Half Wild Arts Offers A Sustainable & Accessible Plant-Based Skincare Option for LocalsAug 18, 2020 01:20PM ● By Stephanie Pipas
Stephanie Pipas: When and why did you start your company?
Ruth Ann Hacking: When I first started my journey towards a healthier lifestyle with local, organic food (mostly plants), there were limited options to choose from. This was especially true for skincare products that were not filled with industrial chemicals. Even the “natural” brands were packaged in plastic and shipped from all over the world. So when it came time to start my own farm, after years of working on farms throughout New England, I combined my love of herbal medicine with my commitment to local ingredients to create a line of body care products that are locally grown and handcrafted on my small farm. I love that everyone is “eating local” these days, and Half Wild products offer everyone the next step towards leading a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
SP: What is your inspiration regarding your skincare products?
RH: I create products that feel good – both inside and out. Half Wild Arts skincare nourishes your body with high-quality local herbs while also supporting sustainable agriculture and the local economy. I want everyone to feel good while also reducing their footprint on the earth.
SP: What is your favorite product within your own line?
RH: The product that I use every day (multiple times per day in this year of hyper hand washing!) is Green Wonder salve. It contains herbs that are soothing now and healing over time, so it is great for extra dry hands and other skin complaints. It is the gateway to the entire product line.
SP: How have you managed to have a small company that is also sustainable?
RH: I committed early on that I would build Half Wild Arts slowly and without debt. After working for years managing other people’s farms, I saw how trapped farmers are in a cycle of debt, and I knew that I needed to approach my farm differently. So I grow slowly, plan meticulously, and when it comes down to it, I always choose to do things right instead of doing them “right now.” Farming sustainably is a long-term process, building up healthy soils over time and working within Mother Nature’s seasonal timeline. I am grateful to the experienced farmers who taught me the business and gracefully accept both the successes and disappointments that come every season and keep growing.
SP: What is the status of the company right now? Is there a physical store, or is it primarily online?
RH: Our products are always available online, at farmers markets through October. We are currently expanding the number of retail stores where customers can shop in person (see the end of the interview*).
SP: How have you dealt with the challenge of COVID-19 while owning a new business?
RH: COVID-19 delayed our expansion into more retail stores that had been planned for this spring. We are just starting to reach out to new stores now. Instead, we joined other farmers' markets for the summer. Once the farmers' markets are over for the year, we will rely on retail stores and online sales. We have done a lot more holiday fairs in the past, but large indoor shopping events are off the table this year. I encourage everyone to shop their local producers online this winter – we are going to need the extra support!
SP: What do you love most about skincare?
RH: Realizing that the less I put on my skin, the happier it is was a real eye-opener for me. When I first shifted to natural skincare, I went too far, abandoning all skincare products except soap, water, and coconut oil. My skin was happier than it had been with drugstore products, but when I started formulating my own herbal skincare, my skin was healthier and more balanced than it had ever been. That’s the power of herbs – they do more than just moisturize or tone. They nourish your skin and support your whole body to be the best it can be.
SP: What goes into the process of making your favorite product (what sort of ingredients do you use)?
RH: Because I grow the herbs that go into our products, the process starts in mid-winter. While the ice and snow are still piling up on the farm, I am dreaming of flowers. Then in the spring and summer, when the plants are growing, I am tending and harvesting the herbs. All of the herbs are then extracted into oil, alcohol, or water – a process that takes up to six weeks. The resulting extracts are then combined to formulate all of our products based on the effect that each herb has on the body. This is different from the process that produces many industrial beauty products because we use only whole herb extracts instead of ingredients that have been highly processed in a lab. You can think of Half Wild Arts products as “whole grain” skincare – all the good stuff is in there.
SP: Are you a gardener or farmer or both?
RH: I farm perennial herbs, and we have a vegetable garden to feed ourselves. I spent many years farming vegetables, but I prefer the pace of farming herbs.
SP: What did you study or practice before starting this line?
RH: I trained as an organic vegetable and meat farmer, as well as extensively studying local plants and herbal medicine before starting Half Wild Arts.
SP: Did you always know that you wanted to work with skincare products?
RH: I knew that I wanted to work with herbs, and I knew that we all needed better skincare products, so it made sense to create an herbal skincare line.
SP: What are you excited for next?
RH: I am excited to introduce more people to local, herbal body care! COVID-19 really set back my planned expansion for this year, but every time I talk to someone new about how much healthier it is to nourish our skin with herbs, I can see a future where we love and support the body we have instead of fighting our “flaws.”
SP: Anything else that we should know about your awesome company?
RH: Half Wild Arts is a woman-owned business that welcomes everybody. We also offer sliding scale pricing on our website so that everyone can support our small business at a price that matches their ability to pay.
*Look out for Half Wild Arts in the future at Thursday afternoon Lebanon Farmers’ Markets, Sunday morning Littleton Farmers’ Markets, and the occasional Saturday Norwich Farmers’ Market. Products are available for purchase online with free shipping at HalfWildArts.com, and feel free to go give her a follow on Instagram at @halfwildarts.