Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm

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!

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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.

Lauren’s Story:

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.

Why farming?

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!

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Amanda at Plow and Stars Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Amanda at Plow and Stars Farm

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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).

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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.

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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!

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Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home.

 

 

 

 

Natural DIY Bathroom Cleaning Product Replacements

Natural DIY Bathroom Cleaning Product Replacements

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Is your bathroom cluttered with dozens of plastic bottles, jars, tubes, and dispensers?

The bathroom should be a place that reflects calm, cleanliness and refreshment, but all too often the energy of the space is taken over with product chaos. Do you dread opening the cabinet when looking for something and rattling through the mess of half empty shampoos, expired medicines, mangled toothpaste and beauty products that didn’t work out?

Here’s a way to fix that.

Remember when we talked about how to reduce your kitchen clutter using these common household ingredients?

Guess what! They work just as well in the bathroom. See how many products can be replaced with these few, inexpensive items and you’ll have your salle de bain feeling like a spa in no time. All of these products can be purchased in bulk and stored in clear glass containers for clean, plastic, and stress-free storage.

How to use these easy homemade natural product replacements:

  • Use baking soda instead of toothpaste for excellent oral hygiene. Add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil for a flavor.
  • A small amount of baking soda on your fingertips makes a fresh feeling, gently exfoliating daily face wash
  • Vinegar and water in a glass spray bottle work well for surface cleaning
  • Lemon or lime essential oil makes a pleasant smelling disinfectant for the faucet and toilet handles
  • Baking soda is a great toilet cleaner
  • Baking soda and a few drops of the essential oils of your choice added to the bath water make a wonderful, relaxing soak. Make it deluxe with a handful of Epsom salts added as well.
  • Citric acid makes a great shower and tile cleaner. Mix it in a spray bottle with hot water and let it work its magic on the grout. Makes a great toilet bowl cleaner as well.
  • A cut lemon works wonders on rust stains around the fixtures and mildew spots on the shower curtain or the grout

How about all of those miracle creams, those solutions and ablutions and all of that make-up mess making you crazy? Check out Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home for all kinds of DIY beauty and hygiene product replacements.

So after you’ve rid yourself of all of your bathroom clutter and have your five ingredients lined up and ready to go, you can congratulate yourself for saving a lot of money (because you’ll never go back to the drug store habit) and making your bathroom a much more pleasant place to be. Now go take a soak and enjoy!

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Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Bloomsbury Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Bloomsbury Farm

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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For more of her farming journey, follow Lauren on Instagram & Facebook!

 

How To Have A Simplified, Sustainable Closet

How To Have A Simplified, Sustainable Closet

Ethical Sustainable Closet

As with so many things in our industrialized world, we have a problem with excess clothing. Most of us have way more than we actually wear. This isn’t just an issue in our homes, it’s a problem for the whole planet. Americans discard an average of 80 lbs of textile waste a year. What doesn’t end up in the landfill is often “donated” and shipped to other countries where it overwhelms local systems and disrupts local economies by removing demand for domestic products. As well-intentioned as we might be in wanting to pass along our rejects “to someone who can use it,” the truth is that in many cases we are sending our waste to be a problem somewhere else.

Where does that leave us in terms of trying to simplify our own lives and spaces?

Slow Fashion and a Sustainable Closet

Here are some suggestions for addressing clothing clutter and passing things along in a less wasteful way.

  • Refrain from buying anything new for a season and see how it feels. Do you find yourself lacking in things to wear, or do you find yourself using things you already have in ways you might not have before?
  • If some items have been hanging in your closet unworn through a full cycle of seasons, box them up, write the date on it, tape it shut and put it out of sight. It’s most likely that you won’t wear it again, but if you find yourself thinking “Well, maybe when I lose weight… or go on a cruise… or get an invitation to the inaugural ball…” and so on, ask yourself this– is it worth the aggravation of having it in the way and taking up your limited space until those things occur? If in one year you haven’t missed any of those things, get rid of it without opening the box. 
  • To move things out of your house, donate them as locally as possible. For instance, local church rummage sales and thrift stores are more likely to be visited by people in your area who can actually benefit from the clothing you no longer need and keep them out of developing countries or the landfill.
  • Shop at second hand and consignment stores to keep existing clothes in use longer. You will be saving money and keeping your dollars out of the fast fashion sector.
  • When you do decide to buy a new item of clothing, consider sustainable fashion brands that can account for responsible sourcing and manufacturing. You will likely be spending more per item, but this is an opportunity to evaluate the significance of cost. What does it actually mean when we say something is a good price? In terms of slow fashion, asking this question can give us a new perspective. In making this shift in your awareness and subsequently in your buying habits, you will be using your purchasing power to help establish a new consumer paradigm!

