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.
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!
Pin it for Later!
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs goes way back, most likely even before Easter itself, to pagan times when spring celebrations included decorating eggs as a symbol of rebirth. For me personally, the ritual goes back to the sixties, a kitchen table covered with newspaper, an arrangement of bowls, and the pastel-colored box kit with the little copper wire egg dipper inside (only one per box, my brothers and I had to take turns with it.)
Natural Easter Egg Dye
We still love coloring eggs at our house, but these days we skip the artificial dyes and use the natural dyes that are probably already in your kitchen, or easily found if not. The rich, rustic colors you can get from common vegetables, spices and teas are delightful!
Homemade Easter Egg Dye
Here are some suggestions for natural egg dye colors*:
- Purple cabbage = blue
- Beets = purple/pink
- Yellow onion skins = yellow/orange
- Red onion skins = red/lavender
- Spinach = green
- Turmeric = yellow/orange
- Hibiscus tea = lavender
This is only a partial list of possibilities. If something has a rich color or tends to make a stain, it will probably make a good egg dye.
*Colors are variable. You’ll get different hues depending on the shade of the egg, the concentration of the dye and the amount of time you leave it in. It’s fun to experiment!
How to dye eggs naturally – the process, simplified:
- Boil your eggs and set aside to cool
- Add 1 cup of the vegetable matter or 2 tablespoons of the tea or spice to one cup of water in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes
- Cool the dye and pour into a bowl
- Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the dye
- Place as many eggs as you like into the bowl, arranged so that the whole egg is covered
- Leave the eggs to soak, anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours, checking frequently for color. When you like what you see, remove the egg and place on a cooling rack to dry completely. You can get several shades out of a single dye according to how long they soak.
Once the eggs are cooled, polish them with a little bit of olive oil on a cloth until shiny. The colors will become even more luscious and vibrant and your eggs will look like beautiful stones!
Sustainable Easter Gift Ideas:
This delicious soap.
Our favorite travel mug that keeps your bunny’s coffee hot for so long!
An organic, sewn-in-DC Lady Farmer designed and approved apron.
Plastic free hairties. The pink ones are especially for Easter.
Read more about Lady Farmer and our growing community of women who yearn for a simpler way of life.