Sun Potion: What is your vision behind Be Here Farm + Nature?
Jared Pickard: Be Here Farm + Nature is the expression of a particular piece of land—our home—located on the top of Spring Mountain on the County line between Sonoma and Napa, California. This land is our lifeblood, and Be Here Farm + Nature is an attempt at sharing this life with anyone else who may resonate with it. Shockingly, most of the property and neighborhood was just severely burned in the Glass Fire, however, miraculously the home and farm survived. We escaped safely and somehow managed to bring the 2021 cosmetic line with us.
In an industry dominated by monoculture we are faithful to biodiversity, growing over 300 unique botanical varietals on our Biodynamic family farm, all by hand, and all without the use of any store-bought chemicals (including certified Organic ones). We produce our farm’s entire fertility program from scratch.
We believe that the lines drawn between food, beauty and wellness are arbitrary, inaccurate, and often detrimental. Our skin eats our cosmetics, our health and beauty is constructed out of the remnants of our foodstuffs—we see no reason why we should introduce preservatives, modifiers, stabilizers or any other such additives to either our foods nor our skincare.
This land and vision is important to us because it is how we are going to create the world we wish to see for our daughter.
For those unfamiliar, can you please share with us what biodynamic farming is?
Biodynamics is truly a practice that is about “direct experience.”
Meaning, while it is possible to follow some of the tenants of Biodynamics according to recipes and calendars, this misses the boat a bit. Biodynamics, to me, is the remembering of who we are—it is the reunion of heart, mind, soul and body between human and Earth as one being.
It is actually often easier to answer the question: What isn’t Biodynamic?
According to the USDA, less than 1% of total farmland in the USA is Certified Organic with the vast majority of farmland being dedicated to conventional agriculture. Meaning: chemical, petroleum, machine based monoculture agriculture with generally poor labor conditions.
Out of that 1% of land that is certified Organic, the overwhelming majority of it will be farmed “Industrially Organic.” Meaning: monoculture, machine, and chemically intensive (organic) agriculture oftentimes farmed on the next field over from that company’s conventional crop with identical labor conditions. This is what is typically sold as organic at the grocery store.
Only a smidgen of a smidgen of all US farmland is managed by small to medium scale organic family farms (the kind you might find at a farmer’s market).
Regardless of size, most organic farms develop and maintain plant health through a reliance on compost, crop rotation, biodiversity, and soil building as well as some combination of the following products as needed: synthetic (organic) fertilizers, (organic) pesticides, (organic) insecticides, (organic) fungicides as well as industrial byproducts of the factory farming system such as bone meal, blood meal and feather meal. Consumers of Organic products who assume they are sourcing the cleanest possible option might be surprised to learn that nearly all Organic cosmetics and food products are composed of ingredients that were grown with these industrial byproducts as their fertility source. Especially if you understand the old adage “you are what you eat”—the plants are what they eat too!
Using statistics published by Demeter USA (the certifying body for Biodynamics) .0024% of all US farmland is Certified Biodynamic (with the majority of that dedicated to wine grapes, not food or medicine). Even if we pad this number by assuming some other minuscule percentage can be added to this to account for other holistic styles of agriculture not captured by Demeter in this study, it is still safe to say only a very small number of acres in the US are currently being managed according to truly “beyond organic” standards. The global statistics are very similar to the American statistics. On a global scale we are not practicing very much regenerative agriculture. We view that as an obvious issue and it is the issue which calls our souls into action.
Biodynamic farming does not view crops as outputs and fertilizers and pesticides and such as inputs in some sort of “food making machine” known as the Earth. We view the farm as an integrated and whole living system that is not only interconnected within and amongst itself but is also completely inseparable from the environment around it —both locally as well as globally and cosmically. In Biodynamics we work towards realizing the optimal health of the entire system within which of course healthy crops and people will be the natural and abundant byproduct.
We saw you are growing over 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers on your biodynamic farm, which sounds incredible! Can you tell us about the farm, the terroir, and some of the magic that you are growing there?