Slow Fashion + Conscious Clothing Brands

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Arden at Great Day Gardens

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Arden at Great Day Gardens

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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Thank you Arden!

For more of her farming journey, follow Arden on Instagram & Facebook!

 

Reduce Kitchen Clutter with 5 Homemade Natural Cleaning Products

Reduce Kitchen Clutter with 5 Homemade Natural Cleaning Products

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.

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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

    1. Vinegar
    2. Baking soda
    3. Lemons
    4. Citric Acid
    5. 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.

clean kitchen counters

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.

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3. Homemade pot and pan scrub

Baking soda mixed with water or vinegar to make a light abrasive paste.

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 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.

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5. Garbage Disposal/Drain Freshener

Half a lemon peel cut into half again and tossed into your garbage disposal will freshen your drain naturally!

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natural-cleaning-products

Slow Living: Reclaiming Our Time & Living Our Most Authentic Life

Slow Living: Reclaiming Our Time & Living Our Most Authentic Life

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Anna is wearing the Demeter Tunic from our Essential Collection! Available May 2018.

So what is “slow living”?

Why are people talking about slow living so much these days, and why is it important?

We’ve been exploring this a lot over the last couple of years, and we’ve been working all winter on the Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living with the goal of sharing what we’ve observed and learned and to invite all of our followers to the discussion. Here are a few excerpts from the introduction to give you a taste of what’s to come. We’d love to hear from you with ideas, questions or comments on this evolving topic.

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Slow living means many different things to different people, no doubt, and we won’t attempt a definitive explanation here. What we offer are observations for reflection and discussion, practical suggestions, information sharing and perhaps some gentle guidance stemming from our own thoughts and experience as residents of this planet who are inclined to ponder such things.

Our own understanding of slow living has to do, quite simply, with making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources, and taking a step back from the industrialized systems that have come to provide our daily needs. It’s also about observing our own consumer habits, where and how they intersect with quality of life and perpetuate an unsustainable paradigm…

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The difference is in how we choose to spend it…

In recent decades, time and money are two things that consumers want to save over anything else, giving rise to the attraction of convenience, the almighty “bargain,” fast food and fast fashion.  How and when these perceived shortages became such a driving force in our society is probably beyond the scope of this discussion. The truth is that we have the same amount of time as did our ancestors and our grandparents. The difference is in how we choose to spend it…

As we have come to understand it, the slow living choice to feed and clothe ourselves closer to the source doesn’t necessarily take less time or work or money. In some instances, it might take more.

From the standpoint of growing food, when we’re planting and weeding the garden plot and trying to keep it all going through drought, and at the end of the summer when our cup runneth over with wonderful things from the garden that need to be harvested, prepared and preserved— life is not “slow,” as in “leisurely.” There is a huge amount of effort and energy involved. Yet, it is the choice we make over driving to the supermarket and buying packaged and processed food that could be on the table and ready to eat in no time.

We call that slow living.

Likewise, the slow living choice for clothing that has not been produced at the expense of the land, our water, another human’s well being and our own health certainly will cost more in terms of dollars and cents. The reality is that clothes that are made from responsibly sourced materials and well-paid workers are rare, expensive and simply not accessible to many within the current paradigm.  But awareness is free. Anyone can learn that there are other options to the prevailing system of oppression, pollution and poisons and that it can be changed if enough of us refuse to participate.

