~rediscovering the joys of gardening in 2013~
A freshly-made batch of arnica and comfrey salve sits on the kitchen counter; additions of ground cayenne in the oil infusion and white camphor and turmeric essential oils will help to relieve pain, stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation, respectively. Salve is one of my favorite things to make. I love the process of infusing oil with medicinal herbs, and all the wonderful smells that fill my house. I feel like a witch with a bubbling cauldron—minus the eye of newt.
My path to studying herbalism has been a meandering one… even one that I have repeatedly avoided, to be honest. I moved to Santa Cruz 14 years ago, and have felt right at home here since I set foot on West Cliff—which is a surprise for someone who couldn’t seem to live anywhere for more than a year all through her early twenties. I considered myself a nomad until I found my home in Santa Cruz.
14 years ago, I would not have told you I wanted to be an herbalist. Although my roots are in a 40-acre homestead in Washington State, I would have said that herbalism was too “hippy-dippy” for me: something Santa Cruz has changed. I thought that kind of thing was all well and good for others who wanted to do it, but I studied photography and international relations in college and saw myself traveling the world for the rest of my life.
A few years later, I began making my own body care products, both because I didn’t want to use chemically-laden ones and because I couldn’t afford to buy the expensive natural ones all the time.
Then I rediscovered my love of plants when I started a garden during my first semester of grad school. It was so overwhelming, in fact, that I chose to drop out of grad school and study horticulture at the local community college. And this is when my connection with herbs began. Plant people will often tell you that certain plants speak to them, and for some reason herbs kept calling out to me.
While I was still in grad school I had formulated a plan around selling the natural body care products that I’d started making for myself and friends, teaching others how to make their own, and eventually establishing a community garden and learning center. In May of 2015, I started phase one of the process: selling my natural body care products.
Verdant California’s mission is to create products that harness the healing powers of plants as simply as possible, using the purest ingredients available. My products are made by hand at my home, using botanicals that are local, wildcrafted or organic. My homesteading childhood instilled in me a love of nature and a belief in the connectedness of all things. When something is good for your body, it’s good for the earth (and vice-versa). I am an ongoing student of herbalism through The Herbal Academy and my own self-guided studies.
The Santa Cruz community has been incredibly supportive. I’ve found various maker’s markets to sell at, and many local businesses have been warm and enthusiastic about selling my products. Selling wholesale has been the biggest game-changer for my business—you can find me on the Faire platform, which has helped me get my products out into North America, at verdantcalifornia.faire.com. I also plan to teach more workshops in the area and of course, I sell online here through Shopify.
And someday, maybe someday, I’ll just open that garden and learning center.