Many of us are seeking a more sustainable approach to our holiday celebrations. Let’s take a slow living look at one our favorite cultural symbols of spring, the Easter basket. It’s a tradition to fill baskets to the brim with neon plastic grass, small toys and individually packaged candies. And we wouldn’t want to forget the glossy chocolate bunnies, stuffed animals, and loads of rainbow-colored jelly beans. Then, wrap it all up in an enormous sheet of cellophane and your kids will have the perfect Easter morning. Right? Sure, if you look past the enormous amount of waste replicated millions of times across the country on this one single day.
Rethinking Sustainable Holiday Celebrations
Transitioning beloved holiday traditions towards sustainable holiday practices can be a challenge, given our consumerist society. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $18.11 billion on Easter candy, clothing, and gift-giving this year.
So what’s a sustainably-minded Lady Farmer to do? Our slow living mindset guides us to pause, ponder our desires, and move forward with greater intention. It encourages purchasing sustainable products that last, so we can love them longer. And it reminds us that no holiday tradition is more valuable than the time we spend connecting with ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. With a little mindfulness and effort, we can create sustainable holiday celebrations that preserve the meaning and enjoyment of our traditions. Here are some suggestions for one of our favorites.
Ways to a Better Basket
- Look for baskets made from materials such as willow, wicker and bamboo. These can be used year after year and if cared for properly, passed on from generation to generation.
- Skip the shredded plastic filler! Opt for biodegradable shredded paper available at your local craft store or online, get the kids involved and cut strips of craft paper, or run some leftover wrapping paper through your office paper shredder, like Martha Stewart. Want something even more natural? Fresh hay or straw work perfectly and smell amazing. And as long as fresh green grass hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides, it’s a colorful and sustainable option, too.
- Opt for organic and fair trade brands of chocolate, such as Newman’s Own, Dagoba and Theo . Keep an eye out at your market for those made locally and with low-waste packaging. For online delivery, naturalcandystore.com has an impressive selection of vegan, organic, fair trade, and low-waste packaging options — including chocolate bunnies and other Easter treats!
- Stuffed animals are not typically made from desirable materials – many contain synthetics, plastics, and toxins like flame retardants, BPA, PVC, lead and phthalates. Swap in books, wooden blocks, and soft toys made from sustainable materials and slow living companies. (Take a look at these adorable squishy stuffed animals knit by fair trade artisans over at Fair Indigo, and this collection of sweet little stuffies and blankets at Oompa!)
- You don’t really need those brightly colored, non-biodegradable plastic eggs. They have nowhere to end up but the landfill and filling them with candy treats is a bad idea. Plastic storage containers can leach hormone disrupting and carcinogenic substances into foods.
- Dye your own eggs! Food-grade dye kits do the trick. Or go one step further and make rich, rustic marbled eggs with dye from common vegetables, teas, and spices-our how-to guide to sustainable Easter eggs takes you through every step.
Spring is a time of refreshment, renewal, and celebration. And, we don’t have to buy anything at all to know and enjoy that! But for the things you do decide to buy, remember that sustainable options are out there for all of your sustainable holiday traditions!
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.
Often when we think of sustainable fabric with natural fibers, we think of cotton. It is grown in America and marketed as one of the softest and most useful materials for our everyday needs. Many consider it a sustainable fabric choice for clothing and will choose it over synthetics and other blends. So, a label that says 100% Cotton might instill consumer confidence in the product. And it may communicate to the consumer that the product is safe and reliable. But, that’s a dangerous assumption to make.
What You Need to Know About Conventionally Grown Cotton, the World’s Dirtiest Crop
Despite it’s reputation as a natural choice for sustainable fabric and clothing, cotton is highly contaminated. Yes, you read that right! Cotton is NOT the product it is marketed to be.
A report by The Environmental Justice Foundation reveals the routine use of harmful chemicals, including nerve agents and neurotoxins, on cotton crops. And, according to the Organic Trade Association, as reported in an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health.”
He also reports, “Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous. Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.”
It’s Not Just the Crops
However, the problems with toxins in the cotton industry are not limited to just the cultivation of the crop.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explains, “As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier. More chemicals [are used] in the process of bleaching. Stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction. Some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product. Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines.”
Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs what we put on our bodies. It makes sense that we would want to avoid this kind of toxic exposure for ourselves and our children. So, what can we do?
Organic Cotton is a Sustainable Fabric and Safer Alternative
According to the Organic Trade Commission, “Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.”
It’s true that clothing made from organic cotton will most likely cost you more. The cultivation of sustainable crops require investments and methods outside of conventional industry practices. This means greater costs and lower margins for the producers. Organic cotton farmers are using sustainable practices in their efforts to protect the environment and avoid chemical use. They are also maintaining soil fertility, preserving biodiversity and conserving water.
Always Choose Organic Cotton for Babies and Children
Consumers seeking more sustainable options might take these factors into consideration when making purchasing decisions. Some think it’s worth the extra cost to avoid the health and environmental problems that come with conventionally grown cotton. But, you might be limited in your ability to afford sustainable products in all of your clothing purchases. If this is the case, please consider organic cotton over conventional for your babies and young children. Because of their developing brains and organs, they are more susceptible than adults to the harm of these toxins.
We’re committed to guiding you in your sustainable lifestyle journey. Click HERE to get free information, resources and updates from Lady Farmer.
Sustainable Shopping with Lady Farmer
What is slow living?
You might be hearing this term more and more lately, along with slow food and slow fashion. So what’s with this slow movement? What does it mean, and do we need it? If so, why?
At Lady Farmer, our understanding of slow living comes from making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources. And, in doing so we take a step back from the industrialized systems that provide our daily needs. In observing our own consumer habits we can evaluate our own quality of life.
Front Porch Days
It’s not difficult to recognize how quickly our society has left slow living behind. Some of us only have to look back a generation or two to recall a different era. We hear about a time when people whiled away the hours sitting on the front porch. Yet it wasn’t that they had less to do. People weren’t dependent on factory farms thousands of miles away for their food. Nor did they require chain stores for cheap clothing made overseas by impoverished workers. It has been less than a century since many Americans fed and clothed themselves for the most part.
Fast forward to now, when practically every single thing we use is bought from a store. Most of these things are used up or broken in a relatively short period of time. Then they are tossed into the land of “trash,” that place society assumes is the endpoint of our concern.
In the Name of Sustenance
Our food supply, too, has long left the realm of self-production. It now has much more connection to a factory or a lab than the land. Food today has been sprayed, machinated, wrapped, frozen, fortified, processed, sealed, flown around the globe, clam-shelled and shelved. Then we come along and happily pull these things from the supermarket aisles in the name of sustenance.
As for clothing, almost everything available today has been produced at a terrible cost to the environment. In addition, millions of overworked and underpaid laborers work in deplorable conditions to fuel the toxic apparel industry. This broken system perpetuates our manic, throw- away habits while barely making a dent in our pocketbooks.
The Slow Living Choice
Slow living might have a different feel or pace, but it is not the same as leisure. The slow living choice to feed and clothe ourselves closer to the source might not take less time, work or money. In some instances it might take more. Those that have made the conscious decision to eat more locally know this. It takes effort and organization to seek out local sources and very often requires us to pay more. Growing your own is a wonderful option but there is a great deal of effort and energy involved. Yet, this is the choice we make over driving to the megamarket and buying packaged and processed food.
Likewise, sustainably sourced and produced clothing certainly will cost more in terms of dollars and cents. Yet this is the choice for the land, our water, our fellow humans and our own health. Many people aren’t able to buy clothes made from responsible sources and well paid workers. The prevailing fast fashion system has squeezed the life out of this model. The availability of ethically produced apparel is extremely limited, putting the many consumers in a position with little choice. We encourage slow living practices such as buying less, buying thrift and participating in clothing swaps. It’s a great way to have fun and encourage others to dress sustainably.
The Hand that Feeds Us
Our goal in exploring the idea of slow living is to identify where we have become separated from “the hand that feeds us,” so to speak. In embracing slow living, we want to see ourselves apart from mass production and consumption. Our desire is to hear our own voice inside the noisy torrent of information, and seek out the things we truly value. In that space is where we reclaim our allotted time on the planet and create our truly authentic lives.
