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!
Nothing says summertime like having a cool drink in the shade. We enjoy a lot of iced drinks here on the farm, especially when the chores keep us outside on hot days. Despite the hundreds of beverage choices on the market, however, there are several reasons we choose to make our own. Not only is it the sustainable choice (we like to skip the plastic jugs and juice boxes) but we avoid numerous additives like sugar, artificial preservatives and food dyes. And we save money as well!
To keep our cool beverages flowing, we grow five plants in our garden that ensure a constant supply and a pleasing variety. These herbs aren’t finicky—they can be grown in a country garden or a city balcony. All they need is soil, water, and sunshine! Want to try growing your own? Or if you want to start making yummy teas right away, you can can order all of these in dried or powdered form from Mountain Rose Herbs, a reliable source of sustainable herbal products. (not affiliated)
Tips for Growing the Herbs
The first three are all in the mint family and will spread all over the place, so unless you have a lot of garden space to spare, plant these in their own pots!
- Peppermint: A very familiar garden herb, cooling, refreshing and helpful for digestion. Yes, it grows like crazy but we use LOTS of it!
- Lemon Balm: Known to be soothing and calming to the nervous system, great when you need to relax.
- Tulsi (or Holy Basil): Known in India as “the queen of herbs” where it is used as an herbal remedy for many common ailments, including stress relief!
These two will mind their garden manners a little better by staying within their boundaries. If they like their spot they’ll bush out and grow to be about three feet tall.
- Lemon Verbena: Fragrant and delicious with a delightful lemony taste, good for congestion, inflammation insomnia, and weight loss.
- Stevia: Nature’s healthy sweetener. You can make any of these drinks as sweet as you like with zero sugar or artificial ingredients!
Where can you get these plants? You’ll most likely find peppermint and lemon balm at your local nursery or any place that sells starter plants in spring and early summer. In recent years, I’ve begun to see stevia starts in the nurseries as well. Tulsi is often found at places that sell herbs. You can order the seeds for both stevia and tulsi at Mountain Rose Herbs. Lemon Verbena is often sold as a starter plant in nurseries as a natural insect repellent.
Creating Your Own Delicious Summer Drinks
Basic Herbal Iced Tea
- Choose any one or any combination of the mint, lemon balm, tulsi or lemon verbena leaves and pack a half gallon mason jar* about ⅓ to 1/2 full (with fresh leaves) or 2 ounces of the dried. If you want it sweet, add a handful of crushed, fresh stevia leaves or powdered stevia to taste.
- Pour boiling water over the tea leaves to fill the jar. Place the lid, tighten slightly and let sit until cool (4-6 hours).
- When the jar is room temperature, pour the tea over a strainer into your container of choice and compost the leaves.
- When chilled, serve over ice with a lemon slice and a whole peppermint stem if desired.
*Avoid pouring boiling water into a cool jar or likewise, trying to rapidly cool a warm jar as a sudden temperature change could cause breakage.
- For a more traditional iced tea blend, add 5-6 black tea bags in with any combination of the herbal tea leaves.
- For super hydration, add ¼-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar!
- For extra flavor, add fresh berries, honey, or a whole cut-up lemon (if organic, include a tsp of zest) to the jar before adding the boiling water.
- For a delicious lemonade, add ¼-½ cup apple cider vinegar, the juice from two whole organic lemons plus a teaspoon of zest, a handful of crushed stevia leaves, a whole, fresh peppermint stem with leaves or 1 oz of the dried.
Whether you’ve got a garden plot or a few pots on the balcony, having these plants on hand will provide you with a whole summertime of delightful, healthful beverages. And of course, having the dried on hand will ensure you tasty iced or hot teas all year round!
Get ready for everyone to say, “Hmmm, this is sooo good! What’s in it?”
The personal freedoms we enjoy in this country are central to our nationwide celebrations on July 4th. How about choosing this day to be FREE from single-use plastics?
As history would have it, the birthday of our great nation happens at the zenith of summer. It’s the ultimate outdoor holiday, a day when Americans love to take off and celebrate with family and community.Think of all the gatherings taking place across the whole country at ballparks, swimming pools, backyards and beaches, virtually every one of them involving lots of food and drink.
But what about the day after?
Now, close your eyes and think about it. The picnics are over, the fireworks are spent. Americans have returned to home and work and their daily routine. Picture those parks and beaches and what’s left behind from the celebrations. What do you see? Sadly, the next-day reality is a widespread trash heap of plastic cups, plates and utensils, cellophane and food wraps of every description, six-pack holders, sports drink and soda bottles, plastic bags and water bottles, bags, caps, twists….
