It’s time for apples, pears and pumpkins, our seasonal favorites! But how do we choose the most sustainable of these mass produced products? Although farm-grown and pick-your-own options are becoming much more available in certain areas, many people are still looking to the supermarket or other large scale operations for their supply. Unfortunately, produce for wide distribution is most often not grown using sustainable methods. Herbicides and pesticides used for disease and pest control damage the soil and linger in the fruit that we end of up eating, with often unknown effects.
As always, it’s best to seek out your most local sources and find out what you can about their methods of production. It’s also fun to learn about other fall foods that might be less familiar and less available in the marketplace, but no less tasty or versatile in their uses. Others that you might not have considered growing for yourself are easier than you’d think, even in urban and suburban areas!
Meet the Pawpaw!
Have you heard of the pawpaw? It’s the largest edible fruit native to north America, resembling a tropical fruit in both appearance and taste. Shaped a bit like a mango, it’s custard like consistency is often said to resemble something between a mango and a banana in flavor. The pawpaw grows on a tree that’s native to the eastern United States and was a staple for indigenous people and early settlers. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello and George Washington loved having them for dessert.
Our five -year- old pawpaw tree produced for the first time this year and we’re pretty excited about having them right in our own back yard! You can, however, easily find them in the woods or along a path in many parts of the country. Be aware that they bruise easily and don’t travel well. If you find some on a foraging hike, treat them very gently on the way home and plan to eat them right away because they go quickly. Their fragility is likely the reason few people know about them. Highly perishable foods don’t fit in well with our industrial food production and distribution model. So when you locate your pawpaws from a local farmer or find them in the wild, know that they are something special! Or if you decide to try growing your own, many mail order suppliers offer easy- to -grow and maintain pawpaw trees.
The Concord Grape: An Old Favorite
We also had an abundance of Concord grapes on our one vine, which being left to do its own thing did very well! I bought it at a garden center a few years ago and planted it but have essentially ignored it since. The lack of any fertilizer or pruning doesn’t seem to have held it back at all. It had, in fact, gone so far as to wind its way high up into the apple tree that stands close to it. Climbing an apple tree to pick grapes was a unique experience! Next year, I’ll pay a little more attention and try to keep it growing at least along the fence. If you have even a small space and some sort of structure to support it, I recommend a Concord grape vine for easy and fun fall fruit!
The Autumn Olive: Forage and Feast
A couple of foraging hikes over the weekend payed off with three quarts of autumn olives, or autumn berries. This delightful, tart fruit is a well kept secret that should be shared! It grows on the Eleagnus umbellata bush, a vigorous, medium to large invasive shrub that grows in the eastern US and as far west as Montana. They appear in disturbed areas and along edges of meadows and open areas.
The berry, high in vitamin C and the powerful nutrient, Lycopene, is distinguishable by the tiny silver flecks covering them. They grow in handful-sized clumps that are easy and quick to harvest. Unfortunately, a common method of fighting back the proliferation of this plant is the heavy use of herbicides, including glyphosate, or Round-Up. A more sustainable way of controlling them is to harvest, cook and eat the berries so that the seeds aren’t spread by the birds.
As always, a word of caution about foraging. Don’t eat ANYTHING that you can’t identify one hundred percent. Also, be mindful of locations where things might have been sprayed with weed killers. If those things are meant to kill plants think what they can do to you. Along a busy road is not a great place to forage either, as the plants growing there might have absorbed heavy metals from the exhaust fumes.
Autumn berries can be used for jams, jellies and preserves, just like the grapes. Paw paws are great for ice cream, or used like banana in pudding or a sweet bread.
Also, all of these fruits can also be used to make delicious, nutritious homemade fermented sodas from whey, a by-product of kefir. These delightful drinks are a life changer for you and your family. Imagine a sweet soda drink that builds your immune system, aids in digestion and fights disease!
We’ll be teaching a class on this at our Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat, November 15th-17th! Check out our retreat page for all the details and come join us for a fantastic weekend of amazing workshops, presentations, food, fun and community!
There’s a lot of talk about eating local these days, but as with anything else, it’s not for everybody. Here’s a list of reasons why you might be one of those who’ll want to think twice about this. You should not eat local if;
1) You like your food well traveled.
