We recently spoke with Aviva, owner and crafter of Apis Apotheca (link to external site), to learn more about her journey to opening creating natural skin care products and launching her own business. If you’re looking for a special gift for your Valentine, the Farm Store carries the full line of Apis Apotheca skin care products.
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of your company?
I started farming when I was still at Bard College (link to external site) and after I graduated in 2014, I became a Whole Farm Apprentice at Hawthorne Valley Farm. I got lucky to work with people I’m still friends with while I was there. It was a hard but transformative experience for me that put me on the path I’m on.
I’ve had life-long health problems. Farming both helped and worsened that, but I love it and knew I wanted to work with plants in some fashion. Even when I was at Hawthorne Valley, I was more interested in the weeds growing in the rows than the actual plants themselves, so I decided to go back to school for herbalism. I attended Arborvitae School of Traditional Herbalism, and then I launched an Indiegogo campaign to start an herb farm in upstate New York.
My plot has been in Germantown for the past three years, but I live in Catskill and love Greene County, so we’re about to buy a house with some land for a small plot. It’s amazing that with herbs a little space can go a long way. I can use an acre or half an acre and grow plenty to make medicine, utilizing permaculture (link to external website) and some biodynamic (link) methods. It’s been an incredible journey to run a growing business and a manufacturing facility.
What are your top three products?
Our Golden Milk emulsifying cleansing balm, Resin Restructuring Oil, and Dragon Balm are all very popular. The Dragon Balm is my original creation. It’s an oil-based cream made with whole plant infusions from my garden, mixed with Dragon’s Blood Sap from the Amazon. Dragon’s Blood Sap is a wonder substance that the indigenous peoples have used for millennia, and it’s something that comes from trees so it’s a good ingredient to source from the Amazon as it supports both the indigenous peoples who grow it and the ecological health of the region.
What gets you excited about going to work?
Everything. I’m basically doing my dream job. That’ll be especially true when I can walk out my door and have my garden right there so I can harvest fresh herbs and process them. I use old-school herbalism mixed with a bit of new science. I don’t exclude the new science just because it’s new, but I make sure it has a strong foundation in traditional herbalism.
Also, I think our generation is cynical about capitalism and what you’re supposed to do with your life. It’s been fun to prove to myself and to others that you don’t have to follow that narrative. What I’m doing as an herbalist is working.
What is your mission/vision?
We have a dual mission of raising ecological awareness and helping people with skin problems. We try to connect the threads of healing the soil and healing skin, which shows that everything is connected. The care we take with the plants and soil is one reason our products are so effective.
Do you have another go-to organic or natural brand and why?
Traditional medicinal teas—day in and day out. I don’t usually save enough dried herbs to make my own, so I rely on those bags.
What’s the greatest benefit the natural remedy/homeopathic movement offers the public?
The sector of natural beauty/natural skin care is made up of people who care. Most people don’t start it to make money, though they soon realize that they can make a living out of it. It’s usually started as a passion project, and the owners are concerned about sustainable sourcing and creating eco-systems that support their communities.
What do you think the biggest challenge to the natural remedy/homeopathic movement is?
One big wall for natural skin care companies is packaging. We all want to be zero-waste, something that’s very important right now, but there just aren’t options for truly biodegradable or recycled glass packaging.
Another danger is the obsession with bottom line that’s really destructive. All the small brands show that there is room for everyone in the field. People don’t often think about what it takes to get to the next level of old-school capitalism and how that will affect the planet.