When great products come from small farms
Simple Goodness Sisters syrups
Life in the big city—success, long hours, commutes, and shallow people, many country folk believe.. Who needs it?
Two sisters who grew up working the retail side in the family’s Millwork Outlet shop never really had a plan to be anywhere else. But Venise and Belinda Drllevich grew up, went to separate colleges and emerged with different life plans.
Venise moved to a cattle operation in Montana and realized her love for open spaces, seasonal change, and country life. She married Ross and set up their first homestead, raising Nigerian dairy goats. The couple then buys a former dairy operation back home in Washington State, literally a stone’s throw from where she grew up.
Venise becomes a true weekend farmer, working full-time at a software company. They plant heirloom varieties of garlic to sell, and begin adding other plants and flowers to their garden.
Sister Belinda, three years younger, works in restaurants to pay for college. Before long, she is married to Troy, a former roommate of Venice’s husband, and found herself also working at a software company.
Enter the babies…and events
We’ll repeat here: Life in the big city—success, long hours, commutes, and shallow people. Who needs it? (Especially without a cocktail.)
The sisters didn’t, once the arrival of babies—two each—caused a hard look at what life has to offer.
Belinda quit her corporate job in 2016 and launched a mobile bar enterprise, the Happy Camper Cocktail Company, out of a renovated 1957 Aladdin camper—featuring seasonal, garden-inspired ingredients, mostly from her sister’s farm.
At the first large event with her new mobile bar, Belinda features a Rhubarb Vanilla Bean syrup made from fruit grown on Venice’s garden. Guests raved about it, even offering to carry it in their own stores.
Venise recognizes an opportunity and launches into learning about food businesses. Belinda gets her own assignment: start bottling up new recipes.
“On our farm we grow herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables,” Belinda says. “Many of our syrups are inspired by the abundance of the farm.”
By 2018, sales and future orders convinced the sisters to expand their product line and increase production. The Simple Goodness Cocktail Farm grows, expanding into edible flowers, herbs and fruits to support syrup production.
Regulations provide an anchor
While the mobile bar concept was a hit—every time they opened, new flavor combinations captured guests’ imaginations—more investment was required. Full production required their syrups to be produced in a commercial kitchen, with safety and hygiene requirements observed.
As it turned out, this fell into their plans for growth: The Simple Goodness Sisters plan included producing more syrups, so a kitchen that could support their this and catering business was the next logical step.
In 2018, Venise found a historical cafe, bar, and soda fountain for sale that could accommodate all their plans.
Located an hour from Tacoma and Seattle, the Simple Goodness Soda Shop in Wilkeson, Wash. features a farm-to-table cafe, ice cream parlor, tasting room, and production headquarters…and it opened into a pandemic.
Never daunted, the sisters spent the downtime refining menus, recipes, and production.When it opens again this May, visitors can choose from cocktails, beers, and wine, along with seasonal craft cocktails that will change according to what comes from the garden.
So many flavors
Belinda, the foodie of the pair, says new syrup recipes are influenced by what’s going on the farm. And it’s all about cocktails, whether made in the soda shop or at your home.
“In order to help our customers make the most delicious cocktail, easily, we always try to combine a sweet, sour, and spice/herb in our syrups. This allows you to make a drink that’s layered and complex similar to what you would get a at a high-end bar but with very minimal ingredients, at home.”
The Simple Goodness Sisters’ syrups go in and out of production according to the success of their gardening efforts. Flowers, herbs, and fruits of all stripes are on the table as possible ingredients to use. And “fresh” is more than a buzzword in the garden, Belinda says.
“We bottle the majority of our flavors in the summer because that’s when the produce is available. Very few farms have commercial processing facilities so they sell everything fresh and it’s our job to turn it into syrup or freeze it,” Belinda tells us. “The fact that we are picking up the produce right from the farm and bring it back to the kitchen to process it immediately is the secret to our syrups tasting fresh and bright all year long!”
The success of their syrups goes along with their creativity, even if the two don’t raise a certain plant on the farm. “If we don’t grow it, you can be assured we know the farmer who grew it. We have a berry farmer just down the road from us who we buy almost all our berries from and over the years have become friends,” she says.
The company now also purchases stone fruit from a grower in Yakima, and used the extension service to find a cranberry grower in Long Beach, Wash. for their Cranberry Rosemary Syrup.
“We believe good food has a good story and we like being able to tell those stories for our syrups.”
Some of those stories, including how to grow, harvest, muddle, and mix various herbs, fruits, and flowers in to delicious cocktails, can be found in the recipe books they offer on their website, as well.
How about a glass of Venise’s Greyhound cocktail? Or Belinda’s Bourbon Sour? Certainly, those can tell the stories we want to hear.
Simple Goodness Sisters grows, harvests, and formulates syrups seasonally, usually in the summer. Check their website for availability, as some are held back for their Cocktail Farm Club subscription service.
The service provides unique “micro-batch” syrups in addition to regular 12-ounce bottles, cocktail garnishes grown on the farm, recipe cards, and video tutorials.
For more information:
Belinda Kelly and Venise Cunningham
Simple Goodness Sisters
Belinda Kelly shows how to make The Ultra Modern cocktail