Let’s face it. Food from far away must be more interesting, or else why would anybody buy it? Those strawberries from Chile have come 5,000 miles! Granted, they don’t have much taste but wow, they’re big! And all of those little lettuce leaves from California, flying 3,000 miles across the country–every single one of them. Do you think they might be sprayed with something to keep them looking perky all those days?
2) You want to support Big Ag
Industrialized farming has taken over our food supply and left us with a shortage of farmers. That means the food supply of our entire country and beyond is in the hands of a very few. So we should definitely support it because it’s just about all we’ve got! Everyone takes it for granted, without even thinking about the fact that a worker shortage or fuel crises or airline strike could throw the whole thing off any day. If something should happen to disrupt this giant system that controls how everything we eat is grown, harvested, processed, packaged, distributed and sold–where would we be? Then we might have to eat local–or starve.
3) The oil industry needs your support!
Eating local does not do enough to support the use of fossil fuels. For starters, the food doesn’t have to fly long distances on airplanes or be transported by giant trucks. And if it’s organic, it isn’t grown with all of those petroleum based chemical fertilizers. If you’re buying your food from your local farm or a farmer’s market, the produce doesn’t have to be encased in plastic wrap or boxes, which are mostly made of—you guessed it–fossil fuels. So when you support Big Ag, you also support Big Oil. Two for one!
4) Eating local costs more.
That’s right! It seems backwards, but food from far away is usually much cheaper than what you get from close by. Much of the food from the mainstream distribution system in our country is genetically modified to be grown and shipped in mass quantities while still remaining edible, or at least sort of looking like it might be, so it costs way less to produce than real food with more nutrition in it that’s grown by a local farmer. But lots of people in this country can’t afford that. They need to buy the cheap stuff which makes them fat and sick and miserable, which most people seem to assume is okay because it costs less. Others who possibly could afford it still often choose the industrial foods because our economy thrives on everyone thinking more/cheaper/better. Because a bargain is a bargain. Right?
5) You don’t really mind eating a lot of chemicals
Those chemicals are necessary to giant companies producing such enormous quantities of food. After all, they’re trying to feed millions of people across thousands of miles. So they just keep using all of these different substances to grow and process the food (many of which are illegal in other countries) and to make it last a long time so it can be shipped long distances and sit for weeks on the grocery shelves until we buy it. It’s the only way to do it on such a large scale. Besides, the government says all of those things are safe, so if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care to eat local, then you’re okay with that!
6) You’d much rather see farmland used for recreation instead of growing food
You’ve heard it said that no one can make a living farming anymore. Old Macdonald is so old school. You might think that farmlands are better used as weekend entertainment. Don’t we need more open space for athletic fields? Let’s not waste all of that land growing expensive food that no one is going to buy. You can get whatever you need at the grocery. City people need a place to get away from the rat race and kids need a place to run around. Right? And they should know where their food comes from.
Oh wait…where does their food come from?
Anyway, if you decide you’re NOT one of these folks and you DO want to eat real food that supports not only the farmers but your food quality and your food security, find the nearest the nearest CSA and sign up today!
I feel like I’ve blinked and the summer has passed completely. With one day left at my internship with Lady Farmer, I thought I would share a little bit about what I’ve spent my time working on and what I’ve learned as I walk away from Three Graces Farm.
Lady Farmers Vanessa, Mary and Emma enjoying a little front porch time
My excitement for Lady Farmer began months before I started working with Mary and Emma; I found LF on instagram and absolutely swooned over the Persephone dresses and every beautifully edited photo they had posted. As an environmental leader on my college campus and a two-year employee at my school’s small, education-focused organic farm, I totally aligned with LF’s purpose of shifting consumer culture through well-sourced and responsible clothing.
During my time here I’ve filmed and edited the product videos you’ve been seeing around (more to come!), written blog posts, and helped wrap and ship out your orders. Emma has shown me how to use software that manages LF’s social media platforms and given me access to online classes that have helped me pitch the brand to magazines, draft the perfect instagram caption, and more. All of which is immensely marketable experience that’ll likely help me find work after I graduate; I couldn’t be more thankful.
