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OUR STORY

our-straw-bale-house

Our story of how we grew our Eco sustainable business.
My Husband Gregg and I , together with our daughter Gemma, live on our 5 acre farm in our self-built straw bale home in beautiful Wyndham in the Bega Valley area on the NSW Far South Coast.

A life long dream finally became reality, as a family to live a eco-friendly, sustainable life and produce an income that nourishes our mind, body and spirit and leave only a small footprint behind us.

The land we needed had to be suitable for Mediterranean herbs and also Aussie medicinal herbs as well. Many Mediterranean herbs need many hours of sub zero temperatures to re grow the next year and also harsher environment effectively create an abundance of flowers, which are often the main source of the herb plants used. We also needed a good water source, non contaminated by large surrounding farms though not to isolated for we still needed a strong community to be involved in.

We found our piece of paradise, situated at the foothills of the snowy plains, bordered by national parks and lush with pristine soils and creeks. This provided the perfect foundations for our family-run eco business and new home. Gregg, a qualified carpenter, and I built our straw bale home powered by a large solar system with a solar hot water and solar bore pump, complimented by a slow combustion stove for providing warm meals and hot water, minimizing our family footprint every step of the way.

Following traditional Permaculture and Organic practices, we grow not only organic medicinal herbs for our business, we also farm small-scale sheep, chooks, ducks, have planted over 200 fruit, nut and berry trees, as well as grow enough vegetables for ourselves and friends.

A bore-water irrigation system and solar powered pump works efficiently to keep our plants and animals watered year-round. We are also committed to regenerating our land for the future, with a few acres along our creek frontage under re-vegetation in conjunction with Land Care, doubling as a wildlife corridor.

At first whilst I studied herb culture, we grew organic vegies and herbs, selling locally with the goal to sell dried medicinal herbs to manufactures of skin care and also manufacture an organic food range, for I was a retired chef. When our baby girl arrived Gemma, it quickly became apparent that she suffered from a very dry skin condition from her neck to her scalp. The doctors opinion was cortisone which I refused. I researched and found calendula ointment to be a good starting point to help keep the dry skin moist. So I started studying topical naturopathy which lead me down the path to a mentorship who handed down recipes from 9 generations, and thus Saarinen Organics was born. I loved making and learning about creams and herbs, it was exciting, new and the business just grew naturally.

Now well and truly committed to our health and that of our animals, plants and land, it was time to put our knowledge, skills and philosophies into practice with our all natural skin care range. From the ground up and every step of the way, we ensure purity in ingredients beginning with the most basic of all, capturing all water used in our products in a food grade stainless steel rain water tank.

Lucky for us locavore living is well and truly alive in the Bega Valley with as many ingredients as possible purchased locally if they are not already being grown at our family farm. Honey and bees wax is from Tony Bee, Lavender essential oil from Mt. Darragh Lavender, fresh chillies from Disaster Bay Chilli to name but a few.

Having studied herb culture and a naturopath mentorship, I have taken ancient toxin-free recipes handed down through the generations and perfected over time to bring you the best of what nature has to offer in its purest, simplest form. All products are hand made right on the farm and kept fresh by, you guessed it, a solar passive cool room housing our products and ingredients.

Products full of integrity, hand made with love, and with the health of both you, and the environment at the centre of it all.

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Fertilizing on our Permaculture farm.

Fertilising on our Permaculture farm.
Its ALL about fertilizer and it has to be sustainable.

Over the 15 years we have been building up our Permaculture farm, the biggest cost we found was buying in fertiliser for our 100’s of fruit, nut and berry trees and shrubs. At first we bought organic pellets, we spread preparation 500, blood and bone, seaweed, fish emulsions and local sheep poo buy the trailer load.
All these things were great start ups tho just not economically sustainable when we are talking large scale. SO of course we started up our worm farms and composts, still there wasn’t enough to go around. We cut the tussocks and mulched though again it wasn’t enough to go around so we had to buy in hey.

