In 2011, Sara Turnbull (Sustainable Textile Production, ‘11) and Steve Lester (Sustainable Agriculture, ‘11) packed up their pickup truck with goats and rabbits and headed back home to the Finger Lakes Region of New York to start the farm they had planned together while at Sterling.

They planned to make and sell goat cheese and raw milk but soon decided to start making goat milk soap while they finished designing and getting approval for their milk house. Before they knew it, the soap business had taken off, and Chicory Farm Soap was born. Sara has always had a passion for crafting, and Steve fell in love with agriculture while at Sterling.  The perfect match!


Cold process soap making involves water or milk, fat, oils, and lye (sodium hydroxide). Sara makes Chicory Farm Soap’s goat milk soap with pomace olive oil, coconut oil, organic virgin shea butter, goat milk, and a variety of essential oils and botanicals. To start, the lye and water are mixed together and allowed to cool. At the same time, coconut oil and shea butter are melted down and the olive oil and goat milk are mixed together. The oils are then all combined, and the lye mixture is added when it’s cooled enough.

Sara uses a drill and “pot whipper” to “saponify” the oils and lye into soap. When the soap has reached “trace” essential oils are added and the soap is poured into a mold. It’s allowed to sit in the mold for 24-48 hours, and then it’s unmolded. After unmolding the block of soap is cut into 9 loaves, which are then cut into 5-7 bars each. These bars are left to age for at least four weeks. Aging the soap improves the quality of the lather and makes for a longer-lasting bar of soap. Once they’re finished aging each bar is hand-wrapped and ready to be shipped to a customer, a gift shop, or brought to a craft show.


As part of the Sterling new logo launch, we recognized the need and desire to place our logo on products that shared our ethos.  So we reached out to Sara and began this collaboration.  The Sterling Blend soap features five components:

Fir Needle (representing the local ecosystem)
Cedarwood (representing the smell of camp: cabins, fence posts, trails, etc.)
Lavender (representing a versatile herb used across a variety of crafts and disciplines)
Goat Milk (representing the way we learn to work with animals to sustain ourselves)
Patchouli (representing the free spirit, forging their own path)
You can purchase Sterling Blend by Chicory Farm Soap at our online store.

Filed Under: Alumni Blog