On the other end of things, Mary has given me advice whenever I needed it, taught me about backyard herbalism, shown me how to ferment vegetables, make kefir, explained the importance of raw milk and foraged foods, and been a real-life example of how a busy person (a mother, author, and business owner) can actualize Slow Living. She’s given me life skills that I will be able to take with me wherever I go in the future, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
My favorite part of working with the Kingsleys was their ritual lunch; no matter where we were in a project, at 11:30 one of us would set a table in the shade of a walnut tree while the other two would bring out an inevitably delicious combination of foods from the fridge or garden: toasted sourdough, fresh tomatoes, raw cheese from the Tuesday afternoon markets, pesto made with sweet basil and lambsquarters, fermented beets and cucumbers, sauerkraut, boiled eggs, dandelion salads. With Mary’s tulsi tea in hand, we’d eat and “talk shop,” discussing the fashion industry, influencers we admire on instagram, the Slow Living Conference, new discoveries about the benefits of such-and-such. The ever-present thread that connected our conversation, us, the company, and everyone who follows Lady Farmer was the question: How can we live slowly, consume consciously, and work to better the planet while still going through the motions of “normal” life?
I don’t know the answer, and I doubt any one person does–even Emma and Mary. But another value they’ve impressed on me during my time here is community. And beyond just selling clothes, I believe that Lady Farmer is working to foster a community of women who are equally baffled by the above question and want to come together to discuss it, whether that’s through social media or in person.
I’ll be studying in Madagascar this fall, and while I’m there I hope to interview the women who head households, work in agriculture, and heal their communities–meeting the Lady Farmers of another culture! One of the few drawbacks about my upcoming trip is the fact that I’ll not be here in November for the Slow Living Conference. After hearing so much about it, writing about the speakers, food, and location, I’m very disappointed that I can’t go myself. What the conference seeks to accomplish is to start answering that lifelong question, even if it’s only in select areas of our lives. It will provide people with new tools to achieve the life that we all dream of, while introducing the unique and inspiring Lady Farmer community to meet and love and learn from each other, as I have been fortunate enough to do with Mary and Emma for the past two months.
I’ve loved this summer, loved my wonderful bosses, and loved getting to know you all! Thank you for reading and watching my work. I hope the descent of autumn brings you closer to the communities of inspiring women you have already in your lives.
Signing off for the last time!
We were so excited to be a part of “Free Range Saturday” a few weekends ago at Polyface Farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley outside of Staunton, Virginia. The day started with an Artisan Market during which we were able to share our Lady Farmer story and goods with people who had traveled far and wide, followed by a two-hour “Lunatic Tour” (yes, that’s what it’s called) of the farm, guided by the legendary, visionary, prophetic voice of regenerative agriculture, the highly esteemed Joel Salatin himself! What a thrill to see him standing in the midst of a cow pasture or chicken field explaining his unorthodox views and methods for common sense, productive and sustainable farming. This man is a mighty force in the food revolution. If you aren’t familiar with him and his work, check out the Polyface Farm website for information and resources.
Next up was a talk by the amazing Doniga Markegard, a cattle rancher from the west coast who along with her husband owns and runs Markegard Family Grass- Fed. They raise and process certified grass-fed beef, lamb and pork to be distributed around the San Francisco Bay area. She spoke on holistic land management, desertification and wildlife tracking, a skill she learned in her youth as part of her unique education in a wilderness school. Doniga tells the story of her unconventional training in her newly released book, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild. Her knowledge and experience in untamed landscapes and her passion for protecting the balance of the natural world make are both fascinating and inspiring.
Last but certainly not least–the meal! Absolutely locally sourced from within twenty-five miles of the farm, beautiful greens and vegetables, salads and soup along with grilled chicken, beef and pork from Polyface made for a delicious feast. Have you ever tasted a young turnip? You wouldn’t believe how sweet and refreshing it tastes. Dessert was a flan made from pasteured Polyface chicken eggs and milk from a local dairy.
The mission at Polyface Farm is to show an alternative to factory farming, demonstrating other options that are productive and profitable and that work! At Lady Farmer we feel a kinship with them in their endeavor as we strive to do the same thing in clothing production. The industries that separate us from the source of our basic human needs are designed for profit, not for human health and well being. It’s time for us to be informed and to embrace a better way.
Polyface Farm offers a variety of tours throughout the season, including another Free Range Saturday on October 6th. If you’re in the vicinity and interested in regenerative farming it is well worth the trip.
Meet Lauren Rudersdorf, one half of Raleigh’s Hillside Farm. She farms on seven acres of leased family land outside of Evansville, Wisconsin with her husband Kyle. They are in their sixth season of production growing high quality, organic vegetables for their growing CSA and area restaurants. In 2016, they added their first part-time employee to their operation and in 2017 scaled up to having two part-time folks. This year, they are adding two kickass female powerhouses (with many years of experience) to their farm team!
