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November 20, 2023

Weaving Our Community Web

This month, we weave connections between our neighbors and local community members. Who feeds us? Who inspires us? Who brightens our spirit on a winter day?

Each of us exists within a community. We depend on friends, families, neighbors, and local ecosystems – for our material survival needs, such as clothing, food, and shelter, and also for those intangible necessities: joy, connection, and belonging.

Our first stop is Catskill Botanicals, a small-batch apothecary founded by Lauren Raba. Inspired by the indigenous wisdom that "what grows near us, is somehow meant for us," Lauren works with both wild and cultivated plants to create plant-based remedies such as skin creams, lip balms, and oil infusions. Lauren's journey with plant medicine began in her own backyard. Discouraged by not being able to find work in her professional field – a common challenge in rural areas – she decided to follow an interest in herbal healing. After learning how to treat her son's ailment with a remedy made from local plants (saint john's wort and yarrow), Lauren embarked on formal studies with local herbalist Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower. What began as a hobby and curiosity, soon became her passion and career.

  "I love to help people when it comes to health issues." –Lauren

Growing up in the Catskills, Lauren cherishes the natural gifts of beauty, clean air, and abundant water. Her approach to wild harvesting echoes the Haudenosaunee teaching to give thanks for the medicines and foods we receive from the earth. In addition to plant allies, Lauren's community web includes friends, local farmers, Greentree Home Candle and Wild Mountain Apiaries. 


Photos: Lauren Raba

As we continue down the road from Delhi's Catskills Botanicals, we arrive at Bloomville's First Bloom. The newly opened pantry store, a throwback to the traditional general stores that once characterized many local towns and villages, features a range of goods – affordable staples, high quality culinary ingredients, home remedy essentials, and local produce. Chef and cookbook writer Alison Roman teamed up with artist and fellow grocery enthusiast Dylan Hartung to bring her corner store dreams to fruition. Alison and Dylan say they couldn't have done it without a community network of support – local builders Jane DeWitt and Neal Janiszewski, Sal at the butcher shop across the street, and farmers they connect with through the Delhi Farmer's Market and 607 CSA.

"If you believe in something and take pleasure in it, people will feel that." –Alison


Photos: First Bloom

Just across the river from First Bloom, young homesteaders Elizabeth Starks and Jacob Sackett have been working hard to create a similarly joyful and nourishing space. Bovina Farm and Fermentory follows in the footsteps of Jacob's dairy farming family, which dates back in the region for six generations. Honoring this long history of community ties, Elizabeth and Jacob collaborate with local artisans and farmers to keep their farm-to-table dinners as lively and local as possible: Wilson's Bread, beef from Fieldstone Farms, pork from Rock Royal Farm, and flowers from Bovina Fleurs.

"It feels extra special…the whole dreamy idea that Jake's relatives were in this valley…dealing with the same rocky soil…to go through it all in the same place feels really beautiful." - Elizabeth

Photos: Bovina Farm and Fermentory

BUSY BEE TIP :Get to know your community web. Who are the neighbors, family, or friends who could use your support? Make it a habit to ask what kind of support or care someone may need, every day or every week. Helping your neighbor might be as simple as getting groceries, lifting something heavy, or sharing a warm, home-cooked meal.

BEE SUSTAINABLE: When we shop in stores and eat in restaurants that work with local artisans, makers, and farmers, we help reduce energy consumption and boost our regional economy!