Finally we have fertilizing nailed with 2 systems.

System 1 – In the orchard we have muscovy ducks that love a bath tho aren’t water bound, so we were able to set up a cow trough and we harvest their liquid fertilizer via gravity feed down the hill through a poly pipe and feed the trees. The Ducks also have very large poop that are nitrogen high and feed the trees as well. They eat the grass and the fallen fruit, this system has very little input from us now, we just empty the duck bath once a week and give them grain in the morning. In fact we have chairs in the orchard that we sit and just enjoy watching them potter around while we munch on apples. We now have a goat and 2 sheep that eat the tussocks and keep blackberry under control.

System 2 – Outside the main fruit orchard all other fruit trees we grow comfrey under, this way the comfrey leaves die and compost under the trees, keep the weeds down and they fertilise them with pot ash, magnesium and calcium. We also give each 1/2 a wheel barrow of pony poo only once a year, so under the trees are teaming with worms creating little ecosystems that feed the tree with very little input from us.
It took a while to get it right with poo. At first we had the little mini ponies, tho they couldn’t be let out in the large paddock because they would founder so we had to lock them up and buy in dry hey, not sustainable. So than we tried a couple of big horses, they soon stripped the place and feed had to bought in, again unsustainable, We finally found that 2 x 10h ponies work for our land, they can be let out into the big paddock and we haven’t needed to buy in hey for a few years now. All our beds only get pony poo, straight on, no composting, we have a great poo picker upper that goes on the back of the mower that picks up poo, we pile it up and wheelbarrow it in the garden with ease. YAY!!!! sustainable at last.

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Our children’s future choices, are our choices we make today.

Gemma

“What i do now, what i show my child now, will depict what choices she will make for herself in the future”
On our Permaculture farm, where we grow our herbs for our all natural, eco skin care range, i often think of our daughters future.
I often see the caption “children see, children do”
Our daughter is constantly dressing up and running through our garden, she sees us working, harvesting food and herbs.
I want to teach her about eco choices across the board, products that care for the environment and her body as well.
We grow our herbs on our ECO Permaculture farm and manufacture from scratch incorporating local and certified organic ingredients.

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WHAT IS BEAUTY TO YOU

Gemma-and-graham

WHAT IS BEAUTY TO YOU
Beauty to me is
Clean and healthy skin
Clean teeth and a smile
Clean and healthy hair
Clean and healthy food
Clean words and thoughts
Clean clothes
Clean and healthy on the inside.
I want to teach my daughter that wanting to feel beautiful doesn’t mean to over coat your skin with makeup or fear wrinkles, skin that is clean, shiny and healthy is beautiful.
Health and beauty radiates through clean healthy teeth and smile, so brush them every day and laugh often, there is nothing more beautiful than a face with character, with lines of laughter, love and life.
Clean and shiny hair simply brushed up in a pony tail, neatly trimmed, is far more beautiful than hair sprayed and torched for hours each day.
To eat clean healthy food you will be a nice healthy weight and you will glow with health of shiny hair, nails and skin, your breath and teeth will naturally be beautiful.
Clean words, there is nothing more ugly than harsh words and anger, stand up for yourself tho there is need to be mean or gossipy, you will be admired loved.
Clean clothes, dont worry about the fashions of the now, as long as your clothes are clean and feel comfortable to you, believe me girl when i say to you, a clean potato sack will look good on you when you are clean and healthy.
It is so ok to play in the garden and get covered in dirt,
it is ok to play in the sea, your hair full of salt and sand,
it is ok to cuddle your favorite chicken at the kitchen table
and go wading in the dam knee deep in mud to harvest reeds to weave your bags, this is not ugly dirty dirt, this is clean dirt you can wash off.
Ugliness is the dought we carry to needlessly be knee deep in dept to cover ourselves in fashion and paint. Ugliness is anger and mean words and thoughts, drugs, smoking and fast food are the ugly dirty dirt you cannot wash off.
Glow naturally, age naturally and cleanly is the most beautiful and kind thing you can do for you.
Saarinen Organics.
All natural skin care, to help you glow naturally from seed to skin.
www.saarinenorganics.com