I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement.
I grew up on a diversified, conventional family farm my whole life, but I don’t think my farm story can really begin there because I didn’t really understand or appreciate any of it at that moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my childhood and I loved where I was raised in beautiful southern Wisconsin, but I never really grasped the complexity of the way my parents earned a living. I never comprehended the love and the passion that fueled them. I often saw their farming way of life as inconvenient: far from everyone, dependent on elements outside their control and too much work for not enough money.
In 2007, I graduated high school and moved away, sure that there were “much bigger” things in store for me than life on the farm. I started college at a private school in Ohio and traveled a ton. I met amazing people and learned so much about our broader world, but after two full years away I realized how totally and completely in love with the Wisconsin rural way of life I really was. I loved all the places I visited and all the inspiring people I met in those two years, but nothing felt quite as right as home.
I moved back to Wisconsin, fell in love with a hard-working, soil-loving, passionate-as-hell Wisconsin man, transferred to the College of Agriculture & Life Science at the University of Wisconsin (the same school my mom had graduated from twenty years prior) and began to study public health, food systems and community sociology.
It was a couple short years later that my now husband and I learned about the concept of CSA farming: a style of farming the worked endlessly to connect people to their food again. We took a leap of faith in 2013, borrowed some land from my parents and dove right in to starting a farm of our own. The rest is history I suppose.
I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement. That’s the altruistic reason I farm. But the reality is, try as I might to fight it from time to time, I cannot NOT farm. I love to build things. I love to work outdoors. I love to watch things grow. I love working alongside my husband and dreaming towards a better world with him. I love eating good food and teaching people how to cook healthy, nourishing meals. I love being part of the good in this complicated, messy world. I love the simplicity of putting something good on the plates of the people in my community. I suppose that means the passion fuels and inspires me, but I’d be lying if I said sometimes I don’t get broken and defeated from time to time. I’m not certain what keeps me going. I think its my husband and the strength of my relationships. I’m surrounded by immense generosity, kindness and support. I couldn’t do what I do without my friends, family, partner, farming friends and amazing customers. They lift me up in the hard times. They keep me going.
For me slow living is all about making time for the things of value: our minds, our bodies, our heart, our relationships. This means eating well and nourishing our bodies, taking time to read and learn, listening to music, taking time for the people that matter to us, working our bodies in ways that are healthy, meditating, loving, experiencing, indulging from time to time, being present.
Essentially I think that to live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally. For someone like me, who thrives in chaos and is inspired by stimulation, it probably doesn’t look slow at all. I don’t think anyone who looks at my life or follows me on social media would ever think I live slowly, but its a daily practice of taking time to slow down and leave time for thought.
Advice for future Lady Farmers
For those thinking of going into farming: Get a tribe and hold them close. Be vulnerable with your community and ask for help. We’re not meant to always be strong or do anything on our own. This thing we’re building is broader than us and we need to learn to lean hard on the folks who support us. I’m so grateful to have friends stronger than me to teach me that lesson.
For those wanting to support this movement without farming themselves: Just know your farmer and learn what it means to truly support local. Don’t fall for the gimmicks. If it doesn’t take a little work, it isn’t building community. Be a fan, be a walking billboard for the farms you support, be a voice in your local community for a better way of doing things. Stand up for a better future and a better world.
Who inspires you?
My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my best friend and fellow farmer Bethanee Wright, my off-farm boss Kimberlee Wright, my friends and mentors Lisa Kivirist and Kriss Marion, all the lady farmers who came before me.
To live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally.
Thank you for sharing, Lauren!
Be sure to follow Lauren & her team on their journey via Instagram & Facebook
Lauren also keeps a blog filled with incredible recipes and stories – make sure you check it out!
Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more.
Amanda is the lead farmer at Plow and Stars Farm located in Seneca, Maryland (next door to Lady Farmer HQ!). It’s a family operation that includes two awesome kids – Jonah (age 14) and Sadie (age 8).
Amanda began her career as a pre-med student working at a clinic for malnourished children and their families. While working to combat the symptoms of the disparities in access to nutritious food, she found her calling at the source: in farming. She worked as a community garden organizer and educator, a farmer at a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting teens and their children, a farm apprentice at a beautiful educational farm outside of Boston, the urban agriculture manager at The Food Project, a farmer at a farm owned by a Buddhist college in Boulder Colorado, and the manager at Waltham Fields Community Farm for a decade before starting her own farm with her husband Mark in late 2014.
