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 are so excited to introduce Mo this week, not only as our Lady Farmer Spotlight but as one of our dynamic workshop leaders for the upcoming Lady Farmer Slow Living Conference Retreat, Nov. 9th-11th, 2018. She will be helping attendees plan for cultivating healthy kitchen gardens of their own. Early Bird Registration spots are available until they run out!
All photographs in this post are taken by Lise Metzger of the blog Grounded Women, where you can find a few different in-depth pieces on Mo, with the striking photography that is sampled here. You can also follow @groundedwomen for more!
Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.
Mo Moutoux owns and manages Moutoux Orchard, a diverse sustainable farm with her husband, Rob. Located in Purcellville, Virginia, they operate a unique whole-diet CSA program and raise livestock, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. Their goal is to reclaim our food—from field to kitchen— and provide healthy, whole foods for our local community. They are committed to healthy food, healthy animals and believe in the power of healthy soil and community.
Mo fell in love with farming while in graduate school for cultural anthropology.
I knew there was nothing I wanted to do more than get my hands in the dirt and grow food.
What inspires you?
There is an eternal optimism that comes naturally to farmers. It is something that makes (spring!) such a joy. Of course these seeds that we are planting will grow great crops. Maybe the best yet. Of course the berries will be delicious. Of course we will grow loads of great grass, and our animals will be healthy, happy, and well fed. We flourish on the hope found in a seed.
As farmers, we are managing an ecosystem. Every year our goal is to see that ecosystem and its inhabitants through another cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, and rebirth. Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.
What does being a “Lady Farmer” mean to you?
There are so many women who devote their lives to growing food for themselves, their families, and their communities. I think we, specifically white Americans, forget that most of the rest of the world is agrarian and that most of that work is done by women. And it is hard. Really hard work. You are subject to the whims of the natural world and we are so disconnected from Mother Natures power in the rest of our lives. These women deserve our respect and admiration!
Any advice for aspiring Lady Farmers, especially those who aren’t able to actually farm?
Join a CSA! Commit to supporting small, family farms and commit to eating locally and seasonally! Shop at your local farmers market and talk to your farmer! Know your farmer and KNOW YOUR FOOD! You’ll feel better, too!
Thank you, Mo! Follow along for more of her story at @moutouxorchards and check out their website!
Successful thrift store shopping doesn’t have to be fully a game of luck. Thrifting helps your wallet, your community, and your planet…but my favorite part is the search itself: I feel like I’m on a sort of adventure, looking for a gem in a messy jungle of fabric. The normal dopamine rush that I get from shopping is doubled when I’m thrifting: after taking time to explore, finding the piece that matches your style and size perfectly is incredibly gratifying.
Right now, I’m wearing Dansko clogs, Patagonia shorts, an Urban Outfitters shirt, Victoria’s Secret underwear and bra, and I spent less than $8.00 for the entire outfit.
As a self-proclaimed thrifting connoisseur, playing the “how much did I pay for this outfit” game is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m in college, and only have a part-time job during the school year–I don’t exactly have a large margin of disposable income. But thankfully, my hours spent in consignment shops has taught me that you don’t need to spend big bucks to look great!
Even if you do have enough money to buy name-brand clothing regularly, there are so many reasons to go thrifting instead! For one, it supports your local economy: buying an Old Navy dress at a consignment shop downtown supports a local business, instead of zooming directly up to a giant company. And many thrift stores are charity-based organizations that will use their profits to support local causes–I’ve been to stores that support hospitals, churches, after school programs, community centers, and more.
Shopping second-hand is also worlds more environmentally friendly. Imagine this: A woman goes into an expensive retailer and buys a blouse. Her money is supporting the production of A synthetic-blend textile, the pollutive process of dying the fabric, the factory assembly of the garment, and the shipping from overseas to the checkout counter. For one reason or another, it eventually is tossed in a trash bag labeled “donate,” and taken to Goodwill.
Fingering your way down a rack of tops, you find the blouse and take it home. It’s still cute, still high-quality material, and still a recognizable brand. But you pay a fraction of the price, and none of your money supports processes that exploit people or the land!