Communities across the country confirm that it’s not a pretty sight.
One small coastal town in Washington reported over 75 tons of trash recovered from the beach in the aftermath of the holiday in 2015. Volunteers in San Diego County gathered on the morning of July 5th, 2016 to collect thousands of pounds of plastic, styrofoam, bottles, discarded personal items, etc. See the “Morning After Mess Totals” here. Go to almost any public park and see the same thing. Many Americans have fallen into an unfortunate delusion that when it comes to their own trash, it’s someone else’s job to take care of it. Here’s another chart from the Ocean Conservancy from last year.
What can we do?
We can do what Americans do best, the very reason we celebrate this day. We can CHOOSE to do it differently! Yes, the problem is vast and yes, there are multiple industries behind every aspect of this issue. But there is no industry forcing you to use disposable items. They might spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to convince you that you must, that convenience trumps common sense, that there is no other option. But ultimately you get to decide what to use or not use.
We challenge you this 4th of July to make some different choices regarding disposables and in particular, single-use plastics. If that sounds like too much, it’s okay. Maybe you can do just one thing to shift the scenario for yourself this holiday. Here are some basic ideas.
- Enjoying an outdoor meal at home with family and friends? Instead of the go-to disposable picnic ware and plastic utensils, just decide to use the real ones. Or if that’s not at all practical, try a compostable brand.
- Serve simple, homemade drinks from pitchers and provide real glasses. (see recipe below!)*
- Taking something to a covered dish gathering? Think twice before covering that dish with a sheet of plastic wrap that will go straight into the trash. A clean dishcloth usually works great.
- Take your own drink cup with you and say “no thanks” to those ubiquitous red, white and blue SOLO cups that blight the landscape.
- Whether you’re hosting a gathering, a guest somewhere or eating in a restaurant, skip the straw. Easy!
- Share what you’re doing. If anyone asks about your unique drinking cup or asks why in the world you wouldn’t use disposable plates and utensils for your picnic, tell them about Plastic Free July and why!
Okay, so maybe for whatever reason you don’t do any of the above. That’s okay too, because after reading this far, you are at least aware of the issue, aware that there is another way when you can and when you are ready to do things differently. Given that most people don’t even think about these things, that’s an important step in the right direction.
By the way, we’ve got several plastic free, sustainable lifestyle items for 15% off in our online store, including Lady Farmer t-shirts, baby onesies, organic bedding and all pieces in our Essential Collection! Use the code plasticfreejuly at checkout .
Have a safe and happy 4th of July, everyone. Use the hashtag #patrioticandplasticfree to post your plastic free celebration!
–Updated from original post on 7/4/2018
LADY FARMER MINT TEA
- Stuff a half gallon mason jar full of fresh mint plus 2-4 black tea bags, add 6-8 inch cutting of a stevia plant (or powdered to taste) and pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for 4 hours or overnight. CHILL IN FRIDGE, YUMMY!
- If you don’t have fresh mint in your garden, use mint tea bags in combination with the black tea, add sugar or stevia or whatever sweetener you want—or none. And lemon, of course!
- You don’t have to use the black tea if you want caffeine free but I prefer a little to give it body.
- Use frozen strawberries for ice cubes and a sprig of fresh mint as garnish for a festive flair!
Making sustainable food choices on a road trip can be a challenge, especially if you really care about sourcing and quality. Options are usually limited to fast food and packaged, shelf stable snacks at gas stations, not even close to the guidelines we like to follow at home. We try to bring our own along, but with so many things to do just to get out of town, food prep for the road often falls short. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for places to get “real food” while traveling by car.Here’s a gem we’ve discovered just up the road from where my grandparents live. The Harvest Table is in a small town called Meadowview, Virginia, a beautiful Appalachian town just off of Highway 81 close to Abingdon. It’s a special restaurant started by Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer), which began as an extension of Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the story about her family’s year-long experiment to eat only locally grown foods. It has grown into something much bigger, as they say on their website, “The Harvest Table is more than just a restaurant. Over the last ten years, the Harvest Table family has grown to include our kitchen staff, servers, store clerks, farmers, small business owners, artisans and neighbors. Relationships have developed over the common desire to support local and celebrate our Appalachian heritage.”
