On the Ethics of Buying (and Farming)

As usual, another book has fallen into my life right when it was supposed to, and it has been so revolutionary and validating to me that I had to really give thought how to best share it with you, my friends. It has been so precious to me that no blasé post like “Heyyy, you should read this” would cut it. No Facebook Live video could adequately endorse it.

Are you ready?

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Yes. The most life changing book of the year so far is entitled “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, a most perfect title to be laughed off or dismissed. But truly, do not judge a book by its cover. Joel Salatin drops some major truth bombs on his readers. It is a non-secular look at farming practices juxtaposed with modern-day corporate greed, and why (especially as Christians) we are called to something more dignified.

Why has this affected me so profoundly? Firstly because I have already radically altered my diet, at the recommendation of psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, to no longer include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, dyes or preservatives. For someone battling anxiety and depression, these things in our food products will exacerbate the problem. And, on top of that, so will sugar and gluten (and sometimes dairy). I wasn’t about to argue with her about why, although she makes the reasoning perfectly clear in her book A Mind of Your Own. I was just going to take her advice and have faith that it would all work out. Every page in the Marvelous Pigness of Pigs reinforces this decision, and even uses scripture to say ‘hey, all that weird crap was not God’s original intention when he made plants and animals available for our use’.

Luckily my mom raised me on organic crop shares before that was a thing. Like, pre-Whole Foods and health-fad days. We weren’t allowed to buy Doritos and Gushers (although, I’m not going to lie, as a kid I would raid my friends pantries for these gems). So knew the inherent value in making these switches. But even then, when I was pregnant in my second trimester and facing gestational diabetes, and my midwife said I could control this with diet and to immediately cut out sugar, dairy, and wheat, I remember that feeling of panic and profound loss. I literally had tears in my eyes. I was pregnant and in love with ice cream. What she was asking of me was a gargantuan feat… but it was ultimately to protect the health of not only myself but that of my unborn child. I made the adjustments and had zero further gestational diabetes scare. We had a healthy homebirth where our beautiful, 10lb. healthy baby boy arrived.

But as soon as possible I went back to eating crap. Because change is hard and the way I went about it was unsustainable. I was just holding out for the day I could devour baked goods again. This really took a toll on my postpartum body, which had amassed an extra 70lbs. The weight wasn’t coming off, I was still reliant on antidepressants, and not at 100% due to a lack of real nutrition and exercise. It was unsustainable because the way I viewed the things I put in and on my body didn’t change.

When I became seriously convicted to heal my body and recover from antidepressant reliance, that’s when the paradigm shifted. It wasn’t about cheat days. I now respected my body and my mission so much that food no longer had power or persuasion over me. It felt like a religious conviction. I will no longer defile the temple of God with adulterated personal care products, food items, makeup… all of the things we have long never even considered the quality of.

Cue Joel Salatin and his wonderfully validating book on exactly what I was feeling. We are called to something higher. My intuition knew that. Our current model, our current culture of consumption, is not working for us. It is ruining our health and happiness. It is enslaving us. God created us to be free. He also told us to protect what is Holy, and we as His children, fall under that category.

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Because, Beyoncé. 

Along with my dietary changes Kelly Brogan pointed out all of the toxicants in our everyday products, from over-the-counter pain relievers and antacids to kitchen utensils (non-stick pans, anyone?) to cleaning products to hair and skin products… she said everything that we use on, in or around our bodies had the opportunity to support our body systems or disrupt them. And most of them manufactured to us today fall in the latter category. So I threw all of it away.

I needed something to replace these products, however, because everyday ailments still happen: indigestion, headaches, skin irritation, cuts and scrapes, acne, etc. I mean, the products were created to fill a need after all. I’m just no longer willing to tolerate their unintended side effects. Instead, I tapped into the multifaceted world of essential oils, a beautiful bounty that God created for us from the get-go to use, and immediately learned everything I could about maximizing their benefits. I had a few good friends from a homebirth group that I really looked up to for their family’s wellness, ethics and the way they lived their lives who already used Young Living. So after three days of badgering one of them (Sara, bless her heart, put up with all of my ignorance and aggressive skepticism) I finally bit the bullet and went all in. I haven’t looked back since.