The realization that many families in my own city lacked the resources and/or knowledge to provide healthy food for themselves, combined with my growing awareness that I didn’t want to spend my days in a hospital or office, put me on the path to farming.
Reflections on farming, sustainability, and her role as a Lady Farmer
Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more. The goal of being part of the creation of a healthy food system that provides nutritious, thoughtfully-raised food to people of all income levels and backgrounds is what continues to inspire and drive me as a farmer. I love feeding my community. I love the return on that investment in soil and sweat and tears, whether it’s goodwill, a box of canned tomatoes, a thank-you card from a 4-year-old, or the satisfaction of seeing a child take a big bite out of a turnip. I love growing food that people recognize, appreciate, cook up like their grandmothers did. I love raising animals that do what animals are supposed to do — graze, root, breathe fresh air, play and rest.
Ecological, economic, and personal sustainability are things that we are always striving for on our farm and in our lives. I feel like we are still working out what that means for us on our farm — particularly the personal part. What is the scale that will enable us to make a little income, contribute in a meaningful way to our community, and get a little break every once in a while? What are the products that are most fun for us to create? How do we bring joy into the world along with the food that we raise? And how do we do that in a way that does the least harm, and in fact maybe in a way that creates a little healing in the world? That’s sustainability to me.
I think that as I get a little older I’m re-thinking my role — I’m not the mother of tiny kids anymore, so that means I have a little more time and should have more to offer — but I definitely still feel like a learner. The term “Lady Farmer” doesn’t really connect with me because I have never felt much like a “lady” — I’m a hardworking woman with lots of experience to share and lots of things still to learn. I long for community though — we had a beautiful community of farmers in Massachusetts that I feel like I have yet to recreate here in Maryland. But it’s coming, slowly, and it’s easy to get stuck in your own day-to-day, especially if that’s farming, and not make those connections a priority — but they’re so critical especially as we get older!
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
GO FOR IT. You can do it. Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from her. Become a farmer. Do it your way. Don’t be afraid to start your own business, or to work for someone else — both are totally fine and have their own joys and pitfalls. Support farms and woman farmers by buying local. Make a personal connection with the people that produce your food, flowers, as many products as you can. Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home. Give up labels — “organic” isn’t as important as we’d like it to be, especially if we can have a conversation with someone whose practices we might learn go beyond that label. Raise your children (if you have them) to be fierce advocates for justice and peace and restoration, whether ecological or social. Make your own beauty.
Who inspires you?
Lee Langstaff. She’s incredible. Kevin Bowie. Harriet Tubman. Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m searching for role models who are middle-aged women to help me take the next step in my own life too.
Thank you Amanda!
For more of her farming journey, follow Amanda on Instagram & Facebook!
Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home.
Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story, put food on many tables, and be a listener and provider.
Lauren holds a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in management. She couples her background in social work with a life-long desire to cultivate and provide the highest-quality organic produce while educating her community about the land and the importance of the food we eat. She also has a baby girl named Palmer, pictured below.
Lauren built Bloomsbury Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee from the ground up, and started by selling her organic vegetables and sprouts at area farmers markets. Since those early days in 2009, the farm has expanded, producing a wide array of fresh vegetables, fruits, sprouts, and herbs for the markets, local businesses, and wholesalers in and around Nashville and the greater region.
At Bloomsbury, lots of team members from markets girls to accounting and harvest crew make it all work. It takes a village to grow and move produce…365 days of the year growing and selling. Bloomsbury provides a CSA, wholesale market, restaurants, and farmers market.
Lauren started small putting seeds in the ground with her father who has a botanical background. She would go to a small farmers market with items she couldn’t sell to chefs she already knew. “The relationships started there and I was hooked growing food for creative people! Knowing what they were doing with it at home was so exciting. Growing unique varieties and fun colors really got people talking and one thing led to another with the addition of a CSA program and more food to chefs Bloomsbury was in many homes and restaurants,” she remembers.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
WHY…I am simply feeding people. In more ways than one it feeds me too and people who eat Bloomsbury are family and it really is a close relationship.Teaching my daughter how to grow good food and take care of the earth is a huge reason why too. Hard work does pay off and farming brings the appreciation of seasons and that the hard times don’t last forever.