In terms of terroir, we are growing (and living) in one of the most special places in the World as far as I am concerned, which is Spring Mountain, just outside of Saint Helena, California. Spring Mountain is a World renowned wine appellation (AVA- American Viticultural Area) famous for its blend of sedimentary and volcanic soils, abundant springs, and dynamic micro-climate. In fact, this ridgeline is the dividing line between the inland and coastal ecosystems, meaning that our farm resides within a constant gentle (and occasionally turbulent) weather vortex of sorts (topping out at 2325’ elevation). At this higher elevation our land receives far more rain than the region receives on average as well as more sunlight (thanks to the reflection off the Pacific Ocean just 30 miles west). In terms of magic, it is really magical across the entire property. Like I said above, we tend to the environment and magic arises within it. In terms of crops, it might be quicker to name the things we aren’t growing (yet!).
We are really excited about the new serum you are crafting from your garden’s bounty! What inspired you to create this offering and what is the intention behind it?
My wife Velisa (Be Here founder and partner) has been developing her own clean beauty products for many years and is a seemingly never ending wellspring of creativity and ideas when it comes to natural skincare. We became far more interested in food quality starting in around 2007 (which quickly extended to cosmetics, household goods, clothing, and eventually a new lens on all items we interacted with in general). Over time, as that passion developed, it did not require much digging to deflate our excitement around some of the products we had been using or consuming which were advertised as organic or as being well sourced. For example, a nice farm to table restaurant or clean beauty company might highlight a well sourced ingredient, but they might serve it with a slew of other lesser quality or more processed ingredients in supporting roles. To run with the food example, a humanely raised grass fed steak (or an organic eggplant) might be served with conventionally grown potatoes and onions, topped with conventionally grown spices, and cooked in conventionally grown highly processed oil. For a person who is seeking farm-to-table to avoid exposure to glyphosate or other industrial toxicants this might not be obvious to someone just beginning on their “food quality journey.” To us, these discoveries were life changing revelations that sent us down the rabbit hole of becoming our own source. It would be impossible to outsource the level of care and quality we maintain over our products from soil building all the way through to bottling.
This Summer Solstice Serum is all about protecting and nourishing our skin—and we are big fans, especially during these times. Can you let us know why the ingredients in this serum are so powerful and potent?
In my opinion, the answer to why any product—ours or otherwise—will be powerful or potent can only come down to five things: what, how, where, when and why the ingredients were produced. And so I think our product, like all products, is the sum of the answer to those questions (or in an ideal world the sum is far greater than the parts).
What? What are the individual ingredients that comprise the product? Each ingredient will have its own properties, and together as an ensemble the ingredients can have compounding or synergistic benefits.
In our case, the “what” is 7 time-honored botanicals all proven to provide dramatic skin benefit: St. John’s Wort, Calendula, Tulsi, Roman Chamomile, German Chamomile, Yellow Dock, and Gotu Kola. We take the flowers (grown on-site) and infuse them into Biodynamic olive oil (an ancient skin optimizer in its own right). The resultant elixir is otherworldly. I encourage readers to check out the detailed descriptions of each ingredient here.
How? How were the ingredients grown? Of course many cosmetic products feature synthetic ingredients, extracts, and the like, however, I am focusing on products such as ours that are using whole flowers. Were they grown organically? Were they grown conventionally? Were they part of the .0024% that were grown Biodynamically? Were they grown in a large field with machine cultivation or were they grown in a small plot, tended by hand? Were they watered with municipal water? Recycled Wastewater? A clean well or contaminated one? An artesian spring? Captured rainwater?
Where? Where did they grow the ingredients? Did they grow the ingredients themselves? Were they grown nearby, or on a distant farm? If the product is sold in the USA, were the ingredients grown in the USA or in another country? And what are the Organic standards in that country? If they are from a distant farm or country, how were they dried and prepared for packaging? Is it possible there is mold or other toxins as a result of this packaging and shipping? Many importers cannot maintain the level of quality control and sourcing that Sun Potion is known for.