My family loves to stop here when we can, as we can count on a locally sourced, nutritious, and delicious meal. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual–you feel a bit like you’re on a friend’s back patio. It’s high quality without the extra frills—just good care for the land, community and experience. This time around, mom and I both got the grass-fed burger, no bun, with a salad. It was just delicious!
It’s true that places like this are probably few and far between. In the absence of such options (and if your run out of time to prep your own “to go” meals) here are a few quick tips to help you make your way along the interstate food desert.
- To avoid questionable water and plastic bottles, fill up a few half gallon mason jars with fresh, filtered water from home. (Stay tuned, the Travel Berkey water filter is coming to our online store— soon! )
- Pack dried fruit and nut mixes. They are calorie and nutrient dense and sometimes might suffice in the place of a regular meal.
- Fresh fruit, celery and carrot sticks, washed and ready to eat.
- Grab a jar of organic peanut butter, a loaf of bread and a spreading knife to save the day.
- A bar of high quality, dark chocolate will take you many a mile!
What do you take in the car to keep you going to the next real food? Do you know of any great places to stop for a meal where you’ve traveled? No matter where you are or where you’re headed, there are probably some Lady Farmers headed that way that would love to know how and where to eat better on the road, and experience local!
Happy summer travels!
A question we get a lot is, “How do I know if something is ‘sustainable’ and if I should buy it or not?” Or, “What are some sustainable companies for the things that I need?”
The answer can sometimes be more complicated than it may seem. That’s because “sustainable” is such a broad, vague, and subjective word. At Lady Farmer, we encourage deciding what sustainable means to you, and going from there. As long as you are taking time to make a conscious decision based on personal guidelines you’ve set for yourself, we think that is much better than mindlessly consuming. It’s simply taking back your purchasing power as a consumer!
Enter: The Favorite Second-hand Shoe Store
A few weeks ago my mom and I took our quarterly (sometimes more often) pilgrimage to East Tennessee, where mom is from (and also the setting of her debut novel, Angel ). I’m lucky to have both grandparents still alive and well there, which is so special. I’m also lucky that my favorite second-hand/discount shoe store is there, and that we are usually able to make time for a stop! Most times I don’t actually buy anything, but sometimes that perfect pair appears happily on the shelf in front of me. What’s the most fun is that everything there is usually just in one size and style, so it feels even more completely serendipitous when it does happen.
This past trip we were short on time on our way out of town, but after an entire five seconds of reasoning with my mom about why we should stop, she was convinced. Lucky for us, because they had just gotten in a shipment of slightly out-of-season Birkenstock styles (which are actually produced with pretty sustainable materials, and last a long time) and mom found a great pair of *cute* but *comfy* walking shoes for her trip to Italy. There was also an entire wall of only slightly worn Frye boots at a fraction of the retail price!
Gold mine, y’all.
These guys were just waiting for me…and I’ve worn them literally every day since I bought them!
Want to Buy New? Here Are Some Sustainable Shoe Suggestions:
If I’m going to buy new shoes at full price, I do have pretty strict parameters on what I’ll put my money towards and trust my feet with. Here are a few that I lust over and am saving for:
- Sevilla Smith
- Handmade in either Philadelphia, PA or Barcelona, depending on where the shoemaker happens to be living at the time you order!
- Aurora Shoes, NYC
- Handmade in upstate New York
- Bryr Clogs
- Handmade in San Francisco!
- Birkenstock (though I found sound out-of-season discount ones at Beaty’s!)
- I get a lot of questions about sustainable exercise shoes – I pretty much exclusively buy unworn tennis shoes at places like Beaty’s or another thrift store (you’d be shocked what people buy, never wear, then give away…) just because I haven’t been able to find plastic-free shoes that I feel great about buying. If that’s not your thing, here’s an article from Eco Warrior Princess on some “sustainable” shoe brands – again – use your own judgement on what that means to you!
What are some of your favorite second-hand stores and how do you find them? Wherever you are, there is a probably a Lady Farmer nearby that would love to know! Happy (sustainable) shopping! -Emma
Whether you live on country acreage or dwell in the city, you’re a Lady Farmer if you care deeply about sowing seeds of slow living. You might be seeking more sustainability in your life, or you have a yearning for more connection to yourself, your loved ones and your community. You value the land under your feet, the source and sustenance of all living things. You’re curious about how to create a more sustainable lifestyle, and how that might make a better impact on the world and coming generations.