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Why we called our business “Saarinen Organics”

With our big banner up at the markets,”Saarinen Organics” customers often stop and ask “Is that a Finish name?” or “why Saarinen Organics”

Well this particular decisions is a bit of a love story, I know, I know, the first rule of business is to make decisions with your head not your heart, Our buisness name is all about my hubby, for “Saarinen” is my husband Gregg’s surname, with the origin of Finland, he is the second handsome generation in Australia.(Tall, blonde, blue eyed and yummy!!)

Ok so there was a little bit of business in there for the Saarinen’s have a very strong background of architecture and carpentry, infact my husband is a licenced carpenter and so is his father, funny enough Gregg’s sister even married a carpenter, that’s a very strong family gene!

The name Saarinen has links with Eero Saarinen, the very famous architect and is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture. There has been a surge of interest in Saarinen’s work in recent years, including a major exhibition and several books.

Eero Saarinen first received critical recognition, while still working for his father, for a chair designed together with Charles Eames for the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition in 1940, for which they received first prize. The “Tulip Chair“, like all other Saarinen chairs, was taken into production by the Knoll furniture company. ( I tried to buy one for my hubby, though alas to expensive for this little black duck) He went on to be part of the Sydney opera house as well as many famous buildings.

Annnnd this is where it gets soppy!

I often am referred to as the owner and founder of Saarinen organics, as for the part of the creams, yes this is so, though it has been rather a joint Business effort. With Gregg’s amazing skills, we have been able to create a little slice of paradise here with our straw bale home, store shed, processing room, paving, retainer walls he has done all with his bare hands and a little help from me. As the business has grown he has built buildings to accommodate it with class and style using environmental friendly building resources where he can. Therefore i wanted to honor Gregg’s major input in our business by naming it after him. Awwwww kiss, kiss.

We are definitely a team, I am the main gardener, manufacturer and harvester while he builds the infrastructure, all the irrigation and fencing as well (we only got a professional fencer in a little while ago to help due to time) Gregg also is the muscles in our operation loading and unloading and setting up at markets. Unpacking deliveries, sending things off, we defiantly share the workload that is for sure oh and yes he is often knee deep in the washing up when its time to manufacture (still don’t trust him to lable yet!!)

So there you go, a team we are, the man behind the woman, with his strength and love, together we have and are building a dream together, without my Mr Gregg Saarinen, i don’t think i would be where i am today, and i am lucky that he says the same thing about me.

Love him to bits and love being Mrs Saarinen (apart from when he leaves the toilet seat up of course)

 

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When pharmacists look to herbalists – the turning point in all natural skin care

Today I received some fantastic feedback from a customer recently, and it represented a turning point in all natural skincare.

The feedback was as follows:

My mother who is 91 with dementia had swollen legs & cellulitis developed leg ulcers – I visit every day & put on the calendula ointment to the ulcers & legs – it worked fantastically & they are almost gone now. I was a little hesitant at first because she has very sensitive skin – I thought you would be interested. As a pharmacist I had a whole pile of stuff on hand but full marks to your wonderful ointment. Thanks!

With all the products this pharmacist had on hand, developed for specific treatments with complex scientific formulas, our own calendula ointment grown on our family eco farm and manufactured in my on-farm studio worked a treat.

But you can buy calendula ointment at any pharmacy, right? 

Yes. And have you noticed what colour it is? White. And do you know what colour the calendula flower is? Beautifully bright yellow! Stunning yellow, in fact, from the marigold family.

So what happens to calendula ointment to turn it white? The only way to achieve a crisp white cream is using clear oils, essential oils and adding a lot of water to the emulsifying wax to create that white colour. This means that the products aren’t made with herbal infusions, tinctures or whole oils which are coloured.

