ORCAS ISLAND, WASH. - This 100-year-old Orcas Island orchard is Audra Lawlor’s office.
“I love just thinking about the fact that these trees have been producing bounty for families for a century,” she said as she plucked pears from atop a ladder.
So is this kitchen where preserves bubble in copper pots.
“We can connect every single jar to the tree and the orchard that it came from,” Lawlor explained.
The water views and fruiting trees are a far cry from where she used to work -- at Goldman Sachs in New York.
“It certainly beats Wall Street,” Lawlor said leaning on a farm truck that she and co-picker Jessica Moore Brinson are filling with pallets of pears.
“After working 10 years out in Manhattan, and I was in the heart of the city as well, I was ready to turn my life upside down. I wanted it to be something completely different, and I wanted it to be working with my hands.”
Lawlor moved to Washington's San Juan Islands with her husband and launched Girl Meets Dirt – working with her hands gleaning fruit from trees all over Orcas island - then turning it into flavorful small batch jams. She sells the preserves, which are made French-style, replacing pectin with patience, from her combined kitchen/retail shop on Orcas, and also ships them nationwide.
"I always say I launched the business around my Thanksgiving table, back in 2013, with 15 stacks of boxes and my whole family, I said ‘Okay everybody start labeling!’ said Lawlor. "That's when they thought I was crazy for sure."
But while building her business, Audra faced a bigger challenge than other's opinions:
“My husband and I were also trying to start a family, and we struggled with that, we ended up in three years having 5 miscarriages before we had my first son. So the business was actually born between miscarriage number 4 and 5 because I really needed to do something for myself. So I always say the business was my first baby. And it's still my baby, but now I have two more babies.”
Today those two babies -- daughter Genevieve, and her son, Life, get to hang out at 'Girl Meets Dirt' world headquarters with mom and dad.
"I think that my favorite thing about it is just the freedom and flexibility that it affords me. It was really important to me that the next thing that I did, the next step that I took, I could basically write my own ticket. That I could have the type of family life and work life that I wanted, instead of what society dictated to me,” explained Lawlor.
She may be climbing a different kind of career ladder now -- but she loves the personal and professional bounty she has found on Orcas Island. She hopes her 'archipelago preserves' help others discover this place as well.
"I would love for this to be a destination when they think of visiting Orcas Island, they know that this is something that they have to come and taste, because this is a true taste of the island."
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