Farm Update #1

 

News from the Maison/Made farm: We completed our first planting!

The last two weeks have been, well, busy ! We flew from NY to our farm in Burgundy in order to prepare the land for our first season as medicinal herb farmers. This past winter we planned and strategized what herbs we would plant and where, the potential manpower we would need, and whether or not to grow from seed or seedling, etc. But planning is very different from actually executing…

Aerial view of the garden before prep work began

Aerial view of the garden before prep work began

Because of the nature of the products that we’ll be making (high-performance botanical skincare products in case you’re new to the Journal) the most important features are the ingredients. Taking this a step further, what distinguishes any one ingredient from another is quality. In order to ensure top-quality ingredients, we need to make certain that we start the farm off on the right foot.

Discussing the plan of action with our "Garden Architect"

Discussing the plan of action with our "Garden Architect"

Having our own small piece of land to grow these botanicals is truly a blessing because it not only allows us to create them ourselves but also to do it according to the sustainable and ecological practices we believe in. As this is our first season, we wanted to begin by growing the core ingredients that will be at the center of the design of my formulations.

The quality and ecology of the soil, seeds, plants, and farming/gardening methods are therefore paramount to the core ideals of this project: developing vibrant and effective skincare products, and creating a space on this planet that, although small, brings life and vitality back to the soil and has a positive impact on the environment.

Thankfully, we were lucky enough to have help. My partner’s aunt is a life-long gardener who spends her weekends in her own garden in Austria, and who has spent decades perfecting her own methods for starting and maintaining herb and vegetable gardens. Thankfully, she had time off over the long weekend we were there and drove the 1000+ kilometers from Corinthia in Austria to the Maison farm in Burgundy bringing with her an assortment of seedlings and gardening supplies. What a saint!

A nettle patch growing wildly just beyond the wall of the garden

A nettle patch growing wildly just beyond the wall of the garden

However, the biggest asset that she brought with her was her wisdom. Having abided by the principles of biodynamic farming for years, with her help we were able to plan the bed layout and planting procedures using these principles . We’ll have a whole entry on Biodynamic Farming in the future, so we won’t dive into the details today, nevertheless we highly resonate with most principles of biodynamic farming as they represent what we are striving for in our beauty products: integrated, holistic methods of preparing botanical material to produce vibrant and potent skincare.

Milka, one of the residents on the farm

Milka, one of the residents on the farm

 

We conceptualize the farm as a single entity where our strategy strives to not only use dormant land to create life, but to do so in a manner that preserves, enhances, and extenuates the ecology of the land itself.

So… the first step was to survey our little “slice of life.” We walked in and around the garden, taking note of what was growing wildly on its own already, which was very helpful in understanding which herbs could grow well. We found Lemon Balm, Dandelion, Yarrow, Nettle, St. John’s Wort, Elder trees, and Mullein all thriving naturally without any help or intervention. We then determined the best location for our compost pile and nettle manure (more on this later) and where we could put the beds for our herbs.

Some of the nettle we collected for our nettle manure. This particular batch we cooked like spinach into a "cream of nettle"

Some of the nettle we collected for our nettle manure. This particular batch we cooked like spinach into a "cream of nettle"

There was a lot of work to do, to put it mildly. 1.2 acres looks a lot smaller in pictures and your mind than it does in person, and we immediately realized that we wouldn’t need to use the majority of the garden to accomplish our goals of the season. The goals for 2018 are quite humble in fact: we are experimenting to see which plants take to our soil and thrive with minimal supervision. This will allow us to determine which herbs we will grow next season in greater abundance. Of course we will harvest what we grow this year and test the quality of the herbs (including the creation of a skincare prototype 🤩), and this will give us valuable information for any adjustments we may need to make next year.

I think this is a good place to hit the Pause button! Later this week in Update #2 I’ll get into the steps we took to prepare our soil and how we planted the 14 herbs currently growing in the garden. Stay tuned! 👀

- Carolina