Thrift Store Shopping Tips
After getting my clothes almost exclusively second-hand for years, I have a few tips for finding the hidden treasures of consignment shops without wasting time. It doesn’t need to be a struggle or a 3-hour commitment!
1) Research where the good spots are to go.
Ask around about where people recommend shopping second-hand. It’s hard for people to accurately review thrift stores online, so word-of-mouth is valuable here. Some general advice from me is to go to the wealthier neighborhoods’ consignment shops; people who live and work in more affluent parts of town will typically drop off their donations close to home, and these spots tend to have a higher concentration of expensive brand names. (A side note for my friends down in the Southeast–Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama is by far the greatest spot to shop, with high-end clothes that can be over 80% off! Definitely worth a couple of hours in the car.)
2) Go early in the week, in the early afternoon.
As you start shopping at new thrift stores, ask the employees when they sort through new donations–Most places will sort through donations early in the week, and bring it out on the floor in the mornings. But always double check! Schedules vary, and you want to be one of the first people to look through their new clothing.
3) For a quick trip, know what you need.
If you just want a rapid, in-and-out trip, you need to shop with intention. Know what you need, run in and flit through the rack or two the store has. If you find what you wanted, great! But the more specific your expectations, the harder it’ll be to find, and you may have to go to a few different shops.
4) Save discernment for the dressing room.
Something about pre-loved garments make it difficult to tell if they’ll look good on or not; half the time I absolutely fall in love with something that I only mildly liked on the rack, or end up hating I thought was really cute at a glance. It’s hard to tell! So if I have the time to delve more into a store, I keep some flexible ideas of what I want in terms of fabric type, color, and brand, but give most clothes a shot. And as soon as I step into the dressing room, I kick my judgmental side into high gear to make sure I only walk away with clothes that I love and will wear regularly. It can be deceivingly easy to leave lugging armloads of stuff that you don’t really need, and the place to prevent that is in the dressing room.
5) Always check the non-clothing sections.
A quick walkabout through the kitchen section and a glance through the purses can yield incredible results, and it’s always the fastest part of my trip! I would never have found my black leather Coach handbag if I hadn’t left the clothing section. And although I only fantasize at this point about my one-day kitchen, I am positive that it will be composed of mostly second-hand goods. I’ve found mason jars, cobalt glasses, complete fondue sets, pressure cookers, and more just by quickly walking past and glancing at the shelves. Incredibly easy, and incredibly worth it.
I hope that these tips will help you explore the exciting thrifting world! Second-hand shopping is a great way to vote with your dollar against fast-fashion, prevent textile waste, and save money. Best of luck, and happy hunting! 🙂
– Vanessa Moss, 2018 Summer Intern
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 in our online store. If you see something you like, use the code beplasticfree when ordering for 15% off during July.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July, everyone. Let’s BE plastic FREE!
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!
When my mom and I first came up with the idea to design & create clothing that we loved and were proud of producing, neither of us had any experience in the garment industry outside of being the committed bargain-hunters that we were. It wasn’t until a few months later, in the middle of one of the largest trade shows in the industry’s (MAGIC) showroom floor, when it hit us that my great-grandfather (my mother’s grandfather) had helped see a west Tennessee cotton mill through the Great Depression, and that we had unintentionally stumbled into a family legacy. For many reasons, but particularly this one, we were feeling highly motivated and affirmed despite our lack of industry experience. Though we saw clearly what we were up against, we chose to proceed with only the highest standards and expectations.
We want to explain a bit about the implications of sticking to those standards. To start, for anyone who isn’t aware of the human exploitation and environmental destruction in the current fashion industry, we recommend that you begin by watching The True Cost documentary (available on Netflix) – an inspiring and engaging depiction of not only the problem at hand but how we can begin to tackle it. There is also information on our website to help you understand different aspects of the issues. Click on Our Poison Closets, Fashion Revolution Week 2018 or Slow Fashion At-a-Glance for some additional insights.
We want our clothing to reflect the nature of their source, the fibers themselves. As Lady Farmers, we realize that in highlighting clothing as an agricultural product, it helps frame a lot of the issues within the industry. If we are learning as a culture to be more conscious of our food sourcing, it becomes easier to cultivate the same discernment for what we put on our bodies as what we put in them. Our clothing, like our food, is one of our most basic needs, which ultimately starts as a seed in the ground.
So back to our trade show, where we enter bright-eyed and ready to change the world, asking where we might find the “Made in America” section, particularly domestically made and organically grown linens…only to be met with blank stares. Turns out that domestically grown woven fabrics (linen, etc.) are rare or non-existent, and any other organic domestic apparel fabrics are few and far between. In this moment we became starkly aware of two things: 1) the problems with sourcing were much bigger and even more complex than we could have known when we started and 2) we were going to be met with many obstacles, but our commitment was to doing the very best we could under the circumstances. We knew that in telling our story transparently, we would have an opportunity to educate where the gaps were while creating an alternative.
Despite our lack of choice when it comes to sourcing organic (sometimes the only option is “Made in China”) there are some areas where there is simply no compromise. All parts of each piece we design and produce must be made of natural materials. We do not use any polyester, even the recycled kind (a discussion for another day). We do not use zippers, plastic buttons, elastic, or any type of notion that might compromise the circular life cycle of the garment we hope to produce. The well-being of the human who forged the buckles, wove the fibers, spun the thread, then ultimately sewed the garment together are of the utmost concern to us, and where we have direct say over those workers’ wages (our USA-based sewists), we offer fair market value in exchange for labor.
During our very first call with a New England based manufacturer, we were asked about our design ideas as well as our ideal price point. At that point, we really didn’t have a frame of reference for the true cost of producing these items. We threw out a number that we thought was “a good price” and quickly realized what we were up against, wanting to create something so clean and good for so little money. Knowing what we know now we’re reminded of all of the gaps – the information gaps, the sourcing gaps, the opportunity gaps, the challenge of no elastic, the predicament of designing a pair of overalls with no buttons or pants with no zippers–but eventually we did it (for what we understand now to be a completely fair and “good” price), and we feel more affirmed than ever in our goals and designs.
Yes, the price on our garments might be more that what the average consumer is accustomed to paying in this world of cheap, disposable fashion, but here’s something to consider: What if “a good price” meant that the cost of the item actually reflected its true value all the way down the line, from the manufacturer to the supply chain to the producer of the raw materials? What if “a good price” meant a decent wage for every human being involved in the production and the enforcement of responsible environmental and health standards? What if we all thought of these things when looking at a price tag with the goal not being to spend as little as possible, but to exchange our own resources for something with meaning and integrity?
The higher cost for a better alternative is an ongoing discussion in our community, yet we are encouraged that there are other ways to refuse participation in fast fashion. Thrift and consignment stores, clothing swaps, wardrobe repair and “upcycling” are all ways of rejecting the prevailing system with minimal cost. Increasing awareness of personal lifestyle and consumer habits are powerful tools in shifting personal patterns. Individuals can quickly learn that a sense of well- being is not necessarily compromised by consuming less, but can in fact be enhanced by such reevaluation. We support and encourage all of these efforts.
In the spirit of full transparency, we are excited to offer you a pricing breakdown of one of our own garments – the beloved Brigit Overalls. We think it’s important that consumers are fully aware of what things cost, and that they know where their money is going when they make purchases! Because exact numbers are constantly changing due to fluctuating material costs, etc, we’ve chosen to break down our pricing via pie chart, the sections are as follows:
Materials: The materials we’ve committed to using (natural, non-toxic, responsibly grown) are in lower demand and are therefore more expensive to produce, leading to longer lead times. The more consumer demand there is for these types of materials, the easier it will be to get them and economy of scale will encourage the prices to come down a bit.
Labor: Local labor at fair market price is much higher here than overseas, where most of the clothing we wear has been sewn. In many cases, the garment workers making our $10 jeans and $5 tank tops have been paid well below poverty level, if at all.
Operating/Administrative Costs: Website infrastructure, shipping and shipping materials, non-production related labor and wages, taxes, etc.
Net Profit: What will go back into the company for new designs and production, sourcing, planning events (conferences and workshops), creating content around education and awareness which serves to increase demand and lower costs, networking, investing in future regenerative fiber material, training future Lady Fiber Farmers, etc.