Thomas Berry, cultural historian and twentieth-century visionary sums up what he believes to be the “Great Work” of humankind as we move into the new century. It is “to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”  

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We can do this, each and every one of us, in small ways, in seemingly minuscule decisions, in the example we set for those around us. We don’t have to be loud or preachy, or “holier than thou.” No single behaviour is going to be right for everyone. We all got here together even if we came from a thousand different directions.  The way out is with individual changes, but the ultimate paradigm-shifting changes will be collective.

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, and to find our way back to a right relationship with the true source of our nurturance. We want to see ourselves apart from mass production and consumption, hear our own voice inside the noisy torrent of information and seek out the things we truly value. In that space, perhaps, is the essence of slow living, where we reclaim our allotted time on the planet and create our truly authentic lives.

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Pictured is the Persephone Dress from our Essential Collection! Available May 2018.

What does slow living mean to you?

Please share in the comments below!

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The Art of Slow Living

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Eva at Heartstrong Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Eva at Heartstrong Farm

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Eva is a young and beginning farmer growing produce, flowers, and herbs in the Piedmont of North Carolina, along Highway 64 near the town of Staley. She currently owns and operates Heartstrong Farm by herself, marketing mainly through a CSA as well as local farmers markets. The farm is Certified Naturally Grown, and she grows with permaculture and biodynamic methodologies in mind.

Her path in the soil began while volunteering and worshipping at St. Mary’s Convent in Sewanee, TN. After helping to grow lavender there for Thistle Farms, she was inspired to pursue more experiences in the soil, leading her to WWOOF on a permaculture farmstead in New Hampshire, and then on to other gardens and farms in Tennessee, North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.

Her varied experiences in those climates and communities inspired her to pursue her own farm operation, Heartstrong Farm. We asked her a few questions and here are some highlights from our conversation.

Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –

Simply put, I do what I do for love. When I first came to working in the soil, I was dealing with a lot of internal hardship and found that the more I literally grew, the more I inwardly healed. My heart became stronger through working the earth, sowing seeds, and harvesting the resulting abundance. The land is so giving, if we do her justice, we receive delicious produce, beautiful blooms, healing medicine, clean air, fresh water, biodiversity, and so much more. I also grow for and because of community. I really believe in the community supported agriculture model of farming, as food is a way to connect with everyone – across all lines. Everyone has to eat! So, as I prepare the soil and seeds for the 2018 harvest, my inspiration is definitely my CSA membership, my farm family.

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Slow living to me means presence in action. It means feeling the soil as my hands are in it, hearing the peepers and hawks as I work outside, tasting the richness of earth through root veggies and brightness of sun through supple greens, and enjoying the process of a hard earned pickle or fermented kraut. I do think generally in this life we move too fast – even in the things that bring us joy. So, in my work and in my play I try to really pay attention, learn, and enjoy through my senses. I forget where this quote comes from, but it’s powerful – there’s no need to rush, all will still be waiting. Go slow.

Lady Farmer to me means a woman in the world cultivating the world she believes in. I believe in an environmentally sound community driven local food system, and that is what I strive to cultivate through my farm. I feel that my role in this community has been to connect others at the table, through a shared love of cooking, good food, old stories, the land, and a growing fondness for each other. My role here ties into my vision for the broader world of a connected and natural food system, and I really do believe in thinking globally but acting locally. There’s so much good work to be done everywhere.

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Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers

My advice to aspiring lady farmers comes from a prior mentor of mine Sylvia Davatz – the real work is in doing. Ask the questions! If you have an idea, ask others about it. If you need land, put out an inquiry. If you need some financial support, share your project. I have been absolutely blown away by the resources, land, and communal support that has been made available to me as a result of asking, sharing. People certainly have a desire to bless others, so if you can … pursue apprenticeships on farms, access books on the kinds of operations you’re interested in, and connect with others doing the work, I really think you can make your farm dream happen. That’s how it happened for me!

Who inspires you?

My mother, Alice Waters, the Sisters of St. Mary’s, Rep. Chellie Pingree, all my inspiring lady friends – farmers and otherwise!

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Thank you Eva!

For more of her farming journey, follow Eva on Instagram & Facebook!