Not only did I find products to reinforce my wellness goals — to stay off of my antidepressants, stave off regression, build up my immune system, support my body holistically — but I found an amazing body of people who believe in the same things I do: integrity, transparency, honesty, empowerment, helping one another, building community, financial independence. PLUS Copaiba for teething. Do I even need to say more? What tired mom doesn’t want the safest product possible to help with teething woes? I was so all-in, I couldn’t get more all-in.

By the way, a happy unintended consequence of doing all of these things has been dramatic weight loss. My jeans are falling off of me. But for the first time in my life it really doesn’t matter that much to me because vanity wasn’t my goal. Wellness was.

Reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs reinforced my decision to become brand-loyal to Young Living, to remove all toxicants from my house, to support ethical farmers, my local farming network, and to do what I can as a farmer myself. It was just seemingly written for this exact moment in my life. I just marveled at every page as I read. Which, by the way, he supports all of his theories with scripture.

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Here’s the thing. There are so many cross-references between being a rose farmer and working with Young Living… because whether you’re aiming to grow the best rose bush possible or bottle the highest quality essential oils, or provide the healthiest, happiest cut of meat for families to nourish themselves with, farming is farming. That’s why Joel’s message spans my entire personal ethos right now.

As steward’s of God’s creations, mankind has a pretty awful track record. We often forget that we are called to be caretakers, and the bottom line begins to encroach on the original mission statement. As a farmer-entrepreneur I know this precarious dance well. You must make money in order to stay open, to provide your talents and treasures to your market. It can’t be a purely altruistic endeavor. But at the same time if you are so tunnel-visioned on profit that any responsibility to your client goes out the window for the sake of your own gain, it’s a lose-lose. I find that mode spiritually unsustainable. You might rake in the money, but at the end of each day you have to lie in the bed you’ve made. I’ll take hard work over money riddled with guilt any day.

When I was researching essential oils, the ethics of Gary Young as a fellow farmer immediately spoke to me. Just like in my horticultural industry, where there is no standard for “best and highest performing rose bush”, there is no across the board standard for therapeutic essential oils. The only quality promise is that from the company manufacturing the products themselves; their ethics and protocols.

That can lead to a big quality control problem in a capitalistic society. Where in the words Joel Salatin in The Pigness of Pigs, where “amoral science and pure capitalism exists, caretaking and nurturing do not.”

So where you are using your almighty dollar to purchase your products supports the morality and ethos of the company you are investing in.

Caretaking and nurturing are high on my list of qualities I want to see in my famers, whether they’re farming roses, essential oils, fruits & veggies, meat or cheese. These are all coming from living creations. They are not and were not ever meant to be manufactured on a conveyor belt, crammed into warehouses and forced to overproduce. These creatures — even something as “simple” as a plant — are phenomenally complex, with so many invisible, behind-the-stream ecosystems working that if you really stopped and thought about it, it would blow your mind. In fact, Joel goes into more depth about just how mindblowing these systems are, just to drive home the point that EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THE PIGNESS OF PIGS (okay, I’ll stop).

I’m just saying, there’s a reason shepherds — the caretakers of the precious animals these communities depended upon — were at the birth of Jesus.

The way these plants are genetically selected, planted, harvested and ultimately distilled really matters. On my farm, the quality of soil, the quality of the water, the hands-on techniques, the fertilizer, even the enclosure that my roses are grown in all matter. My clients trust me to deliver what I say I will — a quality product. They are all welcome to tour my greenhouse and grill me on how we get these results because we have embraced a business culture of transparency. We are just the custodians of our client’s roses. They deserve to know why they’re the best, if they truly want the answer.

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A picture in our greenhouse at Roses Inc. Check out more pics of our family farm on our Facebook page, Roses Inc. Green Country.

But let’s be honest. Most people aren’t interested in a 101 course on horticulture, and they also don’t know the difference between Lowe’s or Walmart’s roses and mine aside from cost. They’ll see it in how the perform, but often only after they’ve invested time, money and hard work. I try to spare them any disappointment by delivering what they’re actually looking for: the highest quality, performance-oriented rose bushes that appeals to their specific needs. Some smell good, some are disease resistant, some climb, others create award winning vase-worthy roses. All will do well in this climate, and all adhere to my standards of quality. No governing body imposes these standards on my nursery. I created and imposed them upon myself based off of a “do unto others” mentality. That, and, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

As my client’s go-to authority, that is my responsibility. If I do my job well, it ends up paying off financially, but the financial incentive is not my first priority. It is a pleasant consequence of hard work. As an entrepreneur I do focus on my margins and how to improve them without compromising quality. But as a farmer, a friend, and a responsible Christian, quality will always come first.

