Celeste Ricci owns and operates Celestial Natural Farms in Careywood, Idaho. Following a rewarding career in the field of education, she decided to pursue a childhood dream of becoming a farmer. With the support of her husband, Celeste raises a variety of animals that are fed locally grown, non-GMO food and are sold for meat as well as livestock.
Tell me about yourself and your background.
My husband John and I moved to Idaho from California 24 years ago. Before that I was a banker, and a tax collector, then I became a mother and I wanted a better life for my children, so we left California and moved to a five acre parcel of land in Idaho. I got a job with the Sandpoint School district and worked there for ten years, but I was always interested in farming and ranching. Growing up in California, I would go to visit family members in Colorado every summer where all of my relatives lived on farms. I dreamed of living on a farm one day, and that vision stayed with me over the years. When I retired from the school district I took a class on sustainable small acreage farming and ranching, and that gave me ideas about what could do. My husband and I moved to our current location on 89 acres in Careywood, and I started raising more animals and joined a food co-op in Sandpoint as a producer. I was acquiring cows at the time and began selling beef to people in the co-op. I stopped raising beef last year in order to focus more on the Nubian goats and the other animals, which include rabbits, heritage turkeys, chickens and ducks.
Tell me more about the turkeys that you raise.
Turkey eggs have a very rich flavor, I raise heritage breeds; Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, Royal Palm, Blue Slate turkeys and a few Midget Whites. I sell the eggs and turkey chicks for people who want to raise them themselves. I do the same thing with the ducks. The turkeys, as well as the chickens, ducks and geese are free range on the farm, so they will go out into the forest and the pastures.
I have read that you also make and sell skin care products, can you tell me more about them?
I make soaps that are from natural and organic bases, and I use essential oils to give them fragrance and natural coloring. I also make a variety of organic sugar and salt scrubs, a lotion bar from organic coconut oil, shea butter and essential oils, a gardener’s soap, hand crème, udder crème for my goats and shave bars.
Where can people buy your products?
I sell my skin care products through Di Luna’s Neighborhood Bistro in Sandpoint, and I will also do custom batches for customers by request. I sell my eggs to private customers and also at Winter Ridge Natural Foods in Sandpoint. Most other products I sell through contacts made on my Facebook page.
Why is it important to you to provide your animals with locally grown and non GMO food?
It is very important to me because I want things to stay natural and I don’t want my animals to be eating something that is genetically modified. I go out of my way to buy non-GMO grains, and I work with a farmer who grows hay that is non-GMO. My chickens eat non-GMO grains. From April to October I don’t feed my goats any hay and I just let them out to pasture. I don’t spray my pasture or anything around here.
What are the challenges and rewards of what you do?
The challenges are not having enough time in the day to do it all. I do try to use my time wisely to get all my chores done, and I make sure that all my animals’ needs are taken care of. The most important thing that I need to do is to spend time with my animals; this is just as important for me as it is for them because it allows me some down time and the ability to interact with nature. It provides a daily reminder that I love my lifestyle, because for me it is more a lifestyle than a job.
What do you see as the future of small scale farming?
I hope there will be more and more in the future, if not a small scale commercial farm, then just small scale farming for individuals who want to grow their own food. For me, it is so rewarding to know that I am providing my customers with food that they feel good about giving to their children and themselves; they know where it is coming from. I have had so many customers that are my friends now, and that is so wonderful.
What are your future plans for Celestial Natural Farms?
My focus is to expand my operations with regard to the goats on my farm. Between the registered Nubians and mini Nubians we have close to 70 heads of goats right now, and they have really taken over my life. I love them so much. By next year I will be selling goat’s milk and goat’s milk products, so please watch for that. In addition, I will continue my practices with the other animals on my farm as they all have a place here. I am currently raising about 27 rabbits, about 12 turkeys and over 100 chickens. They all keep me very busy.
What three words best describe your farm?
Sustainable, natural, love.
For more information on Celeste and her farming operations, check out her Facebook pages: Celestial Natural Farms and Bella Blu Dairy Goats. You may reach her via e-mail at: Celestialnaturalfarms@yahoo.com.
Interview by Juliana Anderson.