Jennifer Gleason is the farmer and creator of Sunflower Sundries and the passion behind the products produced on her small farm. Her whole life has been dedicated to learning about homestead arts and loves making things by hand from local ingredients. We are so proud to know her and her husband, poet Jim Lally. Recently we visited their inspiring enterprise.
Sunflower Sundries is a small family business started in 1992 with the idea of “Local Food for Local Folks,” Sunflower Sundries is a local-centric cottage industry that employs family, friends, and neighbors.
The Market shop is the main area of activity. It was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the first one. Jennifer talked about how it enabled her to design a much better structure. She began her design process by considering the view from each area and bringing in light. Her careful decisions about internal windows further enhance this value. Her appreciation of beautiful, old but functional antiques is present throughout, from top to bottom. And there is art everywhere, making it an uplifted environment for working and for her customers who come to holiday events.
The soapmaking area is in the far side of the Market Shop. She makes batches of 1500 bars that begin in the large soap tank, which is gravity fed spring water from the vessel above it.
Jennifer is like a beam of sunlight, it makes sense that sunflowers are special for her.
The office is full of light due to the internal windows that face the soapmaking area, shown, and the shop area on the right side of the room. She hung the two Manet prints of asparagus as a memento to the Asparagus Festival Art Show she organized. The gargantuan 50’s desk holds most every paper necessary to run the business.
The tallow she uses is grass fed and from local farms. She used to render it in the antique kettle. Now she has a state of the art appliance that saves time.
They grow Hickory King, an heirloom non-GMO open pollinated white corn. It is a delicious corn that is higher in protein and sugars than most grain corn. It has been grown in their area of Kentucky for centuries. It makes the best cornmeal, grits, hominy and tortilla chips. They have their own mill and grind the meal fresh and date each package. They send the whole kernel corn to a tacqueria to be made into corn tortilla chips for them. The chips are labeled “Hickory King Collective” to reflect the farmers that grow the special corn for them.
The Corn House is the latest addition to the property. I am sorry I did not take photos of the interier, which was just as beautiful and light as the shop. The back room has the mill grinder. There is lots of storage in the loft.
She also makes preserves, mustards and pickled asparagus in her Sunflower Sundries kitchen.
Watch a great video of her driving the tractor and a tour around the property; https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=70&v=ut7gKZSWXwY
And learn more about her events on her website: https://www.sunflowersundries.com/
and read a short post about when we met.