Slow living to me is the understanding of time and respecting the day. I am very sun motivated so up with the sun and down with the sun. Do what you can with the day. I imagine a fast living to be work at all hours and not to ever be present. We take long walks on the farm and really listen to nature.
Sustainability is being able to make a smaller circle and giving back to those who work so hard with the farm. The small circle is keeping all needs close and building your own compost and saving your own seeds and not having to go elsewhere for as much as possible.
I hope to teach Palmer and other aspiring lady farmers that it can be done.
Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story and put food on many tables and be a listener, and provider. The farm has become a place of gathering and sharing and my hope is that it will continue.
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
All the lady farmers out there…start small and find a niche. Support a lady farmer with all the positive words and by purchasing our farm goods. You can farm a community and gather people for good that can be done anywhere.Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
Who inspires you?
My mother. True inspiration and taught me that I could do anything!
For more of her farming journey, follow Lauren on Instagram & Facebook!
I am Arden (sometimes known as Garden) Jones and I live on a farm owned by my family in Bedford County, Virginia. I am farming 1 acre with my husband Michael and several seasonal employees (all young ladies this year!). We raise mixed vegetables for market and a small CSA and my husband bakes the most delicious wood fired sourdough breads. We are often crossing gender boundaries as he bakes and I take care of most of the construction projects on the farm. In the garden, we work together and our relationship has been strengthened by our learning to cooperate in this way.
I feel like I have always been a Lady Farmer at heart! Maybe it all started when my grandfather gave me a toolbox with real tools for my 7th birthday. Or when I learned about permaculture at Nature Camp when I was 13. After graduating college I was looking for a way to express creativity, make a positive impact on the world, be outside and be my own boss, and farming was the obvious choice. I learned from some amazing mentors and then I got out there and did it.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
I think farming is so gratifying because it is so challenging. The practice of relinquishing control when mother nature takes hold is humbling. Yes, it can feel overwhelming at times, like when winds tear through our tunnels or rains have us ankle deep in mud, but that is all balanced out by a bounty the next season. The beauty of abundance, in our crops and in the living soil, is a most pleasing sort of wealth. And as we go farther on our farming journey, I am learning to treat the hardest of times as lessons in patience and faith. I am inspired so much by my peers-other farmers in our community and all around the world- by their ingenuity and benevolence. They are the best people!
To me, slow living is making the time to enjoy all the wonderful food we and our farming neighbors produce! Meal times are the best times, and when we are able to rest and recuperate, we go back to work with a more positive outlook, so the emotional sustainability is super important.
We work to build our soil with cover crops, compost, and minimal tillage, and result is that our farm becomes more resilient to pests, disease, and the forces of nature. We hope not just to sustain, but to improve our land with every season.
Is it too much to say that a Lady Farmer is who will save humanity? She uses her brain and her hands to solve problems and she cares deeply about nature and other people. In our community I am growing good food for people, but along with that I end up doing a lot of education and networking also. I see myself as just one part of the local food movement and I make an effort to encourage and support other farmers. We are really lucky here to have a monthly gathering where we see other farmers in our area and share food and ideas. This communication is essential to making progress and bringing more local food to more people.
Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
My advice for any woman is to pick a partner that supports your dreams and who shares your vision for your slow lifestyle. Is it natural that farming is hard on relationships, but the first year is the hardest, and if you can survive that together, you will know more about one another than many old married couples do! And if you aren’t one for monogamous relationships, surround yourself with a community of people who love farming too. You can have the perfect farm, but you’ll be awfully lonely without friends to feed! If you can’t farm- JOIN A CSA! Seriously, just try it. It may provide you a way to connect with food and farming that you never imagined. Or if CSA isn’t for you, start shopping at the market the way you do the grocery store and keep your money in your community.
Who inspires you?
My 92 year old, fiercely independent, sharp as a tack grandmother.
Thank you Arden!
For more of her farming journey, follow Arden on Instagram & Facebook!
Kitchen sink cabinets can be scary. You know what I’m talking about, the mess of half empty bottles clattering around– soap, cleaners, scrubs, disinfectants, detergents–all containing numerous unidentifiable ingredients that are conjured and combined in a lab somewhere and bottled up for our convenience. Although the products themselves are consumable in a short period of time, most of their packaging is permanent and indestructible, leaving their legacy of plastic and cellophane for literally thousands of years.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Many of those products with limited uses, wasteful packaging and harmful ingredients can be easily switched with these items, used alone or in combination for dozens of product replacements and a multitude of purposes.