When? If we are dealing in botanicals, how long ago was it harvested? Is your answer in hours, days, months, or—god forbid—multiple years (with the obvious exception of ingredients intended to be cured or aged).
Why? Why was an ingredient grown? Most of the time the “why” is because somebody wants to sell something, like a carrot or a head of lettuce. On our farm we are experimenting with what happens when we use human creativity, ceremony, ritual and effort to create the World’s most vibrant, conscientious, cleanest and health supportive products we can possibly imagine. And I like to think this “why” comes through to the end user.
When you combine the what, how, where, when and why for any product the potential for its potency and power should become self-evident.
How often should we be applying the serum and what is your favorite way to use it at home?
We happen to live in a very hot and dry climate, so we use it at least once if not multiple times each day, depending on what is going on. Our friend in Florida uses just a few drops at bedtime. That said, there are some general guidelines (link here to product page guidelines?). In addition to daily usage, I also use it on any sort of irritation (burn, sunburn, scrape, hangnail, bug bite, etc.). All of the botanicals are supportive in this regard.
My daughter (age 5) literally covers her body in it from head to toe. Thankfully, it's a small body.
My wife’s favorite way to use it is as the base for a homemade face mask. Every day she takes a bit of our serum and mixes it in a small bowl with a few hydrosols we distill here onsite (clary sage, lavender, lemon balm, rose geranium, etc—changes with the day). She takes the wet mixture and combines it with a variety of Sun Potion products: Bio-Active Honey, Moringa, Tocos, Anandamide, Pearl, and occasionally Rose Water in exchange for our hydrosols. Not necessarily every single one every single day, but that is the cast of characters. Occasionally there is a cameo from an avocado or some other edible ingredient. The mask goes on before her morning yoga routine and is wiped off after Savasana. Our little one often asks for a taste as well as her own mask.
How did you select the ingredients in this botanical blend and why?
A lot of it was chosen by the land itself. Meaning, for two weeks on either side of the summer solstice our property becomes dotted with tiny little yellow blooms known as St. John’s Wort (the famous natural antidepressant). Years ago, while traveling in Italy on our honeymoon, I came across a bright red potion from a rural artisan featuring St. John’s Wort and fell in love with it. Upon moving to California and discovering St. John’s Wort on our property, I set out to forage and I made my first solar infusion of St. John’s Wort in the summer of 2013. It was one mason jar in size. From there, each year we have continued to expand our St. John’s Wort infusion (eventually passing the baton from myself to our farm team...although it is still my absolute favorite summertime activity). With the help of our farm director we spent several years growing trials of different botanicals to see which would synergistically enhance the already powerful St. John’s Wort. Ashwagandha was one of our early choices, however the earthiness of it overpowered the sweetness of our Serum (we are developing a second serum featuring Ashwagandha and some other more earth/forest forward botanicals like Spring tips of the Douglas Fir tree). Nettle is another plant we treasure. Although the entirety of our 2021 dried Nettle stock just burned in the fire, our patch of freshly growing Nettle survived and we will be hoping to revive it for the Spring season.
In addition to Olive oil we experimented with other Biodynamically-grown oils such as hemp and avocado. One or both of these will be featured in our second product, No. 2 The Body Oil. We developed an early version of this product featuring avocado oil from the famed Apricot Lane Farm outside of LA, however, the rest of that oil was located in the now-torched Farm Lab. We are temporarily relocating down to the LA area while the land is rehabilitated and made safe for moving back to, and we are excited to visit Apricot Lane in person and order a new supply to begin infusing again this Spring/Summer. If we do not grow something ourselves (such as the oil), then we would only source from 100% certified Biodynamic growers.
As St. John’s Wort only appears during and around the Solstice we have named our Serum in its honor. In fact, we could not make it any other time of year if we wanted to. Despite the name, the Serum is beneficial for year round use, and in fact, based on traditional folk usage it might be most useful in the “non-summer” months when the sun energy has waned.