Does that sound like you? Or the Lady Farmer you dream you will be?
The Power of Gathering
It’s true that the modern world challenges many of our sustainable lifestyle intentions. But when we spend time with and learn from each other, we craft and share tools that help better foster slow living mindsets for ourselves and our families. In sowing seeds of slow living together, we can observe how we spend our time and resources. We are supported in stepping back from systems that separate us from the sources of our most basic needs.
And so, we now welcome Lady Farmers from all walks of life to come together at our second annual Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat!
The Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat 2019
“…a marvelous way to help focus my intentions on things that matter as I restarted the family business last year–namely balance, sustainability, creativity, and family!” – Stacy
Our Weekend of Learning and Sharing
Returning to Zigbone Farm Retreat on November 15th – 17th, 2019, this relaxing retreat weekend will again feature speakers and workshops designed for the modern woman around sustainability, and how to live a life of simplicity, beauty and health.
For the full weekend participants, you will be checking into the cozy Zigbone Farmhouse (renovated with geo-thermal heating and a green roof to be energy efficient!) on Friday evening, November 15th. We’ll come together as a group and get to know each other while enjoying the warmth of the beautiful woodstove or outside bonfire (weather permitting) and homemade, healthy snacks. Then, we’ll settle in for a thought provoking, two-day interactive experience that will gently help you dig deeper into your sustainable lifestyle goals.
Your Relaxing Retreat Weekend
“Your Slow Living Retreat was perfectly beautiful, relaxing, delicious, thought provoking, and inspiring. A true gift.” – Kimberly
Set among the Maryland countryside’s luscious rural views, we’ll enjoy exquisite farm-to-table meals and the conversation of a like-minded community of women. With curious hearts and conscious minds, we’ll explore a wealth of information and ideas with Lady Farmer’s Sustainable Living presentations (led by Mary and Emma Kingsley) and numerous workshop opportunities offered by a variety of practitioners and experts. Yoga, nature healing, natural dyeing, natural self-care, fermentation techniques and a mending circle/instruction will all be a part of the weekend.
For those who need to fully turn off and tune in, quiet time amongst the fields, flowers, and beautiful farmhouse allow for reflective thought and quiet journaling.
Come Join Us
“A trail head for me. I was able to walk down paths I’ve never been, but had the great fortune of meeting people along the way with different levels of terrain experience and their own systems of navigation.” – Leslie
All you need to know is here.
Be sure to watch the video below. Excited to join? We can’t wait, either!
Want to sign up now to make sure you get a spot?
Rooms at Zigbone Farmhouse are comfortable and cozy (all linens are provided), but limited and fill up fast. Though fear not, if you aren’t able to secure on-site accommodations, we have a list of other places to stay in the area that will keep you close by. Zigbone is also within commuting distance of Frederick, DC and Baltimore, and you may also register for full-weekend programming with or without lodging.
Only have time for a day-long retreat? Saturday only tickets will also be available if you can’t come out on Sunday.
A full itinerary will follow as we confirm details.
Read more about last year’s retreat from Creative Countryside. And keep tabs on our Instagram feed for updates on retreat prices, workshop announcements, and speakers!
This week, we were so excited to welcome Graham Keegan (@yesgraham) and his crew to our farm for the DC area stop on the 2019 Indigo Tour! Graham and company have been on the road since late April, making their way across the country from Los Angeles to Vermont bringing the magic of the indigo plant to numerous locations along their route. They pulled up in their mobile workshop (a white van) in the mid afternoon and within a couple of hours had unloaded an entire indigo art studio. The event began with an indigo seedling give-away, free to anyone who had signed up via a link posted on social media. Several people showed up just to get their hands on this most sought after plant and left with enough to begin their own dye garden.
Indigo has a long history as a plant textile dye dating back to the ancient world. The rich and vibrant blue color has been highly valued for its beauty for thousands of years. There is evidence of indigo used in Egyptian linen mummy cloths from around 2400 BC. Although the ancient techniques in the art of indigo dyeing have largely given way to synthetics and mass production in the textile industry, fiber artists such as Graham are committed to keeping the art and knowledge alive. At Lady Farmer, we are especially interested in the role of such techniques in creating beautiful, sustainable garments.
The seedling giveaway was followed by a two hour, in-depth and hands-on class. Though it was a hot May afternoon, the sun was welcome and a wonderful group gathered to hear Graham teach about the entire Indigo dyeing process from seed to final product! We got to hear about how the color is actually extracted from the leaves, how to make our own vats, then finally try our hand at dyeing our own cotton bandanas using the nifty tools he brought to help us learn to make cool patterns.