5 (Natural) Common Household Ingredients That Double as Homemade Cleaners
- Baking soda
- Citric Acid
- Essential oils
5 Product Replacement Ideas
1. Homemade surface cleaner
Half vinegar/ half water in a spray bottle. For a fresh fragrance, keep a quart jar ⅔ full of vinegar and add leftover lemon peels when you have them. Refill you spray bottle from the jar as needed.
2. Natural disinfectant
Use a few drops of essential lemon or lime oil around the sink faucet, under the backsplash and other areas where water tends to collect.
3. Homemade pot and pan scrub
Baking soda mixed with water or vinegar to make a light abrasive paste.
4. Natural homemade rinse-aid
½ cup of vinegar added to your dishwasher load (don’t put it in the little compartment, it might corrode the parts) will get rid of those water spots! For extra clean and sparkle, add ¼ cup of citric acid as well.
5. Garbage Disposal/Drain Freshener
Half a lemon peel cut into half again and tossed into your garbage disposal will freshen your drain naturally!
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Eva is a young and beginning farmer growing produce, flowers, and herbs in the Piedmont of North Carolina, along Highway 64 near the town of Staley. She currently owns and operates Heartstrong Farm by herself, marketing mainly through a CSA as well as local farmers markets. The farm is Certified Naturally Grown, and she grows with permaculture and biodynamic methodologies in mind.
Her path in the soil began while volunteering and worshipping at St. Mary’s Convent in Sewanee, TN. After helping to grow lavender there for Thistle Farms, she was inspired to pursue more experiences in the soil, leading her to WWOOF on a permaculture farmstead in New Hampshire, and then on to other gardens and farms in Tennessee, North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.
Her varied experiences in those climates and communities inspired her to pursue her own farm operation, Heartstrong Farm. We asked her a few questions and here are some highlights from our conversation.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
Simply put, I do what I do for love. When I first came to working in the soil, I was dealing with a lot of internal hardship and found that the more I literally grew, the more I inwardly healed. My heart became stronger through working the earth, sowing seeds, and harvesting the resulting abundance. The land is so giving, if we do her justice, we receive delicious produce, beautiful blooms, healing medicine, clean air, fresh water, biodiversity, and so much more. I also grow for and because of community. I really believe in the community supported agriculture model of farming, as food is a way to connect with everyone – across all lines. Everyone has to eat! So, as I prepare the soil and seeds for the 2018 harvest, my inspiration is definitely my CSA membership, my farm family.
Slow living to me means presence in action. It means feeling the soil as my hands are in it, hearing the peepers and hawks as I work outside, tasting the richness of earth through root veggies and brightness of sun through supple greens, and enjoying the process of a hard earned pickle or fermented kraut. I do think generally in this life we move too fast – even in the things that bring us joy. So, in my work and in my play I try to really pay attention, learn, and enjoy through my senses. I forget where this quote comes from, but it’s powerful – there’s no need to rush, all will still be waiting. Go slow.
Lady Farmer to me means a woman in the world cultivating the world she believes in. I believe in an environmentally sound community driven local food system, and that is what I strive to cultivate through my farm. I feel that my role in this community has been to connect others at the table, through a shared love of cooking, good food, old stories, the land, and a growing fondness for each other. My role here ties into my vision for the broader world of a connected and natural food system, and I really do believe in thinking globally but acting locally. There’s so much good work to be done everywhere.
Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
My advice to aspiring lady farmers comes from a prior mentor of mine Sylvia Davatz – the real work is in doing. Ask the questions! If you have an idea, ask others about it. If you need land, put out an inquiry. If you need some financial support, share your project. I have been absolutely blown away by the resources, land, and communal support that has been made available to me as a result of asking, sharing. People certainly have a desire to bless others, so if you can … pursue apprenticeships on farms, access books on the kinds of operations you’re interested in, and connect with others doing the work, I really think you can make your farm dream happen. That’s how it happened for me!
Who inspires you?
My mother, Alice Waters, the Sisters of St. Mary’s, Rep. Chellie Pingree, all my inspiring lady friends – farmers and otherwise!
Thank you Eva!
For more of her farming journey, follow Eva on Instagram & Facebook!