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Filtering by Tag: Organic Farming

Soaps That Heal

Aisling FitzGibbon

When Kevin Lynch’s son was born in 2009, he noticed the tell-tale signs of eczema on his little body. As a child, Kevin too had suffered from eczema and was repeatedly treated with steroidal creams. He didn’t want this future for his son as he himself had witnessed first-hand the long -term effects of steroids on his own skin. The skin on his hands had thinned from years of steroidal use.  Further research revealed the possibility of other physiological side effects of steroids such as bone thinning, high blood pressure and a disruption of the hormonal system. Both Kevin and his partner Tina began to look for natural skincare products on the market for their son’s skin but nothing worked. Tina herself began to experiment with chemical free alternatives for Caoimhin’s skin and eventually completed a professional soap making course. The initial seed was sown.

Pure Soap Created with love

Pure Soap Created with love

After a head injury in 2010 Kevin was prompted to rethink his career path and was drawn to study organic horticulture in the Organic College in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick. Gardens at his home in Clare soon had polytunnels and medicinal herbs growing in them. Tina, who had been made redundant from her work, continued to experiment with making her own soaps, using organic ingredients from their own garden and from other organic sources. Seeing the demand for their soaps at farmer’s markets and realising the unique potency and purity of their own products, inspired both Kevin and Tina to set up their own company. The business would use a combination of both of their skill sets using Kevin’s knowledge in herbs and plant biology and Tina’s training in graphic design, advertising and branding.

In October 2015 Airmid Natural Irish Skincare was set up. By October 2016, the business relocated to new premises in Waterville, close to the Ring of Kerry. I was introduced to some of Kevin’s products when I bought Airmid shaving soap and shampoo soap from Manna’s Organic Store in Tralee. At last I had found a natural shaving soap product that was chemical free and didn’t give me a rash. The shampoo in a bar nourished and softened my hair. I had discovered the Holy Grail of skin care and curious to know more I contacted Kevin and arranged to interview him in person.

Waterville, home of my maternal ancestors, is a beautiful setting for a natural and chemical free company. After a journey of 2 hours (had to stop in Cahersiveen to charge the Nissan Leaf Electric car) I found myself meandering down a country road into an almost silent countryside, punctuated with birdsong and the distant drone of a tractor. Trees and verdant foliage flanked the drive to Ireland’s most natural skincare company Airmid.

As I entered into Kevin’s premises, my sense of smell was ignited by the wonderful aroma in his building. Immediately I began to relax as I realised that what I was smelling was chemical free and pure. My sense of smell never lets me down. Kevin greeted me and showed me around. Kevin is a master alchemist who chooses pure essential oils firstly for skin benefit and then for aroma. His knowledge of the healing potency of herbs is apparent as he talks about their benefits on the skin. He assures me that all of his products are certified to EU standards and are suitable for the most sensitive of skin.

An ethical and humanitarian vision underpins this company- indeed it seems to be one of its driving forces. Kevin does not skimp on quality and ensures that his products are sourced from people who equally benefit from the commercial exchange. The 100% natural shea butter in Airmid’s products, is hand gathered by women participating in Fair Trade collectives in Ghana. Raw beeswax is sourced locally. It actually smelt so good I wanted to eat it!  I was particularly impressed with the reusable face scrubbies that come from Selkie Crochet in Waterville. The funds that go to Selkie Crochet, which sponsor two girls through ActionAid Ireland with their profits - one in Vietnam and the other in Kenya. The shampoo containers are recycled pulp that can be planted, the tins are reusable and all packaging comes from sustainable sources.

I was privileged to interview Kevin. His company Airmid is pioneering a new business model where everyone benefits and the environmental impact is negligible. Kevin’s company puts the customers health and well -being before profit. He would make anyone think twice about what they put on their skin since it’s our body’s largest excretory organ.  

Airmid is everything I would wish for in a skin care company. It is ethical, quality driven and natural. Moreover the products work.  My legs are already benefiting from the moisturising effects of the shaving soap and have been primed for summer exposure. I was loath to leave the heavenly aroma of Kevin’s premises but he gave me some bath melts and soaps. Thank you Kevin- the car never smelt as good on the journey home. The name Airmid is fitting as she was the Celtic Goddess of the Healing Arts. The name is in keeping with the emerging rise of the divine feminine. I was eager to get home to treat my inner goddess to a bath melt.

If you love the skin you’re in and are looking for products that are natural and pure, then I suggest that you check out Airmid. You can purchase their products directly from their website www.airmidsoap.com or from stores such as Manna Organics Tralee, Craft Makers, An Tigin Waterville, Waterville Pharmacy,  Skellig gift shop, Golden of Kells, Valentia Island Tourist Office and other stores around Ireland. Their range of products includes handmade soaps, shaving soap, bath melts, shampoo bars, lip balms, aromatherapy, eco soy candles and hampers for all occasions. You can follow Airmid Natural  Irish Skincare for their updates and news. 

 

Going Green Starts with a Shift in Consciousness

Aisling FitzGibbon

 

I love going to Manna, my local organic store where I have access to fresh organically grown produce. Manna, owned by Claire and Thomas O Connor is stocked with produce from their own farm in Gleann Na nGealt near Camp and from other organic suppliers. Their premises exudes light and life.

Claire and Thomas O Connor,pioneers of organic farming did what many farmers would have baulked at- they have created an organic mixed farm from 25 acres of land they bought in 2007 and brought the soil back to life using nettles, comfrey liquid and sea minerals combined with hard work and dedication. Their farm is home to a selection of animals such as pigs, ducks and hens, all of whom have access to plenty of open space. It’s a working haven of health and happiness.  