To help you in your own exploration of slow living, we provide information, resources, videos, courses and products. We also have our own, in house designed, responsibly and locally manufactured apparel line. We hope you’ll use these only in ways that seem helpful to you, remembering that you alone are the one true expert on your own life. So come join us in whatever way feels right.
It’s good to be waking up.
What is sustainable living?
We most often think of sustainability in terms of protecting rather than depleting our natural resources. Reducing our trash and avoiding plastic are positive steps towards living a more sustainable life. Eating local foods, driving less and choosing responsibly sourced clothing and household products are key as well.
Yet sustainable living is also about reducing the stresses and demands that deplete your energy and vitality. It requires balance in your personal resources, your personal time, energy, creativity and passion. Having respect for your spaces, your home and work environments are all part of it as well. It’s about creating the systems that work for you in living the life you want.
We live in a consumer economy, so that we generally have to buy everything we use. Yet as a culture, we have taken this behavior far beyond our basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. Much of our time and space are taken up doing and acquiring things that are beyond our needs. Consequently, we feel we never have enough time in the day and our surroundings are cluttered and chaotic.
Sustainable simplicity means having everything you need for your safety, comfort and well being without all the excess. When we’re willing to pay attention, we can make choices that enhance rather than deplete our quality of life. Local food, responsibly sourced clothing and carefully chosen home and lifestyle products can shift our lives towards sustainable simplicity. When we’re willing to honestly observe our own consumer decisions, we can see where change is necessary. Sustainable living has to do with making conscious choices every day.
A Sustainable Earth Home
As for this earth we all share, sustainable living means waking up to the impact of our human behavior.
A healthy, balanced life necessarily includes some degree of cleanliness, order and respect for where we live. Most of us don’t dump nasty things in our living room or poison our own wells. Nor do we burn things that create bad air in the house, drop trash wherever or destroy things that happen to be in our way.
Yet that’s exactly the way humans have behaved on the planet.
A Way of Life
Sustainable living was once a way of life for our ancestors. It was the way of survival. Yet somewhere along the line, we began to think, act and live as if we are separate from nature. As the dominant species, we have behaved as if it all exists for our own use and benefit, that resources were there to be used up for our immediate gratification and that it doesn’t matter what mess we leave behind.
I like to take a hopeful view of this. Perhaps humanity is moving closer to a tipping point when our unconscious behavior is no longer the norm. We’ve all seen pictures of the plastic waste island the size of Texas. Or, heard the news that Cape Town is out of water. And, we’ve all had friends or family taken way too soon from some cancer that was once rare, but has increased exponentially.
Real Food Doesn’t Come from a Box
Maybe more of us are teaching our children that real food doesn’t come from a box and that single use plastic is not a sustainable option. Maybe we’re all learning to get our hands in the dirt more and sometimes walk barefoot, look at the sky instead of our phones, consider what we put in and on our bodies actually does make a difference.
We created Lady Farmer to demonstrate, educate and inspire you in your personal expression of sustainable simplicity. We also offer sustainable choices in clothing and lifestyle products. Please visit our website for a wealth of resources and information, and our online shop for sustainable shopping! While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter so you can stay updated on all of our latest news and offerings, including the print edition of our soon- to -be- released book, The Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living; Creating Sustainable Simplicity Close to Home.
Healthy, hearty winter meal preparation is simple with these “real food” staples on hand.
What is “real food”?
Real food is organic, seasonal, fresh, non-processed ingredients. Local is best, of course, but getting things fresh from closer-to-home is more of a challenge in winter, so when our neighboring farms are in low supply we do okay at small organic markets.
Here’s a shopping list* of things we try to keep in stock for a week of deeply nourishing soups, stews and suppers that keep us going through the cold months.