All 7 of the chosen botanicals in our serum have proven the test of time, meaning, they are not only well researched in scientific literature, but more importantly (to us) they have been handed down from generation to generation through folk tradition, ceremony and ritual. When ancient rituals are backed by modern science you know you have a winning combination.
Our family takes the age old adage “you are what you eat” to its logical (if perhaps extreme) conclusion. It is no accident that 100% of the ingredients in our face serum are completely edible. In fact, although it is not legally sold or recommended as an edible product I have in fact used it as salad dressing on more than one occasion with great delight.
What does it mean that your serum was produced through solar infusion?
Most serums are created through some form of artificial heat or pressure and can be completed start to finish in under a day. Others, like us, take a gentler approach, allowing their infusion to occur over a period of days or weeks. Our serum is produced through 100% direct solar infusion (similar to a traditional sun tea). To create the Serum we simply place the botanicals into olive oil and allow the glass jars to live out in the elements for one complete moon cycle. The only forces applied to the serum from seed to bottle are the pulsing rhythms of daytime and nighttime—this alone triggers the plants healing properties to release into the oil.
In this way we can say that Mother Nature herself has played the central role in creating our product—from presenting us with the perfect ingredients to finishing our bio-active infusions. We had several years of experimentation on which glassware worked best for the sun infusions. We need heat for this process but not necessarily light, so our first thought was to use large Miron glass jars (which block all light). Unfortunately, this did not work well (it turns out some amount of light is beneficial). We had of course tried clear glass as well. In the end we settled on large glass jars that are tinted dark brown for the optimal balance of potency and vitality in the finished product. These products (having been exposed to the elements like this) are now extremely stable. Although we recommend storing it in a dark place we never do and it lasts for 2+ years at least without any noticeable change.
You are good friends with Scott, founder of Sun Potion, who loves to visit the farm. Can you tell us how were you first introduced to Sun Potion?
Sun Potion was actually a part of our life for several years before meeting Scott, and it is sort of hard to remember exactly how it made its way into our home. I am not surprised, however, as we consider ourselves engaged and active students in the art of quality sourcing—if there is something we appreciate nearly as much as being your own source it is doing a really thoughtful job at sourcing from others (I view this as very difficult having seen what it takes to manage even one farm). Sun Potion is, in my opinion, is the industry standard bearer in that regard, which is why we are so proud to be offered in your collection.
After meeting Scott, we have become awash in everything and anything Sun Potion. I got a good laugh when visiting Scott’s home recently to discover that we have FAR more Sun Potion products on display on our kitchen shelf than he did on his (although to his credit, it is likely because he is always gifting them away to friends and visitors).
But to answer your question, Scott and I met at an unbelievable immersion experience hosted by RUNGA, which has impacted us both in very positive ways.
Do you have a favorite Sun Potion herb?
For my wife, it would probably be Triphala, which has helped her immensely with digestive discomfort. For my daughter, it would be the Prash (on a spoon, or on some of our homemade sourdough buckwheat bread). If not that, she would probably choose the Shea Butter Scott gifted her (which she treasures). For me, It would be the Ashwagandha Transcendent Elixir which I love adding into sparkling water. In truth though, it would be the new elixir Scott shared with me that I am not sure if I should mention it’s name as it is not publicly available yet—but it’s my new favorite, hands down.
Can you share some of the ways your family enjoys their time on Spring Mountain?
Here on the property, our pastimes include spending time in the farm, hiking the property, foraging for wild edibles, relaxing or swimming at the lake, enjoying a seemingly endless slew of movement, mindfulness, or art based activities such as: yoga, qi gong, tai chi, pilates, ELDOA, countless other unnamed movement practices, all sorts of sitting and active meditations, painting, drawing, crafts of all kind, experimenting with cosmetic and food products, raising our little one inspired by the principles of Waldorf education, and cooking up a storm. After the little one goes to bed we enjoy a good comedy (currently waiting for the next season of Curb your Enthusiasm or Comedians in Cars to be released—I guess we have a “type”).