Cherie is an organic farmer in rural Virginia who writes a beautiful blog, Renaissance Garden, writing about sustainable living, social justice, spirituality, and more. We met through the blogs and I hope to someday meet her in person!
What or who inspires you most? At this point in my life, it is my Quaker faith. The basic tenants of Quakerism are spelled out in the acronym SPICE – simplicity, peace, community, equality.
What do you turn to when you need strength? Reading quotes or biographies of my heroes (such as Rachel Carson, John Muir, Kathy Kelly, John Dear, Gandhi, Gloria Steinem, etc.) always encourages me. To hear about their struggles and to see what they accomplished is always a boost for me.
How can women best support and/or empower other women? Education, education, education. Education, both formal and informal, is the key to giving women the tools to make wise decisions and to succeed in attaining dreams. And it frees them from the cycle of male dominance that is so prevalent in our society. We need to encourage females to make education a priority no matter where they might be in life. Knowledge is power.
What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? My favorite plants are herbs because they have so much to offer and are generally easy to care for. I want to have an entire field of lavender some day since that is my favorite herb.
What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t? Writing in my private journal and my public blog are my main avenues of creativity right now. I also make aprons and will be selling them on etsy. I think it would be amazing to be able to do mixed media art.
In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? The beach has always been a place of peace for me. Since I now live so far inland, hiking is a nice substitute, although since we run an organic farm and have animals to tend, I don’t get to do that very often. And I love to spend time at home – there’s nothing like having a quiet weekend day to putter around the house.
Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?
Women’s Interfaith Fellowship – Over the years WIF has participated in a variety of activities from cleaning the dog pens at the local humane society to doing a monthly craft with women at the jail to applying for and receiving a grant to publish a cookbook of healthy recipes to distribute at our food bank.
Danita’s Children – I’m on staff at Danita’s Children, an orphanage in Haiti. During my years of living in Florida, I became aware of the extreme poverty and environmental degradation in that country, which was geographically closer to me than most U.S. states. I’m able to help raise awareness of the conditions in Haiti through organizing mission trips.
Grace + Main – G+M is a ministry that befriends and works with people who are homeless, have been homeless, or are at risk for homelessness. This organization is also one of the few religiously progressive ones in my area and refrains from passing judgment on anyone’s belief or lifestyle.
What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next? I’ve been focusing on my energy use. This means being more thoughtful when it comes to driving – “is this trip necessary?” – and being diligent about clothes dryer use and lighting. Next, I want to work on eating more seasonally and to move towards a vegan lifestyle.
Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why? Asheville, North Carolina. That is a town that “gets it.” They have several natural food cooperatives and restaurants carry local, organic, and vegetarian food. In Asheville you stand out if you’re not into environmentalism and sustainable living. The city is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and there are lots of opportunities to connect with nature. Now if I could just move it next to the beach…
What advice would you give to your younger self? It’s important to be who you are. Stick to your values, even when it’s difficult and you feel alone. You will ultimately attract into your life people who share your values. Besides, time will prove that you were right all along.
How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? There needs to be more genuine awareness of the consequences of our actions. We need to get beyond green washing and make companies accountable for the damage they do.
What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? Growing up in Los Angeles was a major influence. Back then, the air was so dirty that there were days we couldn’t go out to play. Unfortunately, over time I drifted away from my eco values. Then a class I took as an older college student helped bring me back. One of our assignments was to read How Much is Enough? by Alan Durning. Learning that Americans make up less than 5% of the planet yet use 25% of the resources was a huge wakeup call. The first “eco” thing I remember doing as a child is making a poster at school – probably for Earth Day – that included the old green and white ecology flag. Later, in my reawakening, my first step was to eliminate harsh chemical cleaners from my home.
How do you live simply? Two things that I think are the foundation of my quest to live simply are 1) to step outside of the consumer society by rejecting media (especially television and magazines) that encourage mindless spending and 2) to evaluate the purchases that I do make by thinking about how they affect my health and the planet. As a result, I try not to visit stores unless I need something. And when I do need something, I try to make the product myself, find an eco-friendly version, or eliminate it from my life altogether.
Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead