From Farm to Face
The Cultivation of Herbs from our Farm for your Face
Good ingredients are incredibly important to good skincare products. A good analogy is with food: the better the ingredients are, the better the meal is. This is particularly true if you are making holistic skincare cosmetics, which are formulated based on the properties of the individual ingredients in order to make a more effective, whole product. When you’re dealing with botanical ingredients, the quality of the plant material becomes a crucial factor (whether its for a carrier oil, an essential oil, an infusion, a maceration, or a CO2 extract). Not all calendula is created equal, just like not all coffee is created equal.
The relationship a formulator has with her suppliers is also extremely important. What ingredients do they offer? Is what they write on their website accurate? What kind of product files do they provide? Do they store their materials correctly? Do they add any preservatives or additives to them (spoiler - in some cases they should definitely add a natural preservative that complies with the organic cosmetic regulations)? How many farms do they collect their ingredients from and do they mix them together? Through my research I came to the conclusion that there isn’t a single supplier that could deliver every ingredient I needed, which meant I would therefore have to rely on a network of suppliers.
But then, what if I could control this supply chain and grow the ingredients myself? This would be ideal, but I can’t grow, dry, and process all of the elements I need from my East Village apartment in Manhattan. All of nature’s raw materials (and its compounds) are products of their unique environment and this can’t be reproduced just anywhere, let alone the fact that each botanical ingredient needs to be processed differently.
Last summer, I was with my partner on his family’s property in Burgundy going for a stroll through the forest, talking about the history of where we were. His family has owned these lands for a long time and because it’s Burgundy, they have always been involved in agriculture. Yet, over time the property has primarily become a vacation spot for his family based in Paris. He had always wanted to do something with the land.
That’s when it hit us: WE should use the land to grow the ingredients! We could not only grow the plants and herbs I need, but also run the farm according to the best practices of sustainable agriculture and make a contribution to the local economy, both of which are important to both of us.
And so we started planning! What herbs would we grow? How? When? How much of each? What kind of investment would it require? How do you get Eco-Cert certification (ie European “organic” certification)? We had so many questions that we were thrilled to find the book by Jeff and Melanie Carpenter, The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer. They themselves run a medicinal herb farm in Vermont in the US and have been doing so for almost two decades, accumulating a wealth of knowledge. With myself focused on formulating, he is now focused on farming. Side-note: neither of us are farmers. It should be entertaining...
This summer will be our first year growing and we chose plants that have amazing qualities for skincare formulation. We will be testing a number of different herbs and plants to see how they grow, how they handle the soil, their quality at harvest and when dried, and begin to build the appropriate infrastructure for drying, processing, and storage. We will be updating you on what happens so I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing and hearing about two city-dwellers taking on a full-on medicinal herb farm. 😬