Pharmaceutical products tend to offer short term relief, without really getting to the root cause of the ailment. As a result, the problem often comes back ten times worse and is much harder to treat. Now you may think it’s all a conspiracy to keep you buying more, but it’s also a about the need for additional synthetic ingredients to reduce the cost of manufacturing and to help stabilise such complex, volatile products for long term shelf life and storage. It also comes down to, as you’ll read below, our expectations as consumers and what we’re conditioned to seeing.

Herbs are potent and powerful plants. They have wonderful healing abilities. Herbs and herb oils are too strong to use directly on your skin and they do need to be used in conjunction with other carrier oils and ingredients. Somehow, those wonderful healing properties of the herb need to make its way into a convenient and absorbent product to use on your skin.

So what’s the most effective method?

Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts using alcohol as the solvent. Tinctures extract both the water soluble and alcohol soluble chemical constituents from the plant. Tinctures are fast acting on the body, and they also have a much longer shelf life than highly volatile oils.

Infusions are herbs steeped in lipids such as natural oils or liquid waxes where the properties of the herb are transferred to the oil.

Essential Oils, on the other hand, are extracted using either steam distillation or by solvent extraction. Solvent extraction often uses chemicals such as hexane, acetone, di-methylene-chloride and more in order to extract the essential oils from the plant. It’s popular because it increases production volume and takes far less time than other methods of extraction. But it opens the flood gates for all sorts of skin sensitivities.

And this is when you realise that learning to read and understand the ingredients list on the back of your skin care products is simply not enough! You must get to know your manufacturer and their methods.

Saarinen Organics spent four days at a health expo in Sydney last year showcasing our wonderful products to the world. I’ll never forget the feedback I had from one customer shocked at the colour of one of my creams.

“But it’s brown!”, she exclaimed!

“Yes!” I said proudly. Because it’s an all natural tincture. My herbal tinctures are all made from fresh herbs and therefore have that brown tinge. My aloe vera face gel is made from fresh aloe vera, and has a green tinge. My herbal infusions have either a brown or a green tinge. Because they’re all natural.

We’ve been so conditioned as consumers to expect that crisp, white cream that we suspect there’s something wrong with our skin care when it’s in its most natural usable form, untainted with toxic chemicals and not loaded up with water and emulsifying waxes. So much so, that it’s altering the effectiveness of skin care products. But when a pharmacist with a plethora of  specialist products on hand takes the time to offer their feedback on our all natural skincare, bright yellow and all, we know we’re about to reach a turning point. As consumers, we want to know that we’re buying products that actually work, not just products that look nice and clean.

 

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Is the Organic label the most important thing to look for in skincare?

We live in a backwards world where using chemicals to grow your food is viewed as ‘normal’, and growing your food using natural, organic methods as nature intended requires payment of exorbitant amounts of money for certification of such natural methods. In only 100 years, just a few generations, we’ve managed to change the status quo so much, that we’ve flipped our food system on its head. Madness.

You might have noticed a shift in recent years. People caring more about their food. Getting closer to their food. Perhaps those joining the movement are driven by a revolt against the ColesWorths duopoly in support of local, homegrown, food that helps our farmers and our health (and our taste buds). There’s been a rapid rise in Western world disease, illness, allergies and intolerances and an increasing number of chemicals in our food is doing us no favours. And that awareness is fantastic. It’s the first step towards positive change and seeing consumers begin to dictate to producers that they’d prefer to spend their money on the FARMacy instead of at the pharmacy is sending a powerful message in a busy world where purchases of convenience so often win against our best intentions.

What I’d love to interject and take the opportunity to do here, is to insert into the minds of consumers that your skincare products should be as much if not more of a consideration here as the food you eat. Depending on where you get your information, we’re either absorbing kilos of chemicals per year into our bloodstream through face, body and hair products; or there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about all the fear mongering. Well, as is most often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.