1% for the Planet: As members of this organization, we give 1% of sales to our non-profit partner, Fibershed, to aid in the advancement in their work of developing regional fibersheds domestically.
We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve made. We believe that each garment, born of a passion to heal what is broken, has the potential to tell a story that will shift a paradigm. We’re excited to share more about what makes them so special, and why we believe we are left with no other option than to vote with our dollars and to spread the message that as consumers, we have the power to truly change the world.
Thanks for following along,
Emma (& Mary)
Knowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going.
Caitlin Robinson is co-owner of Moonflower Farm and co-founder of Sungold Flower Co. They are (also!) located in Montgomery County’s beautiful Ag Reserve, about an hour outside DC. She and her husband grow flowers, veggies, and raise chickens on their 2 acre property, with their 4 children (ages 2, 3, 5, and 7).
Last year, in collaboration with Anna Glenn, she formed Sungold Flower Co. which is based out of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD. Using their own seasonal blooms, as well as foraged and locally sourced material, they create arrangements for 30+ weddings and events from April until November. They also sell at market and operate a small flower CSA.
I always loved having my hands dirty. Growing up in the suburbs of DC, I spent most of my childhood in our little back yard making potions or in the woods identifying different trees and plants. I’ve always been fascinated by watching a seed grow, and by the changing of the seasons in general.
In college, she started working in the produce department at an organic market, learning every day about sustainable farming and local food. A few years later, she and her husband Tim bought their property, a 1930’s Cape Cod with just over 2 acres of blank slate. They did a “practice garden” that first season and welcomed their first child. For the next few years, they ran a small CSA with about 12-15 families. They decided to take a break after their third baby was born, growing on more of a “homestead” level, sharing the surplus with friends and family but without the pressure of having to deliver a certain volume each week to shareholders. Tim has always worked a full-time job so they were farming in their spare time.
In 2016, along with a few other local growers, they helped start a farmer’s market here in our small town as an outlet for all of the extra goods. Around that time, Caitlin began helping Anna with her wedding flowers at Rocklands Farm (another local farm, winery, and wedding venue) and she completely fell in love with growing and arranging. When they decided to team-up full time, she felt like she had landed exactly where she belonged.
The combination of science and art is the most energizing thing for me.
Why do you do what you do? What is your inspiration? What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
BEAUTY. Plain and simple. I love how flowers look at every stage of growth, but when they finally bloom and you then get to share that with others…I mean, there’s nothing like it. I’m inspired by the changing of the seasons, and how the landscape and the garden is never exactly the same from one week to the next.
Knowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going. You can’t cut corners. If you don’t plant the seed, if you don’t water it, if you don’t make sure it gets ample sunshine, if you don’t prep the bed, if you don’t support the flower…you don’t get the flower! Its kind of like motherhood in that way (or any relationship, really!). All the time and effort you put in is an investment in a beautiful thing. How could you possibly give up on that?
Farming is hard. Every day, you’re using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you’re constantly moving. A lot of the time, you’re working by yourself.
Being a farmer is something I’m super proud of. Its a term that I wasn’t always comfortable using early on, I think because I felt like it needed to be earned. Farming is hard. Every day, you’re using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you’re constantly moving. A lot of the time, you’re working by yourself. But I feel like we have such a great community of like-minded farmers here in the Ag Reserve (and beyond). And every farmer I’ve ever met has always been so generous in sharing their knowledge, their experience, their processes.
As far as my role in the community, right now I’m so proud that I get to feed people’s souls with beautiful flowers. Anna and I are privileged to share what we love with couples on their special day. We have plans this season for sharing flowers with people who might enjoy them most…people in our community who might need some extra love in their days. In the future I hope I can teach and inspire others, but with all that I have on my plate, its not a major priority for me at the moment. I hope to leave a healthier Earth for my children though. We all must strive for that.
Thoughts on Slow Living:
Real talk: “slow living” often feels like the exact opposite of what I’m doing right now. I have 4 small children, a fledgling flower business to run, thousands of tiny plant babies, a home that I prefer to not be in shambles…so many things demand my attention all day, every day. So in order to not feel like I’m failing at “slow living”, I’ve begun to re-frame it for myself.
