January 04, 2021

There seems to be something in the water here in Northern California. Even before the farm to table movement officially kicked off with Alice Waters's Chez Panisse, there has been an interest in local sourcing brewing on California's northern coast. Our founder sat down with T magazine to explore her approach to formulation, our San Rafael garden's ties to Chez Panisse, and how we use the farm to table movement as a guide when creating our products. We transcribed excerpts from the conversation below, and the original article can be found here.

 

From Northern California, Farm-Fresh Skin Care

A new group of small-batch beauty companies is continuing the region’s storied tradition of organic growing and local sourcing.
By Kari Mulvar
In certain parts of Northern California, cultivating edible plants — beets, rosemary, kale, lavender — is so central to the lifestyle that, as the Marin County resident Claudia Mata puts it, “It’s a rarity to find someone who isn’t growing their own food or herbs in their backyard.” With its moderate oceanic climate, nutrient-rich soil and free-spirited hippie vibes, the area — which extends roughly from Monterey to Siskiyou County — has long been fertile ground for landmark food and agricultural movements: organic farming in the 1940s, winemaking in the 1960s, farm-to-table cooking in the 1970s. More recently, it has also fostered an influential community of beauty entrepreneurs. Since at least the early aughts, plant-based brands have thrived in the region, offering potent formulas derived from homegrown ingredients and produced in small batches with minimal preservatives. Such principles, coupled with increasing and widespread interest in the kind of holistic living that many Northern Californians have been practicing for decades, have paved the way for today’s larger clean-beauty boom.

“When we started out, the organic food movement was well established in the Bay Area, but it hadn’t really caught on in the skin-care industry yet,” says Veronique Nadeau, who founded her nontoxic brand, Marie Veronique, in Berkeley in 2002. She cites the Berkeley-based chef Alice Waters's influential Chez Panisse restaurant, which has made eating locally grown produce deliciously appealing since its opening in 1971, as one of her inspirations. “I wanted to be the Waters of skin care — the idea has always been to make our products in small batches and to source locally,” Nadeau says. Soon after her line launched, others followed, including the San Rafael-based Juice Beauty in 2005 and, later, in 2014, the San Francisco brand True Botanicals and Napa Valley-based Vintner's Daughter. “It’s amazing how much of the organic skin-care movement was spearheaded by little companies that sprang up all over Northern California,” says Nadeau.

Now well known, these brands aren’t so little anymore. But others are carrying on the region’s grass-roots tradition. Mata founded Vertly, her CBD-infused-skin-care range, in 2017. The herbal-extract-centered line may be sold at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s but it remains dedicated to the ingredients and culture of Novato, a laid-back, rustic town nestled among rolling hills and wineries about 25 miles outside of San Francisco, where she creates her healing serums, mists and bath salts using crops from nearby farms. “I’m very hands-on, always touching my plants and inspecting them,” she says of her process. “This attention to detail is what we are most proud of.” And there are others like her, dedicated to honoring the region’s farming legacy while also using modern innovations in sustainability and green chemistry — measures that feel especially important in light of the recent wildfires — to produce powerful, highly effective formulas. Here, five small-batch brands that capture the essence of this wild, bountiful part of California.

The Bay Area herbalist Sarah Buscho had an auspicious start to creating Earth Tu Face, her skin-care line that employs California-grown food-grade ingredients. In 2008, she took over one-third-acre garden plot in San Rafael — to cultivate flowers and herbs for beauty products — that had once supplied the lettuce and fava beans for Waters’s Chez Panisse. (The soil, says Buscho, has good karma.) She now grows calendula, lavender and heritage roses there for her pore-refining Exfoliant Powder Mask ($72) and purifying Honey Mask ($52) and all her offerings are developed with sustainability in mind. Her healing Skin Stick ($34) is known for its stylish-yet-compostable tube, and her Passion Fruit and Yuzu Lip Balm ($25) comes in a zero-waste compact crafted from a seashell. Everything is free of harsh preservatives, and many formulas, including that of the immortelle-based Face Balm ($68), are free of water, meaning they’re “super concentrated with botanical benefits,” says Buscho, who also adjusts the brand’s offerings periodically according to plant populations. (A vanilla and peppermint lip balm is currently being phased out because “the vanilla industry is experiencing a reduction in yields due to climate change.”) This winter, she will introduce a new collection of botanical home and body mists — a first for the brand — that she hopes will help everyone “breathe a little easier.”





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