Five products made from ingredients grown in the Lowcountry.
Story by Lucy Elam
The Lowcountry is the kind of place that isn’t hard to love. It isn’t hard to feel right at home, and it isn’t hard to grow your roots deep and flourish. It has a lot to offer. Some people are taking advantage of that by sourcing their ingredients and fashioning their products right in the place that they call home. This allows them to cultivate their business, and their community, at the same time. For the farming issue, we highlight five products made by local operations that are growing their businesses right in their backyard.
Lavender fields forever
With lavender fields on Warsaw Island just outside of Beaufort, Island Lavender on Bay Street is true to its name. Its flagship location in Wisconsin is also on an island — Washington Island in Lake Michigan. Chicago natives Scott Sonoc and Marsha Williams started out with their first lavender fields in Wisconsin in 2013 and have since extended their reach South. In 2019, Island Lavender planted 5,000 plants to figure out which strains will grow best here in the Lowcountry. So far they are testing out French, Spanish, and Portuguese varieties here. The lavender is either dried and used when it produces a bud, or it is harvested for its oil a bit later when it is in full flower. Once processed, it can be made into over 200 products, including Island Lavender’s Rose Fragrance Oil. Its soft and lovely fragrance make a distinctive and unique perfume. You can also use it to scent your bath.
You might not be familiar with mead, but this honey-made wine is produced at South Carolina’s first-ever production meadery, Bee-Town Mead & Cider in Bluffton. Its semi-sweet mead is made with local Chinese tallow honey sourced in northern Beaufort County. The commercial beekeeper places his hives on the Chinese Tallow (aka “popcorn tree”) during the flowering phase of the tree in order for the bees to collect the honey nectar. He then takes the hives to extract the raw honey. Bee-Town purchases the honey in 60-pound pails and uses about 11-12 pails for each batch of mead. The honey is what produces the alcohol in mead. Once in the facility on May River Road, the honey is mixed with water and yeast and allowed to ferment. The finished product is then filtered and stabilized. A small amount of Chinese Tallow honey is added back to the finished mead for a touch of sweetness.
Oh my gourd-ness
It’s pretty hard to imagine using a vegetable to soap up in the shower, but that is one of the many uses of the luffa (or loufa or loofa). Sheldon Luffa grows these sponge gourds in Beaufort. Botanically related to the cucumber, luffa produces a fruit that contains a fibrous vascular system and grows on an annual climbing vine. It can be used as a sponge, packing material and even a filter. As a bath sponge, its exfoliating texture induces blood circulation on the skin that is credited with relief for rheumatic and arthritic sufferers. You can even use it as a vegetable scrubber. Luffa sponges can be cleaned in the washing machine or dishwasher. Luffa is environmentally safe, biodegradable and a renewable resource.
Vine and dandy
For over a century, Seaside Grown on St. Helena Island has been in the business of tomatoes. Six generations ago, Gus Sanders started Seaside Farm, discovering that the tomatoes grew best in the warm soil right by the water’s edge. Today his family continues his legacy, shipping up to 24 million pounds of tomatoes in one month. Ross Taylor, a descendent of Sanders, expanded that legacy even further when he had the idea to find a use for the 20 percent of tomatoes that ripen on the vine and therefore can’t be shipped. The Bloody Mary Mix was born. With fresh-off-the-farm, family grown tomatoes infused with an assortment of traditional Lowcountry spices, this bloody Mary mix comes with a QR code that allows you to take a virtual tour of the exact field where the tomatoes were grown. You can even find out the exact date that they were picked. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
You’ve goat to be kidding me
The operations at Sheldon Family Farm and Dairy are truly a family affair. Led by Mark and Sharon Mansell, it’s all hands on deck as everyone pitches in to care for the critters on their 5-acre mini-farm. Their goats and cows provide milk that is used in a full range of all-natural, hand-crafted products with no parabens or sulfates. This family farm in Seabrook strives to be self-sustaining while also devoting the utmost care and expertise while crafting their soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other products. Their goat milk soaps are made with hand-milked goat’s milk and essential oils for a gentle cleanser that is great for people with eczema and psoriasis. Their rosemary lemon goat milk soap is perfect for spring with refreshing lemon and exfoliating rosemary. It can be used as a whole-body bar, including a face soap, or as a disinfectant in the kitchen.