Real Food Shopping List
- Whole pastured chicken
- Beef Stew cubes (grass-fed)
- Soup Bones (grass-fed beef, foraged pork, pastured chicken feet)
- Pastured Eggs
- Fresh root vegetables–carrots (purple or red for more nutrient density), parsnips, turnips, beets, rutabagas
- Other seasonal vegetables-sweet potatoes, orange and purple varieties, white potatoes, cabbage (red and green)
- Greens (kale, chard, dandelion, spinach, lettuce)
*Some Real Food Shopping Tips
- Look for “pastured” eggs and chicken, if possible, as opposed to organic, free range, or cage free, all of which are misleading labels.
- Choose the loose vegetables over the ones in plastic bags, boxes or containers.
- Choose the carrots with the tops still attached. This usually indicates they are more fresh.
- Resist the urge to place all of your produce into separate plastic bags. Just put it all directly into your shopping bag and you’ll love not having to deal with the annoyance of all that plastic when you get home.
- Check out this blog for a lot more information on real food shopping, and optimizing nutrition when buying from the supermarket!
Below are meal suggestions for the week using these ingredients. You may of course want to supplement with bread, rice, pasta, cheeses, etc. as desired.
Real Food Daily Menu Suggestions
Roast the chicken (basic recipe here) with carrots, potatoes, garlic and onion. Add beets, turnips or other root vegetables tossed in olive oil if desired. Serve a fresh green salad with your meal. Remove all meat from the bone and whatever is left over from your meal refrigerate for later use. Place the chicken carcass (and the chicken feet, if you have them) in a slow cooker, cover with water, add with a quartered onion and two celery sticks cut in half, salt and pepper. Cook on low for 12-18 hours.
When cooled, strain the broth removing the bones and vegetable matter for the compost. Cut up onion, celery, garlic, carrots and chopped cabbage, cook in the bottom of a soup pot in plenty of grass-fed butter until tender. Add the broth and let it cook on low for 2-4 hours. Enjoy your soup dinner and store leftovers in the refrigerator to eat later.
Start your beef broth by placing the bones in the slow cooker just covered with water and adding onion, salt, celery and any other vegetable scraps. (Here’s the authoritative book on broth!) Set on low and let it cook for 24 — 36 hours.
Chop up mixed greens and add the leftover chicken for a light supper.
Strain your beef broth early in the day and let it chill. Save the bones in the refrigerator. 2-3 hours before your meal, brown the beef stew cubes in butter with onion, garlic and a little flour. Stir in chopped celery, cabbage and any root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas or potatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Remove the beef broth from the refrigerator and take off the fat that has formed on top .When vegetables are softened add the skimmed broth to the pot. Cook it all together slowly on a low temperature a couple of hours or until meat is tender.
Serve leftover beef stew or chicken soup with a chopped slaw using the red cabbage, what’s left of the green cabbage, chopped celery, onion and a grated carrot. Mix together and dress with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt to taste.
Early in the day, start another batch of beef broth with the bones you used earlier in the week. For your evening meal, saute several cups of fresh spinach, kale or chard with some chopped onion in a skillet on the stovetop and whisk 4 eggs in a separate bowl. When the spinach is nearly cooked down, add the eggs to the skillet and stir until they are cooked and blended with the spinach. Season as desired, sprinkle fresh cheese on top and serve.
Cool and strain your beef broth. You’ve already removed the fat so you don’t need to chill it this time. Start your dinner by using any leftover vegetables you desire and slow cook them in the broth. When the vegetables are tender, take an immersion blender and partially puree the soup so that it’s thick and chunky. Serve with green salad if you still have greens left from the week or any leftover slaw.
So there you have it, a full week (or more!) of fresh, nourishing meals made from simple ingredients straight from the earth! Whenever you’ve eaten through all of this you can go shopping and repeat the menus, mixing them up or varying them in any way you want, or of course adapting your own favorite recipes to real food ingredients.
You get the idea. No plastic, cardboard, cellophane, preservatives, additives required–no factories involved and ideally, minimal distances traveled from ground to table. In our way of looking at it, eating locally and simply is an important aspect of slow living because it’s supporting better health, less waste and a more sustainable food supply.
Interested in learning more about slow living and the sustainable lifestyle?
