On sustainable farming, the collective biome, and what the beauty industry can do to help save the planet
I often find myself out in the field where all of our flower medicines are growing, asking myself "why don't more people choose this life?" I think the answer lies in not knowing how to start. Perhaps there's a fear of getting dirty, tired, of bugs, of heat, or of losing control of your surroundings (which you never truly have when you're 'in nature'). As a former city girl, I can safely say facing those fears was what saved my life. Always sick and tired growing up from an undiagnosed autoimmune disease and being surrounded by concrete, at 19 I was inspired by a friend to explore farming-- it had never before occurred to me as something that humans actually participated in anymore, as a career path that even existed. I'm not sure what I thought the process was behind the food on my plate I grew up eating, but I never thought it was something that was worth examining-- let alone something that had the power to open the world up to my eyes in a way I could both understand, and be in awe of.
I began apprenticing (the farm world's term for 'unpaid-but well fed intern') on different organic and biodynamic farms. I learned how to milk sheep and cows, how to grow the most beautiful vegetables, and how to work harder than I thought was possible! I learned what it meant to sleep well, exhausted but fulfilled, happily sunburnt and veggie fed.
What I didn't understand until a bit later in my farming career was that my microbiome began changing the second I stepped foot onto a farm, and dug my hands into the soil. The plants, fungi, and animals were all exuding biochemical signals that float around, stick to you, enter your lungs, and cover your food- effectively repopulating and overhauling your delicately corporate-food destroyed bacterial biodiversity- and changing it for the better. (2) I literally had to get covered in cow shit (which happens when you're milking cows in a hot barn at the height of summer) for my lifelong debilitating allergies to disappear. There is a very hype comeback at the moment of an old Japanese practice called 'forest bathing'. It is, to put it simply, going for a walk in the woods. The forest does the same exact thing as the farm does- but with different plants: it's exhaling its own bacteria onto you, for your own special benefit. Floating spores, bacteria, and negative ions (3) all work together to re-ground and reconnect you to a sense of peace and calm on a bacterial level- which, as is well established by now, is akin to an emotional level (re. gut-mind axis) (4)
There's no place for squeamishness if you want to fully dialogue with the world around you in a fully sustainable way- because in truth, we all have to learn how to take responsibility for what's been done to the planet, and in my opinion that means participating in where your food, medicine, and even skincare comes from! It means getting dirty!
What the beauty industry can do to help save the planet (a passe term at this point I know, but I refuse to give up hope) is to take a lesson from the food industry- go LOCAL and organic, and use the beautiful plants, oils, and other ingredients that are available and fresh in your area. We make bio-regional skincare at Apis Apotheca which is that much stronger and more effective because we believe our local plants have a greater capacity to solve the problems their local people face! They are the ones on the doorstep, in the field next door, or out in the garden listening to us and most closely connected to our daily thoughts, worries, hopes, and routines. Either growing plants yourself or supporting local organic growers can go a long way towards sequestering carbon in the atmosphere, and creating a space where even bigger dreaming can happen- which is necessary to take us into a future where we can listen to the earth around us, and not try and yell over her and each other.