The skin does act as a protective barrier. And chemicals found in our urine may actually be a good sign that the body is excreting them. Our bodies work very hard to protect us against harm and fight off nasties. But should we be making the fight a little easier? We are all different. Absorption rates are different on various parts of the body. Different skin types, different seasons, skin disorders or dry skin, internal and environmental factors and the bazillions of different types of chemicals that we know not near enough about will all have a different effect on the individual. When it comes to the crunch, it’s not so black and white, we don’t have all the answers, and we just don’t know for sure how each individual will be affected.

Our bodies are complex, the environment in which we live is complex, and it seems that the ingredients list on the majority of skin care products is the most complex of all.

So if you’re of the mindset that prevention is better than cure, then going organic is right for you.

Which brings me to my next point.

Not too long ago, I ran a little survey by my customers. A focus group, if you will. And I uncovered something very valuable.

Knowing their manufacturer was more important to consumers than the Organic label.

Chemical-free and all natural are more important and more impactful considerations than an Organic label where different countries have different standards and not all organic products are created equal.

See, I started selling Saarinen Organics products at my local Wyndham Village Market. Where there’s no greater feedback as a grower and manufacturer than being face to face with your customers.

If there are any ingredients in Saarinen Organics products that I do not grow on my farm myself, you can guarantee I know everything about its origin. My lavender oil comes from a farm just down the road from Saarinen Farm, that I can visit any time, and see for myself that although they may have dropped the Organic certification due to the costs involved, their organic farming methods have not changed. My beeswax comes from a local producer that uses traditional methods to preserve the integrity of the product, and I can watch him in action with fascination and admiration at any time.

It’s hard to be a consumer. Marketers and designers are getting extremely clever at creating an illusion of an all natural product, though it’s undergone many a process to get it in the shiny pretty state you see in a department store. So to those consumers that have not met me at a Bega Valley farmers market or local event, this blog is where you’ll get to know me, and my products, inside and out. Because you need the confidence as a consumer to know what you’re buying, ingesting, absorbing; even if it’s all just to make the fight a little easier on our bodies.

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Water – the most overlooked ingredient in skincare

Stainless-steel-water-tank

This picture of a water tank may not look terribly exciting on the face of it, but let me tell you why you should be beaming as big as I am right now.

Liquid skincare solutions or creamy skin based solutions contain quite a lot of water or water-based infusions, our Saarinen Organics creams are ALL herbal infusion based. Unless your manufacturer is completely transparent, you wouldn’t know the origin of the water nor what type. It could be tap water for all you know and contain chlorine or fluoride or any measure of preservatives to prevent spoilage. Perhaps the skincare manufacturer is not even aware of what your water contains, as it’s not their priority or their ‘key ingredient’. Perhaps they’ve overlooked the fact that their “floral water” may not come from the most pure of sources or have been contaminated with chemicals or preservatives in the process from the company they buy it from if they do not make it themselves, as is often the case. Perhaps the containers it’s delivered in aren’t BPA free, and this chemical could be leeching into your products and into your skin, comprimising the integrity of the products you buy and use.

This is our stainless steel, food grade water tank. It captures fresh rainwater on the farm, the farm situated 200 metres from a beautiful National Park. It’s the water we drink from, the water we use to bathe and use to make our herbal infusions for our creams.

So you know exactly where our water came from. And you know exactly how our herbal infusions were made. And you know that the water used for our products is no lesser quality than the water the manufacturers themselves would personally drink.

It’s a highly overlooked ingredient in the manufacture of skincare products, as it’s the most basic and not the ‘active’ ingredient most companies wish to promote. But it’s in everything, and it’s hugely important. At least, when it comes to products of integrity.

I urge you to think about the products you use and consider that if you wouldn’t eat it, then don’t put it on your skin!

And admire our beautiful stainless steel, food-grade rainwater tank in all it’s glory!

It’s the little details that matter the most.