It’s summer, time for beach weekends, swimming, and just being outdoors- under the hot summer sun. It is a good idea to wear sunscreen every time you go out. In addition to preventing sunburn, a good sunscreen reduces your risk of skin cancer and keeps your skin young looking.
So let’s go to the drugstore and get some Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic, problem solved…. Or is it? Did you ever stop and think what was in commercial sunscreens? The vast majority contain two or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and octinoxate. Now there is a multiple mouthful!
Are they safe? That depends on who you ask. Oxybenzone readily finds its way into the bloodstream. PABA has been banned in Europe. The FDA is no help. They quit regulating sunscreens in 1978. Putting on commercial sunscreen is like tap dancing through a mine field.
Well how about essential oils? Believe it or not, serious research has been done on the ability of our favorite oils to screen out harmful radiation from the sun. Olive oil is the best with a calculated SPF of 7.55. Coconut oil is not far behind at 7.12. Castor oil and almond oil come in at 5.69 and 5.66.
Here is the reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140123/
A word about SPF before we go on- SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF of a sunscreen is the number of hours you would need to be in the sun for your skin to get the same amount of radiation as being in the sun for one hour with unprotected skin. So wearing SPF 15 means you can be in the sun for 15 hours and your skin will have absorbed only one hour’s worth of UV radiation, under ideal conditions. In fact, most sunscreens only protect about half their label rating because they are not applied uniformly and heavily and often enough to afford maximum protection.
Most commercial sunscreens are water based. They have a small amount of active ingredient in some sort of lotion. Coconut oil is simply coconut oil- and it protects almost as well as an SPF 15 sunscreen.
Now let’s add some oils that are really good for the skin- Vitamin E, jojoba, calendula, and sunflower oil- and we have something that will nourish and revitalize the skin in addition to protecting it from the sun. We have an oil blend that is great for your skin whether you are out working in the garden or sitting inside typing on the computer.
You see, a really good sun screen should not have side effects. There should be no cause for worry if some component shows up in your urine. It should not feel like something that should be showered off when you are done outside. Anything you put on your skin should be good for your skin, and healthy for your body.
A natural sun screen has its limits. Some people do need the higher level of protection afforded by some commercial sun screens. Some people need a good amount of oxybenzone or avobenzone in their sun screen. For the causal sun bum, a good sun screen based on coconut oil works just fine.
We have applied for a grant from Chase bank for small businesses like ours. If we get 250 votes, our application will be forwarded the judges for consideration. It would be great if everybody who read this blog post went to the contest link and voted for us. The essay is good to read just to get an idea of who we are and what we do here. Here is our application essay.
Willows Bend Farm is a gem with many facets. It is an interactive place where people come as customers and leave as friends. Education is foremost in both the Nursery and Emporium, encouraging people to take charge of their health and wellness.
On the farm side, we strive to preserve biodiversity and provide food security by teaching people how to grow and save seeds from heirloom and open pollinated plants using sustainable farming practices. We study and teach the principals of permaculture and apply them to integrate the native ecosystem with our own. We raise plants that encourage beneficial insects, vegetables and fruits, chickens and turkeys and sometimes heritage breed pigs. Every year we make sure to include produce listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Our customers come out of their way for a huge selection of heirloom tomato plants, choosing from over 20 varieties each year. We also grow to order for other farms seeking high quality plants grown chemical free. During our seven years in business, our loyal repeat customers spread the word ensuring new customers each year, many bringing children to the farm to understand the connection between the farmer and their food source.
Re-entering the work force is difficult for a woman nearing 50, so I decided to follow my mother’s footsteps and grow plants for sale. My mother inspired me by creating beautiful gardens and a thriving greenhouse business out of a hayfield. She managed the business for 30 years before retiring and even 20 years later people still ask for her flowers.
My first year, I started seeds under grow lights in a shed and grew them on in straw bale cold frames. Needing more room, we found a greenhouse for sale, spent two days dismantling the 100 foot structure, and with the help of family and friends, rebuilt it. People took notice and our customer base grew.
Next, I put my experience with herbs and essential oils to work selling culinary herbs and spices, teas, and offer one of the largest collections of medicinal herbs in the Richmond area. I do aromatherapy consultations to create custom therapeutic oil blends and other aromatherapy products. Our biggest challenge has been marketing, both labeling and advertising. Folks who come here say that Willows Bend Farm is the best-kept secret in Dinwiddie. Of course we don't want to keep it a secret!
Willows Bend Farm encourages volunteers to learn about farm life, working in exchange for plants, produce and the therapeutic experience. Interns stay on the property for immersion courses in herbalism, aromatherapy and plant propagation some of which we offer to the public.
We sell locally sourced herbs in our Emporium whenever we can. Providing an outlet for backyard farmers who may not have enough to bring to market, we combine their produce with our own to sell here at the farm and through our Midweek Mobile Market which will stop at local businesses, campgrounds and mobile home parks where folks often don’t have access to fresh local food.
Our convenient location, just a half mile off Interstate 85, also serves as a conduit for other producers to get their goods to market. Direct market distributors pick up produce and value added products here, enabling farmers in remote locations to participate in their programs. We also started a network of farmers and artisans promoting each others goods and services, while providing a link between farmers needing occasional help and day laborers. Willows Bend Farm is always pleased to support local charity fundraising through the donation of plants.
$100,000 in grant money would expedite the next project for Willows Bend Farm. As soon as we are able, we want to build a commercial kitchen for the farm. A commercial kitchen would allow us to turn our produce into value added products. Jams, jellies, pickles, ferments, bread, cheese, salsas, spaghetti sauce and more are all in high demand but cannot be sold without being produced in an inspected kitchen. Many farmers can’t get certification in their own kitchens because animals share the living spaces. A commercial kitchen, conveniently located, could be rented out by the hour for farmers and gardeners to make their own value added products for market or for their own pantries. Willows Bend Farm would also provide low cost lessons and workshops on food preparation, canning, bread baking, and offer free cooking lessons and menu planning for SNAP recipients.
Our short-term goals continue to engage the community through agritourism and education. We want to offer more workshops and classes for adults, and hope to provide a destination for field trips working with the Virginia Standards of Learning to provide educational modules for public, private and home schooled children. Recognizing the therapeutic benefits of farming/gardening, we would like to work with veterans groups and other special needs groups to provide therapeutic learning environments.
On the farming side, we want to grow our own herbs on a larger scale and include mushroom growing in our cash crops. Local mushroom growers can’t keep up with the demand. Aquaculture is also of interest and a naturally filtered stocked pond is in our long-term goals. Growing sprouts for market and restaurants is also promising to be profitable. We have a grain mill, and hope to buy locally produced, non-genetically modified grain, to fulfill the demand for freshly ground flour.
A $100,000 grant would provide the capital needed for the construction of a commercial kitchen that would provide the community with a much-needed resource to enable farmers to bring value added products to market and create a platform for education in the community.