Emily Harwell uses many local ingredients for her creations at Soup Mama, a Santa Ynez Valley business that delivers freshly made organic, gluten-free and vegan soups. “I started with a few friends who loved my recipes, and it has blossomed into this great business,” she says. (Raiza Georgi / Noozhawk photo)

Emily Harwell was a stay-at-home mother and wanted to do something that would contribute to her family and community, but still be flexible with her schedule of raising her son and daughter.

That desire led her to create Soup Mama, her Santa Ynez Valley business delivering freshly made organic, gluten-free and vegan soups that she creates with local produce once a week.

“I remembered a friend who delivered fresh meals when I lived in Austin (Texas), and took that idea and turned it into my own by creating Soup Mama,” Harwell told Noozhawk. “I started with a few friends who loved my recipes, and it has blossomed into this great business.”

She is celebrating two years this month, and is always looking forward to the future and the next season of fresh produce.

Harwell pairs her soup with fresh bread made by her friend, Amy Dixon, of The Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez.

“I understand the stress of mothers wanting to provide good meals for their family and sometimes not having enough time to do it,” she said. “With soup, it’s great because it combines good nutrition with taste and it can be paired with anything.”

Harwell was raised in Houston and attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., graduating in 1995 with a bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and sociology.

During the summers, Harwell got into helping in the kitchen of a guest ranch in Wyoming where fresh food was flown in.

“The chef studied at Le Cordon Bleu, and he taught me so much about using fresh ingredients,” she said. “I spent two summers in Wyoming and then another two summers in Nantucket at an inn and restaurant.”

After college, Harwell spent some time as a nanny and then moved to Austin to start a bakery.

Emily Harwell sources many ingredients for her Soup Mama creations from local farmers. (Raiza Georgi / Noozhawk photo)

She then decided she wanted to expand her knowledge in cooking and teaching and attended the Waldorf teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College in San Francisco, where she met her husband, Derek Harwell.

Her husband was an alumnus at Midland School in Los Olivos, and he was offered a position teaching outdoor education.

The couple moved to campus and were married in 2011. Their first child, Noah, was born in 2012, and their daughter, Ellie, in 2014.

“I spent some time catering and working in the kitchen here at Midland,” she said. “When I started having children, it was hard to leave them, but I wanted to do something to contribute to my family so I started Soup Mama.

“Soup seemed a great way to combine my love for organic produce, cooking, and helping others.”

Harwell started working with local farmers, getting a feel for what produce was in season when, and creating recipes.

When customers subscribe to Soup Mama, they are emailed a weekly newsletter detailing what produce she uses, which farm she gets it from, and ideas for pairing with meals.

The soup is made in a certified kitchen at Los Olivos Elementary School, and stored in compostable containers and Mason jars if people want to reuse.

She then delivers the soup each Thursday, and there are several pick-up locations as well for convenience.

Some of her staple recipes are a Thai veggie soup and a vegetarian chili in the fall.

“I just appreciate that my customers trust me to create something new every week,” she said. “This valley is like no where else I’ve lived because I can get such great produce every season. I think that’s what makes my job so special and fun.”

Click here for more information about Soup Mama, or email valleysoupmama@gmail.com.

— Raiza Giorgi is a Noozhawk contributing writer from the Santa Ynez Valley. She can be reached at bellaphoto04@gmail.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.