We’re so happy to have had this fun and inspiring workshop at the Lady Farmer farm. We look forward to many more as we explore the many sustainable and beautiful choices for our everyday lives. We also can’t wait to get our own vat going!
One of the biggest challenges in creating a sustainable lifestyle is reducing the amount of plastic we use daily. According to a report cited in this Scientific American article, plastic manufacturing has increased exponentially in this century. Because food storage is a big part of this increase, a sustainable kitchen is a great place to start.
Why worry about using plastic for food storage?
Substances from plastics can leach out and impact human health. It’s known that chemicals in plastics make their way into our food by coming into contact with it. The substances known as Xenoestrogens and Phthalates are easily transferred into our food from storage containers. Consumers might already be aware of the dangers of bisphenol A, or BPA in plastic. Manufacturers are now marketing BPA-free products, yet consumers should be aware that this does not mean these products are safe or sustainable. BPA is only one of perhaps hundreds of chemicals in plastic that we encounter daily.
Xenoestrogens And Phthalates Can Affect Weight Control, Fertility And Hormone Balance
Research has shown xenoestrogens to affect the body in the following ways:
- It can impair development of reproductive organs
- Correlated with infertility and decreased semen quality
- Promotes early puberty onset in boys and girls.
- Promotes weight gain in women and men.
- Accelerates hair loss in women and men.
- Glandular (hormonal) dysfunction.
Other harmful substances hiding in plastic food storage are known as Phthalates. These are chemical compounds that are commonly added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. These chemicals are associated with many health problems including obesity, infertility, birth defects and even certain cancers.
Tips For Reducing Plastic To Create A More Sustainable Kitchen
- Don’t use plastic bags to bring produce home or to store it. Take your own cloth produce bags shopping with you.
- Use clean dish towels to wrap things like leafy greens when storing in the hydrator. They will keep the produce dry and allow it to breathe.
- Skip the plastic wrap and use sustainable beeswax wraps instead.
- Get rid of all plastic food storage containers and switch out for glass. There are several brands to choose from on Amazon but most have airlock lids. Simax and Anchor Hocking have small baking dishes with glass lids that we use for storage.
- Use Mason jars for storage of bulk items.
- You can also use Mason jars in the freezer. Just fill it up to about ⅔ full to allow for expansion.
- Make your own condiments! Check out this super easy Mayonnaise recipe.
- Skip the plastic jug and buy your milk in glass! Most natural food markets sell brands in glass bottles that you can return for a deposit.
- When you buy meat and cheese, avoid grabbing the shrink wrapped kind off the shelf and go to the counter to have it custom cut. Ask for it to be wrapped in paper instead of plastic.
- Gradually begin cutting back on products that only come in plastic. Begin with things that seem less essential, such as chips, cookies, and most snack items. This might seem drastic at first because it includes so many things. You’ll find, however, that it not only cuts down on plastic use, but you’ll be eating more fresh, real food! You will also be saving money, which will make more room in your budget for better nutrition.
Remember that shifting towards a more sustainable lifestyle is a gradual process. It will take time and adjustment in many areas of your life. Taking steps to create a sustainable kitchen by reducing harmful plastics is a good beginning!
Often when we think of sustainable fabric with natural fibers, we think of cotton. It is grown in America and marketed as one of the softest and most useful materials for our everyday needs. Many consider it a sustainable fabric choice for clothing and will choose it over synthetics and other blends. So, a label that says 100% Cotton might instill consumer confidence in the product. And it may communicate to the consumer that the product is safe and reliable. But, that’s a dangerous assumption to make.
What You Need to Know About Conventionally Grown Cotton, the World’s Dirtiest Crop
Despite it’s reputation as a natural choice for sustainable fabric and clothing, cotton is highly contaminated. Yes, you read that right! Cotton is NOT the product it is marketed to be.
A report by The Environmental Justice Foundation reveals the routine use of harmful chemicals, including nerve agents and neurotoxins, on cotton crops. And, according to the Organic Trade Association, as reported in an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health.”
He also reports, “Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous. Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.”
It’s Not Just the Crops
However, the problems with toxins in the cotton industry are not limited to just the cultivation of the crop.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explains, “As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier. More chemicals [are used] in the process of bleaching. Stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction. Some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product. Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines.”
Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs what we put on our bodies. It makes sense that we would want to avoid this kind of toxic exposure for ourselves and our children. So, what can we do?
Organic Cotton is a Sustainable Fabric and Safer Alternative
According to the Organic Trade Commission, “Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.”
It’s true that clothing made from organic cotton will most likely cost you more. The cultivation of sustainable crops require investments and methods outside of conventional industry practices. This means greater costs and lower margins for the producers. Organic cotton farmers are using sustainable practices in their efforts to protect the environment and avoid chemical use. They are also maintaining soil fertility, preserving biodiversity and conserving water.
Always Choose Organic Cotton for Babies and Children
Consumers seeking more sustainable options might take these factors into consideration when making purchasing decisions. Some think it’s worth the extra cost to avoid the health and environmental problems that come with conventionally grown cotton. But, you might be limited in your ability to afford sustainable products in all of your clothing purchases. If this is the case, please consider organic cotton over conventional for your babies and young children. Because of their developing brains and organs, they are more susceptible than adults to the harm of these toxins.
We’re committed to guiding you in your sustainable lifestyle journey. Click HERE to get free information, resources and updates from Lady Farmer.
Sustainable Shopping with Lady Farmer
What is slow living?
You might be hearing this term more and more lately, along with slow food and slow fashion. So what’s with this slow movement? What does it mean, and do we need it? If so, why?
At Lady Farmer, our understanding of slow living comes from making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources. And, in doing so we take a step back from the industrialized systems that provide our daily needs. In observing our own consumer habits we can evaluate our own quality of life.
Front Porch Days
It’s not difficult to recognize how quickly our society has left slow living behind. Some of us only have to look back a generation or two to recall a different era. We hear about a time when people whiled away the hours sitting on the front porch. Yet it wasn’t that they had less to do. People weren’t dependent on factory farms thousands of miles away for their food. Nor did they require chain stores for cheap clothing made overseas by impoverished workers. It has been less than a century since many Americans fed and clothed themselves for the most part.
Fast forward to now, when practically every single thing we use is bought from a store. Most of these things are used up or broken in a relatively short period of time. Then they are tossed into the land of “trash,” that place society assumes is the endpoint of our concern.
In the Name of Sustenance
Our food supply, too, has long left the realm of self-production. It now has much more connection to a factory or a lab than the land. Food today has been sprayed, machinated, wrapped, frozen, fortified, processed, sealed, flown around the globe, clam-shelled and shelved. Then we come along and happily pull these things from the supermarket aisles in the name of sustenance.
As for clothing, almost everything available today has been produced at a terrible cost to the environment. In addition, millions of overworked and underpaid laborers work in deplorable conditions to fuel the toxic apparel industry. This broken system perpetuates our manic, throw- away habits while barely making a dent in our pocketbooks.
The Slow Living Choice
Slow living might have a different feel or pace, but it is not the same as leisure. The slow living choice to feed and clothe ourselves closer to the source might not take less time, work or money. In some instances it might take more. Those that have made the conscious decision to eat more locally know this. It takes effort and organization to seek out local sources and very often requires us to pay more. Growing your own is a wonderful option but there is a great deal of effort and energy involved. Yet, this is the choice we make over driving to the megamarket and buying packaged and processed food.
Likewise, sustainably sourced and produced clothing certainly will cost more in terms of dollars and cents. Yet this is the choice for the land, our water, our fellow humans and our own health. Many people aren’t able to buy clothes made from responsible sources and well paid workers. The prevailing fast fashion system has squeezed the life out of this model. The availability of ethically produced apparel is extremely limited, putting the many consumers in a position with little choice. We encourage slow living practices such as buying less, buying thrift and participating in clothing swaps. It’s a great way to have fun and encourage others to dress sustainably.
The Hand that Feeds Us
Our goal in exploring the idea of slow living is to identify where we have become separated from “the hand that feeds us,” so to speak. In embracing slow living, we want to see ourselves apart from mass production and consumption. Our desire is to hear our own voice inside the noisy torrent of information, and seek out the things we truly value. In that space is where we reclaim our allotted time on the planet and create our truly authentic lives.
To help you in your own exploration of slow living, we provide information, resources, videos, courses and products. We also have our own, in house designed, responsibly and locally manufactured apparel line. We hope you’ll use these only in ways that seem helpful to you, remembering that you alone are the one true expert on your own life. So come join us in whatever way feels right.
It’s good to be waking up.