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The season of celebration and festivity has begun, and with it a blast of cultural messaging telling us that it’s time to get busy and buy lots of things! Meanwhile (here in the northern hemisphere) the light is waning, the plants are shifting into dormancy and animals are going into hibernation. Nature– our nature– tells us it’s time to go inward to seek respite and restoration while the voices of commerce would have us believe that peace and joy come with going out and shopping. While we know that’s not true, avoiding it altogether usually isn’t practical.
Celebrations and gift giving are true expressions of the heart — but the real and meaningful behind it all is too often entangled with consumer habits that drain our energy, our resources and our joy. We experience this conflict in our minds and our bodies and end up exhausted. So how do we navigate this season where nature, our traditions and our consumer culture are pulling us in so many different directions?
In recognition of Black Friday and all that it stands for, here are some suggestions for keeping the buying in balance.
A Guide for Slow Shopping
- Think about the holiday traditions and activities that bring you the most enjoyment such as planning gatherings, cooking, baking, gift giving, traveling, attending special performances, listening to seasonal music, etc. Make it a point to plan your time around these as much as possible.
- From the above, make a list of which ones actually require purchases.
- For instance, if you’ve having people over, take a good look through your cupboards to see what you already have before making your list. Challenge yourself to use things you already have to reduce what your have to buy. Consolidate your shopping trips and plan them during a time when you aren’t as likely to be tired or rushed.
- For gift giving, consider giving experiences rather than material things.
- This is a great idea for anyone of any age. Promise tea with a friend, an evening of Netflix with your teenager, an afternoon of making cookies with a pre-schooler. If the presentation is important to you or the recipient, you can cleverly gift -wrap a note of explanation!
- Be conscious of who and what you are supporting with your purchases.
- Think about materials, sourcing and labor practices and seek alternatives for those things that you feel don’t deserve your dollar.
- Try to observe when the outside noise of advertising and false expectations are draining your energy and joy.
- Focus again on the things that you know you love about this season and center your activities around those.
- Remember that The gift of kindness is free to everyone!
- Look for the beautiful, peaceful, and joyful expressions of the season and you will find them!
We’re intentionally having a slow holiday week with family, but we’ve curated some lovely sustainable, responsibly sourced lifestyle items as “slow shopping” choices for you. Look for them to be up in our online store by Wednesday. In the meantime enJOY this special time of year.
Lady Farmer Love,
Mary and Emma
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!
It’s still mid-summer, but the wheel of the year is turning, my friends, and it’s not too early to be thinking about fall plans. It’s so easy to get caught up and let time just fly by without slowing down to notice your life. That’s why we’re here, and we’ve got something very special planned for you!
Our Lady Farmer Slow Living Conference Retreat is November 9th-11th at Zigbone Farm in Sabillasville, MD, a beautiful mountain retreat less than 1.5 hours from DC/Baltimore and 30 minutes from Frederick. Our participants will be treated to a lovingly curated weekend of amazing workshops and awesome speakers, helping us all go deeper into the things that have called us into this community – sustainability, slow living, self care with journaling and affirmations, learning to live into your own inner seasons and cycles, and self discovery through nature immersion – preparing ourselves for the full and often demanding season that follows. Get an introduction to our presenters and what they’re offering here. In addition to an abundance of learning opportunities, the weekend will be a wonderful experience of friends old and new coming together to be nourished, restored and inspired by all things slow living, including ample time to enjoy this peaceful rural environment.
As for the meals, our vision of this event includes exceptional food that meets our standards of delicious, nurturing and sustainable goodness in every bite. We welcome Green Plate Catering to our gathering, a “Green America Gold” certified business which shares our passion for locally sourced, nutrient dense foods and zero waste. Remarkably, they are fully on board with our goal for a single-use plastic-free weekend! All of our meals will be farm-to-table (sourced from the farmer down the road!), organic, seasonal, and lovingly prepared with the utmost care for your enjoyment and well-being as well as the sustainability of the land, and shared communally in the green-built event hall.
In order to maintain a relaxing, community atmosphere where people can get to know and enjoy one another during this shared experience, the number of participants will be limited to less than one hundred people. So if this opportunity is speaking to you, please visit the Conference and Retreat page for everything you need to know and then sign up to join us!
We are so very much looking forward to seeing you there.
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.