 

More planning, less plastic (#goals)

More planning, less plastic (#goals)

Just last week, I was on my way home from a meeting and knew I had limited time there before moving onto the next thing. I was STARVING, my lack of meal planning on both the breakfast and lunch ends had me kicking my low-blood-sugar self. Worst part was – this wasn’t a particularly isolated event. It happens more often than I’m proud of. Am I the only one?

For some reason – I don’t think so.

It seems to me that our go-go-go lives/mentality make it easy for us to skip meals left and right, depend on snacks (usually in single-use packaging) and eat out more often necessary, leading to inefficiencies all around as we waste time, money, and nutrition due to lack of planning. I don’t mean to generalize. I’m a single, freelancing/entrepreneur-ing, social, busy millennial who can “get away” with this lack of planning since no one else is depending on me, but for those with circumstances that match my own I’d say the meals prepped & prepared are few and far between.

I’ll also take this opportunity to say that I am in this buzzy way trying to promote my own brand that celebrates *slowing down*. The irony never escapes me, particularly since I have to face my lack of planning with my aversion to plastic and other waste-full conveniences like single use packaging. It’s a journey – a constant learning in being aware of our habits and how they affect what/how we buy. I’m grateful to Lady Farmer and our mission for forcing me to think about these things and change (even if ever so slowly)!

So – back to my low blood sugar car ride home. I remembered a sweet neighborhood grocery and prepared foods store where I could get something relatively healthy and also quick…I could pick it up then eat it at home in my limited time. I even had my reusable steel to-go container in the car with me! I was winning. I pulled into the lot and proudly grabbed my tote with my zero-waste supplies, and entered the store excited to blow everyone’s minds with how resourceful I was. The display of plastic to-go containers and tops waiting to be filled made me feel especially pleased with myself.

When I asked the nice woman behind the counter if she could please put the seared salmon in my container along with some roasted veggies, she looked back at me wide-eyed and worried, not sure if she could do such a thing. I internally eye-rolled as she got her manager, who (somewhat abrasively) told me that it was against policy but she would be nice about it just this once. She said something about it being against health code which I immediately wrote off as untrue, because how could it be? I did not understand why everyone was so upset, I expressed my gratitude, and merrily went on my way, kind of confused about why it had been such an issue but also – again – feeling very pleased and proud of myself.

As I thought about in on the rest of my drive home, however, it dawned on me why it could be a health code violation. Thinking about it from the producer’s standpoint, it occurred to me that they’re liable for all kinds of things from food temperature to food container contamination…and upon speaking about it with a few folks I know in the food industry, I realize that is, in fact, the main reason why it is ILLEGAL (at least in our state) to fill your own zero-waste container at a prepared foods carry-out counter. Isn’t that infuriating? Like – it makes sense – I’m sure something happened once that was awful and I’m sure the rule does keep a lot of us from getting sick. So not only do we have to fight with our own organizational challenges and reliance on the plethora of single-use conveniences around us at all times, but it’s actually AGAINST THE LAW to do what we’re trying to do (in this case, avoid plastic) because it’s deemed unsafe!

Jeepers. It sure bugs me. Especially since I completely understand both sides of the issue.

All I can conclude from this experience, my friends, is that there is serious work to be done. And perhaps the issue runs deeper – that maybe the entire industry of convenience, of prepared foods, of single-use experiences and items, of things that take little time and thought on our part, are actually causing the world harm and costing us more money than we can even be aware of.

So does this mean I must become expert meal-planner and packer extraordinaire? Ugh. OR – we could all just move to France where “convenience” and “to-go” are not words that you see often grouped with food. They plan, prepare, sit, and enjoy food there with one another, above most other things including buzzing about for the sake of busy-ness.

The likelihood of a French move or overhaul of our gastro-culture makes me realize I should probably just face the facts and look to change some of my own habits.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated here 🙂

love,

Emma

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This image as well as the featured image on this post are from @lifemadelight, a great zero-waste instagram account! The container I use is the exact same as the one pictured here.

 

 

PS – Please comment with your thoughts & observations! This is one of my fav conversation topics right now. I’d love to hear what the internet has to say.