praising goat milk based soaps. They are credited with helping acne, dry skin, and even some psoriasis relief nationwide.

The business officially started in June 2012 with a booth at the Randolph Farmer’s Market, where Ashley quickly sold out of the goat milk, beer, and wine-based soaps she had brought.

“Beer is a better cleanser than goats milk,” she said, but she suspects some of her customers have initially purchased the beer-based soap as a “novelty.” She isn’t surprised to see them return weeks later to buy more. “The yeast helps renew skin, lock in moisture, and regulates pH. Just as when you drink it, beer soap warms up joints, relieves muscle tension, and supports the immune system.” It’s also what she recommends using after “you’ve worked a long day, you’re sore and you just want to sit down.”

It’s not hard to see why they have developed a loyal following. They make good stuff, and know many of their customers on a first-name basis. Taveren Farm quickly became a full-time endeavor, and they remain committed to making everything by hand. Right now, Ashley makes all of Taverern Farm’s wares in their home, often under the watchful supervision of Aia, their 18-month-old daughter. They are looking forward to welcoming another child in June.

It takes four-six weeks for Ashley’s soap to properly cure, depending on the batch and desired hardness. Rows and rows of different varieties fill high wooden shelves in the couple’s living room, many looking like flattened out pieces of quartz or some other similar pretty rock. It looks like an impressive museum exhibit, and part of you wants to pick up each one and look at it. You can’t help but appreciate the heft and feel of the high quality soap in your hand.

Local Commitment

Ashley and Larry credit much of their success to their focus and commitment to a local-based business. There are currently numerous expansion plans in the works, including a dedicated workshop and manufacturing space where they are also hoping to raise and milk goats themselves; right now, they purchase their goat milk from several other local area farms. The two are happy to be sharing things they believe in with the greater community, and wholeheartedly appreciate their local support.

Ashley admits her online sales “are a drop in the bucket” compared to Taveren Farm’s local sales, many of which come from repeat customers. She and Larry are comfortable with this, and appreciate the level of quality and control they are able to offer, as well as the personal interactions with their clientele.

They have developed an impressive array of products beyond traditional bar soap, each hand made, natural, preservative free, and sourced from local ingredients, including lip balms, salves, hand sanitizers, bug repellent, and a laundry detergent that are also in high demand. Ashley is developing a line specifically targeted for men, offering both a beard oil for guys that don’t shave, and an aftershave for the ones that do.

Taveren Farm can still be found at their booth at the Randolph Farmers Market, as well as at three or four other local farmers markets they frequent each week during the season. They also attend many area events, bazaars, and craft fairs, and maintain year round displays at Mc- Culough’s Quick Stop in Bethel and the Gifford Hospital Gift Shop. Customers can also place orders and contact them through their website www.TaverenFarm.com.

Soap making has a long historical precedent in New England and early America. It was a traditional homesteading skill, and one that helped to make life a lot more bearable for early colonists and pioneers. In many ways, it has been mostly forgotten, even though it helped to shape the health and vitality of the region.

It was among many domestic solutions and resources in the New World, much like maple syrup, that would help foster a sense of independence, growth and ultimately character. In Vermont in particular, several cottage industries sprung up that produced soap as a result from the potash trade.

Larry and Ashley both grew up in areas where this thriving industry once flourished. It’s operations like Taveren Farm, that remind us that “The Wheel of Time” is indeed still spinning.

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