Organics, regarded as a trend by some, was the norm prior to the 1940’s. My great great- grandparents tilled the soil on their farm In Waterville using local seaweed to remineralise the land to provide healthy food for their large family and also for their local market.  They were strong healthy people who lived well.  My great- grandparents who moved into the town also grew their own vegetables organically in their back garden, growing their own apples, strawberries, carrots, onions, cabbage and potatoes. By the time it came to my grandparents, the bulk of their food came from supermarkets although I do recall my grandfather growing some potatoes and lettuce in a plot of land behind their shop.

Origins of chemical farming

The switch over to chemical farming began after World War 2 when profit and production saw the introduction of pesticides such as DDT. Hailed as a miracle by some, its use soon spread to farms globally including Ireland. However in 1962 the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson questioned the effect that synthetic chemicals were having on the environment. Rachel  noted that DDT and its metabolites were making bird eggshells thinner causing  egg breakages and  embryo death. Rachel also implied that DDT was a human carcinogen. Although DDT was subsequently banned, it has been replaced  by numerous other pesticides, organophosphates, herbicides and fungicides. Soils are fertilized and enhanced using chemical fertilisers that favour maximum growth and yield.

Effects of chemical farming

The health of the soil depends upon a delicate balance of micronutrients, macronutrients and microbes. Adding chemical fertilisers such as NPK(nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) to increase growth and yield does not come without side effects both for the environment and for us. This overuse of nitrogen depletes soil nutrients and contaminates our drinking water. Excess nitrogen coming through our water can lead to respiratory issues and cancers. Coming through the air it can increase one’s allergic response to pollen. A study from the University of Wisconsin, showed that artificial fertilisers used in combination with pesticides altered the immune, endocrine and the nervous systems in mice. Authors Colborn et al in their book Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival outline the effects of the breakdown of pesticides on the soil. Organophosphates such as Diazinon become even more toxic as they break down, leading to reproductive problems. There are 7,200 registered biocides in the EU. Pesticides are toxic to all living organisms and aren’t we all living organisms?  A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a six fold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides.

Pesticides affect our endocrine system, hormonal regulation and embryo development. Pregnant women are particularly at risk as they have to detox pesticides at a time when their organs are already being overtaxed with their growing foetus.

In May 2010, scientists from the University of Montreal and Harvard University released a study that found  exposure to pesticide residues on vegetables and fruit may double a child’s risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in children.

Studies by the National Cancer Institute found that American farmers, had startling incidences of leukaemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and many other forms of cancer.

What is the solution?

The solution is to buy organic produce as much as we can. Less pesticide use ensures that the fruits and vegetables are healthier.Organic food is often fresher as it's produced on smaller nearby farms so it’s not being transported for miles. The growing of organic food is better for the environment as it reduces pollution, conserves water, increases soil fertility. Organically raised animals are not fed antibiotics, growth hormones or fed animal by- products. Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients such as omega 3 oils.

What if I can't buy organic?

If you cannot buy organic food then be careful to wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption. For some people a barrier to buying organic can be cost or availability. Organic food is more expensive as it is more labor intensive as farmers are farming without chemical fertilisers. Also it's expensive to get organic certification and organic food for animals  is more expensive.  Many supermarkets however,  due to demand, have increased their range of organic produce. Supermarkets such as Aldi have announced that they, removed certain pesticides from their foods, have expanded their organic range of vegetables and fruits and have meats that contain no antibiotics or hormones.

If you cannot buy organic the next best thing to do is to buy local products. I always buy locally grown carrots as they taste delicious. I also buy free range local eggs and meats that come from a reputable butcher. There is also the option of growing your own food in your garden and even if you don’t have access to a garden you can grow herbs in pots and lettuces in troughs. I have a large garden with a few raised beds that I use to grow onions (super easy to grow), lettuces, peas, beans, beetroots (easy) and spinach. The satisfaction I get from growing these is great. You can start small and build up every year.

As consciousness rises people are turning away from practices that are ruinous to the environment, to people and to aquatic life. People lead by example. Thomas and Claire are an example of what can be done. Their life’s work is an inspiration to other farmers to want to make the switch to organic farming.  Some farmers are still on the fence, but they are watching and waiting until they too are inspired to make the switch over to the organic way of living.

Farmers are becoming interested partly because there is a growing consumer demand for organically grown food and for organic milk and meat. Thomas is their role model. This is very important as one of the barriers to organics is simply a lack of understanding and education on how to go about making the switch from a conventional farm to an organic farm. 

Thomas having fun with their geese on Manna Organic Farm on the Dingle Penninsula in Co.Kerry, Ireland

Thomas having fun with their geese on Manna Organic Farm on the Dingle Penninsula in Co.Kerry, Ireland

Going to visit Thomas and Claire’s farm is like entering into an oasis of peace and calm, where vegetables grow in large polytunnels and outside. Trees are strategically placed to shelter the growth of outside plants and vegetables from the inclement westerly winds. Ducks and geese waddle in and out of vegetable patches, doing a fine job of eating the bugs and insects. Thomas practices biodynamic farming which creates a diversified, balanced farm eco system that generates health and fertility from within the farm itself. Biodynamic practices make us more conscious of the earth and how we treat her. So, take a few steps in the coming weeks if you can, to going greener by supporting a way of life that is life enhancing and healthier for everyone. One of Thomas’s dreams is for community supported agriculture to become a reality, where smaller organic farms will be paid to grow vegetables for their community. We all have a choice. Pay the farmer or pay the pharmacy. I know which one I choose. 

If you feel inspired to work with me please fill in my clarity call application form. I use a combination of diet, supplements and energy work to restore your energy so you can live the life you want to live.