Industrious Womyn: Farmer's Daughters
At Cushy, everything we do comes back to our passion for womyn, creativity, and community. We believe that as a collective we are made stronger, together, and that strength permeates into our individual lives, inspiring and enabling us to try new things, carve out alternative paths, and seek out new opportunities.
It is in that spirit that we introduce our latest series: Industrious Womyn. This series sets out to introduce you to womyn from different industries who are #slaying at what they do. From artists to entrepreneurs, we want to know who's doing what, why they're doing it, and we want you to know about it. Why should you care about these womyn? Because you are these womyn, paving the way toward a greater and more equal present and future using our innovation, ambition, and savvy. Because according to the US Department of Labor, womyn make up 47% of the American work force, yet we still have a glass ceiling to topple. Because we are still conspicously missing in large numbers in crucial places like Tech, Finance and Agriculture.
Which incidentally brings me to our first pair of industrious womyn that we'd like to introduce you to: Ashley & Chantelle Wagner, the Founders of Farmer's Daughters. I met Ashley and Chantelle in Santa Fe during fashion week, and got the chance to talk with them about their business and mission to bring fresh, organic produce to local establishments, educate the community on the rich agricultural heritage of New Mexico, and in particular, to their family - 4th generation New Mexican's who have been farming the land of Corrales for over a century. We sat down together to talk farming, starting your own business, and the philosophies that guide their practices.
It's ridiculously hot on the second floor of the incredibly charming Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe. It's June in New Mexico and there's a mixture of heat and humidity threatening to destroy what would have been a very decent hair, makeup and outfit day. I'm attending an event for the start of fashion week in Santa Fe and there are models everywhere. Everyone looks beautiful and clearly excited to be there. Struggling to maintain an acceptable level of body sweat in a social setting (which, btw is totally out my control), I make my way over to the bar for something cool when I catch a glimpse of a familiar face. Well, not a familiar face, but a face I've seen before, on my Instagram feed. Going through my phone, I quickly locate what I'm looking for: @farmersdaughterstv.
Run by Ashley and Chantelle Wagner, I started following their feed in late 2016 after seeing them in a behind-the-scenes picture of them filming a video, "Patch to Pie," for Thanksgiving. I liked that they were two sisters in business together, promoting something that was more than a job or even a career for them, but a family practice. But like a lot of what happens on social media, I continued to like their pictures when I would scroll through my feeds, but didn't get further acquainted with them or their business.
Patch to Pie
Ashley and Chantelle give a Thanksgiving tutorial
Wiping what was supposed to be a delicate sweep of eyeliner now turned dark under-eye smudges (again, so hot), I approach Ashley. Through the din of loud music, louder chatter, and ambient noise from the outdoor balcony, I manage to convey that I'd love to meet them somewhere quieter. Making our way down to the first floor of the gallery, which is miraculously cooler, we setup a couple of chairs to chat. After an exchange of pleasantries, I dig into my first burning question: how did you start this business?
"It's a funny story of how it all happened, actually," begins Ashley. "Our family has been farming in Corrales for over 100 years. I went away to school and got my Master's in Public Policy, and Chantelle became a CPA. I moved back home a year and a half ago, and I didn't know what I wanted to do after grad school. I started taking care of my grandpa, and getting involved with the farming business. Chantelle approached me one day and said, 'Hey, local restaurants and breweries aren't getting access to local produce, what if we started a business to source them? Everything has spiraled out from that moment."
Founder, MA, Entrepreneur
"Growing up in a family of farmers, we have always been required to work, ever since we were little kids," says Chantelle. "Whether helping out at the markets, the corn maze, or out in the fields, we've always been working and helping our farm. Given our experience and degrees, it was a natural train of thought for me to one day think, how can we sell our produce in other avenues? We started out by just selling our produce to local restaurants, breweries, and food trucks, but now it's totally evolved. Now we partner with other farmers to help them sell their produce, we do fun events and dinners, and we've recently expanded to include a new bath line that includes a beeswax body butter lotion and a goats milk and honey soap that we sell at the market." Ashley interrupts, "the ingredients in those products come from our farm, like the beeswax in the hand cream. Chantelle just got 20 hives. At the farm, we've always had beehives on our farm, but just enough for the family. Chantelle has taken on the role of beekeeper, a very unique hobby, so, it was a natural next product line. "Well, we have to save the bees!" says Chantelle, laughing along with Ashley and I. "They are dying everywhere, and why not? It's completely organic. "
Founder, CPA, Beekeeper, Entrepreneur
I ask them if they do any kind of outreach or educational programs for the community, and both eagerly rush to answer. "It's become the main focus of our business," says Chantelle. "We want to let the public know to eat local and buy local, we want to get into schools and source their produce for their lunches, teach them about farming, and get kids back into farming too, because that's something that we are losing. We are losing a connection to how our food gets to our plate, where it comes from. We're sort of controlled by these outside sources, so many don't really know how to grow their own food." "It's crucial that we know and think about what we are putting in our bodies!" says Ashley, "I think Chantelle can probably speak to this more, because she's all about no GMO and buying organic, but there's such a disconnect today. We'll bring kids out to the farm or out to the corn maze and show them tomatoes, and some think that tomatoes seriously come from Walmart, they have no idea that you have to grow a tomato. And so I think it's really important to bring people back to what it takes to grow their food."
I don't know what I expected when I asked Ashley and Chantelle to sit down with me. They weren't what I expected at all - they were more. More than popular public figures, more than a fun social account I had been casually following. They are leaders, entrepreneurs, creators, business womyn, growers. Sitting there with them, makeup finally reset, I ask them how they are leveraging their social feeds to grow their business. "We started to grow on our social following, and eventually photographers started reaching out to us to collaborate with them. So we are all about farming, but we also have this entrepreneurial side on our social feed that's led to us doing some modeling, and working with video. We have a gardening series for kids, we do a lot of tutorials, we really want to teach people about what we do and our mission" says Ashley.
Before I let these two go, I have to ask them one last question, the question I always ask at the end of my interviews: what advice would they give to womyn to live a more creative life? "Start growing your own food," Ashley says, "I know that sounds daunting, but start with a little herb garden in your kitchen, and learn about the growth process. It's so rewarding being able to add a little bit of fresh basil or parsley to your dish, and it will motivate you to want to grow and learn more." Turning to Chantelle, she responds simply, but poignantly, "Be authentic to yourself."
Stay tuned for the next installment of Industrious Womyn coming soon, featuring our newest Contributor, Lori Fierro! Visit our Creatives section to learn more about her and our other fabulous contributors!