People will either trust this about my business or they won’t. They’ll either take a chance or they won’t. And the fruits of my labor are self-evident. This is our fifth year in business, with excellent customer retention, beautiful time-tested roses in our client’s gardens and a happy staff with a low turnover rate. But I can’t convince anyone that I’m not swindling them. And I’m not going to spend copious amounts of time defending myself in that way.

I see these same things circulating around Young Living and what Gary and Mary Young have professed to believe in and do. He said from the get-go, his intention was “to make a product for a purpose and not a profit”. Again, the fruits of hard work (and an awesome product) is profit. There is no shame in making money. And the way that he has structured his company has created tremendous bounty for all within in, from corporate and customer service employees, to independent distributors like myself. He treats his people well, and the fact that they have been the global leader in essential oils for 30 years pays homage to that fact. Just like my farm couldn’t operate with a sub-par product or an unhappy staff, Young Living understands this concept as well.

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So let’s talk Seed to Seal quality. I haven’t come up with a pithy slogan like that to represent the quality assurance my farm undertakes. Maybe it should be “Bareroot to Bucket”. In any case, this is YL’s promise that they will do what it takes to yield the highest possible maximum chemical constituency within their essential oils. That means therapeutic grade oils across the board with zero exceptions. Just like if there’s a poor performer in my greenhouse, it won’t go out to market, it will be “culled” and thrown away. YL’s oils are grown, harvested, distilled, tested and packaged all on site. Nothing leaves that place without it meeting Gary’s standards.

Why is any of this important? Because if you care about the quality of plants going into your garden, how much more should you care about the products you are using in, on and around you family? What about the food or supplements you’re ingesting? Make no mistake, these things DO matter. They effect so much more than you are aware of at the forefront of your mind. Your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness relies upon the foundation of safe, sound products. Our government has absolutely failed us when it comes to the protection of our families in this area. We must be our own front line. I am now the gatekeeper of my home. This goes so much deeper than just hanging in there on a crash diet, waiting for a cheat day. This is my vocation as a mother and wife. I take it very seriously.

So lastly, let’s finish with an example. Cypress essential oil. Hemostatic and wonderful for the circulatory system, rubbing a few drops over the heart promotes good blood flow. It is also known to detox the lymphatic system, and may help reduce water retention. What does hemostatic mean? Let’s just say if you have some rough and tumble kiddos you may want to keep a bottle of cypress in your pocket, especially as they play outside in shorts. Look up “styptic” essential oils. Cypress is just one of many.

But here’s the thing: if Cypress is over- or under-distilled even for an hour, you can lose a massive percentage of the chemical constituents that make it therapeutic. Which means everything I just wrote in the last paragraph is now null and void if the manufacturer doesn’t respect the plants or the process, and do what it takes to make a truly quality batch of oil. Distillation is a complicated technique, by the way — that’s why I don’t manufacture rose oil at my rose farm, a suggestion I am often given!

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I would also go as far to say that if you’re buying from a company that has made their profits off of the hard work of other people, that bad juju extends around whatever they offer. I cannot, in good faith, support organizations that have done or still do bad things. Supporting immorality, even with your buying power, is still supporting immorality. As a business owner who has been betrayed by partners before, I cannot, in good conscience, support businesses who have paved their way in that manner, no matter how good the products are.

If you’re interested in learning more about Young Living, trying the products or getting involved, don’t let fear hold you back. You don’t have to come out of your oily closet just yet, but reach out to me or whoever planted that seed in your heart, and ask them about it. Begin the journey. You can always turn around if you find that it doesn’t suit you, but I have yet to meet that person on the oily endeavor. If you want to bypass any awkward encounters with me, here’s my link to see the starter kits for yourself.

So, yes, when you buy essential oils through me my family benefits financially, just like when you buy whatever from Target or Walmart, their corporation benefits. Your buying power has a direct effect and a wide ripple effect on everyone involved. I implore you to be more intentional about who gets your money and why. Not everyone truly deserves it.

Sending much love and positive vibes to you this day. Now go invest in “The Pigness of Pigs”!!!

Sidenote: The guy in the featured photo of the header is Gary Young on one of his global farms. You can more often than not find him at his distilleries or in the fields with his workers instead of jetsetting and fraternizing with celebrities, even though his income certainly allows for it.

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