Meet a Maker is a series the Mudgee Guardian have created in conjunction with Mudgee Fine Foods to tell the story of how your local businesses began.
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Closing one's eyes at night to fall asleep is one of the best parts of the day, but for Merri Ryan, it is when inspiration strikes.
It is the inspiration that has driven Merri to create more products in addition to the four lines of Feirmlee Naturals Mudgee & Mudgee Soaps that are currently on offer which utilise local produce including olive oil.
"I just get these ideas. I'll wake up in the middle of the night with them," she said.
The spark that lit the flame for Feirmlee Naturals was Merri's daughter, Lynda, who suffered with eczema as a child.
"When my daughter was little, she had bad eczema. After numerous blood tests, the doctors could not find the cause of it and wanted me to use cortisone and such but I didn't want to use chemicals on a two-year-old," Merri said.
"So I did an elimination diet and found out that she was allergic to one of the goats. When I changed the milk, it went away.
"From there, I've been really interested in alternative therapies and medicines."
Merri began to work on her product recipes in 2006, and in 2009 she had found one that met her standards.
Two years later, her olive oil soaps were awarded a medal, and since then, the award-winning recipe continues to be used in her products.
Merri trained as a natural therapist and returned to Mudgee to continue this work in the early 2000s before taking up a position at a health food shop where she worked for many years.
Over the years, Merri came to realise there were very few products on offer at mass outlets that aligned with her philosophy - "If you can't eat it, you shouldn't put it on your skin".
"I saw that there weren't any products that I would be happy to put on my skin in the supermarkets," she said.
"I thought 'I can't eat it' and it doesn't take long for whatever you put on your skin to be absorbed so I wanted to use stuff my skin can eat as well as me.
"I changed direction to create something that I'm happy to use on my body."
Merri draws inspiration from her home, a valley nestled in amongst Mudgee's picturesque landscapes, and said for Feirmlee, nature is at the core.
"It's a really lovely place to source inspiration from and a beautiful place to live," she said.
Feirmlee Naturals is inspired by nature for the natural you, it's my motto.Feirmlee Naturals creator, Merri Ryan
With a stall typically set up at various local markets throughout the year, including at the Mudgee Farmers Markets, Merri, her daughter, Lynda and granddaughter, Kathleen, use them as an opportunity to connect with their customers.
"What I love about the markets is that they're a community, people talk to each other. They might only see each other once a month but it's still a community," Merri said.
"I love speaking to people, I probably speak too much. I find I get feedback and ideas, if someone doesn't like something I can alter things.
"I have people come from Canberra and other places to visit Mudgee just to buy my products.
"I have a 'how did you find me' box on my website and a lot of the time people said they found me at the markets."
With a love for her community, Merri encouraged people to treat others with kindness.
"Be kind to each other because everyone, more or less, is feeling similar things. Kindness and compassion is what we need, it would make the world a happier and nicer place," she said.
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