Slow living is mindful living. How you manifest that within the framework of your lifestyle is up to you. For me, that means that I try to feed my family whole, locally grown foods. It means that I try to be informed about the consumer products that we bring into our home. It means that I’d rather my kids play outside in the fresh air and build forts in the woods. Do they know their way around the Netflix menu? You bet. Do we eat cereal for dinner sometimes? Of course, I’m not Superwoman. I’m just looking for balance. And giving myself grace along the way.
Slow living is being present. Sometimes, all I get is one minute to feel the sun on my face and feel gratitude. But I grab that minute and I hold it in my heart. I’m always reminded of this Kurt Vonnegut quote:
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
It truly is as simple as that. Its accessible to everyone. It has to be.
And who knows…maybe someday my version of slow living will include spending the entire day in my hypothetical, sun-filled back yard pottery studio whilst sipping sustainably sourced chai lattes…today is not that day. And that’s ok.
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
If you’re thinking about going into farming, seriously go for it. Start a little garden where ever you can. You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow in a small space! Read all the farming books you can. Make friends with other growers. Look for workshops and volunteer opportunities in your area. If you’ve got the time, try to apprentice under an experienced farmer. Part of me wishes that Tim and I had been able to do that early on, but on the flip side, having our full-time jobs after college is what enabled us to be able to buy land here in Montgomery County and I’m really proud of that.
For everyone who wants to support farms as much as possible, just remember that you always have a choice! Whether you’re shopping for ingredients for a weeknight dinner or the flowers for your wedding, YOU HAVE A CHOICE. What a gift to be able to use your dollars to vote for the kind of world you want to live in. When you support local farms, makers, and doers, you are helping to shift the marketplace to something more sustainable, authentic, and accessible.
Who inspires you?
I admire anyone who is bold enough to follow their dreams.
Thank you, Caitlin! Follow along for more of her story at @sungold_flower_co and check out their website!
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.
Yes, we know that leather is an animal byproduct, and the whole tanning process is not a pretty one. So why do we support leather companies like our friends at Farrier and now Central Grazing Company?
Because the leather we support is sourced from regenerative cattle (and sheep!) farming, which like fiber farming (wool, hemp, flax, organic cotton, etc..) has the potential to heal our soils and change our world. Literally.
Recent reports are claiming that there are an average of 60 harvests left on the earth if soil degradation continues. Agriculture remains one of the top contributors to soil loss and increased atmospheric carbon. In order to stop the rapid loss of our soil and sequester carbon, change must take place on all levels, from lawmakers to farmers, brands, investors, consumers and innovative entrepreneurs.
That’s why we’re excited to tell you about Jacqueline Smith, the founder of Central Grazing Company, a women-led, regenerative food and fiber business committed to farming methods that actually build vital soil!
Jacqueline and her team are pioneers in the regenerative agricultural movement and are committed to changing the way we approach food and fiber products. She has designed a program that pays farmers premiums for high animal welfare and ecological standards. This gives farmers incentives to farm in ways that build soil, help balance the carbon cycle and gives animals peaceful, calm and natural lives.
Over the past few years, Jacqueline has been working to create a new farm-to-fashion leather line that comes from her certified Animal Welfare Approved sheep raised in the Midwest. Not only that, she has them tanned and manufactured in the U.S. Because of her closed-loop production process, her leather collection is 100% traceable. How incredible is that?
She is raising funds to launch her new consciously made leather line, and we’re so excited they’ve almost reached their goal! Let’s help them surpass it… You can see her Kickstarter campaign here.
Ethical leather is changing the clothing industry. By purchasing, gifting, supporting or promoting CGC’s full range of leather pieces, you, too, can help grow the climate-benefiting fashion revolution.
Jacqueline’s campaign will be running until June 10th. Every little bit helps. There are all kinds of rewards including deeply reduced prices on her amazing leather pieces! Sign up here for her newsletter for more details.
Also, if you would like to review their leather products, learn more about their process or simply to share this feel-good story, please reach out to Jacqueline@centralgrazingco.com. She’d welcome your feedback and, of course, appreciate your helping to spread the word! We found this FAQ page really helpful and informative…check it out!
Emma & Mary
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.