Rachel Stephens of Sweet Woodland Farm
Photography: Jeff Schultz
“Organic sustainability holds value in all my past and current work.”
Rachel Stephens was born and raised on the East End of Long Island where she currently owns and runs Sweet Woodland Farm. Rachel has an educational back round in horticulture and work experience as an estate gardener and wholesale plant nursery manager growing everything from prized cut flowers to organic vegetables.
"We are blessed to have all that the earth has provided for us and we must take great care as to not disturb what was here before we came along. We are grateful for this piece of ground we live on and are devoted to keeping it clean and as unharmed as possible. The condition of our soil, water, and air make an impact on our health as well as the woodland life we share. Whether it be the heirloom seeds we plant, the native berries we forage, or the vegetables that we preserve we must strive to keep our food safe and pure so as to nourish rather than harm ourselves. We feel organic and sustainable practices are instrumental to the survival of our species as well as all other creatures of this beautiful earth we live on."
Rachel strongly believes in the body's ability to heal itself and practices natural, self care with the aid of herbs and herbal remedies. Influenced by the stars and rhythms of nature she was guided toward the path to herb farm production, and crafting her line of herbal healing products.
In addition, she currently serves as the President and Agro-Ecology director of a local non-profit organization, The Ecological Culture Initiative's mission is fosters a resilient, ecology-based coastal community through advocacy and education in sustainable food production, wellness, and environmental stewardship.
Sweet Woodland Farm's Land Ethics
Sweet Woodland Farm grows medicinal and culinary herbs using mindful, earth friendly practices. We work to regenerate the depleted, and over cultivated soils of the farmland we steward using cover crops, straw mulch and organic compost to enrich the soils; the living, breathing force in which our crops grow.
Soil, NOT DIRT, is made up of sand, silt, clay and organic matter such as decaying leaves, twigs, and animal parts (bones, feathers etc.). It holds nutrients, micro-nutrients, micro-organisms, an intricate web of fungi, and probably many things we haven't yet understood. Years of abuse has left most of our soils depleted of nutrients and at Sweet Woodland Farm we work to replenish and restore the foundation of our farm field. We do this while observing and mimicking how nature has done this since the beginning of time. She (Mother Nature) has figured out how to protect her creations, taking them through the life cycles and the cycles of the year's seasons. A tree will produce leaves, feeding itself through the process of photosynthesis, using a complex combination of the sun, soil minerals and water to grow and reproduce. Its leaves will fall to the ground where they lay and breakdown, feeding the soil and the tree's own roots. A brilliant form of self-reliance. Most gardening and farming practices involve removing old plant matter, cleaning and sterilizing the land, but Mother Nature tells us that she wants to protect herself using decaying plant material and "weeds" to cover, protect and nourish the precious life forces within the soils.
Our rows are created one time using zone tillage and then layered annually with organic compost and straw mulch. In between the rows we seed white clover which protects the soil from erosion and fixes nitrogen. The clover's flowers are an important food source for our native pollinators, and European honeybees. We maintain the integrity of the farm by leaving our unwanted "weeds" and plant clippings right where they were removed, a permaculture method used and shared by Ruth Stout, adding to the layers of decaying plant materials and mulch, just as Mother Nature has taught us.
Sweet Woodland Farm's herbs, berries and medicinal roots are hand harvested and barn dried on location. We offer them individually and in our hand blended herbal tisanes (teas), salves, syrups, tonics and other value added products available for purchase in our FARMACY and local farmers markets.