SPECIAL: Free Returns + Exchanges | Spend $100 = Free US Shipping / $12 Canada

WOMEN AT WORK: AMBER ALLEN

 

What made you start doing the amazing things that you do?

Followed my heart or intuition... that pull to do what you love, that sets your soul on fire. I can't ever see me not growing plants, not preserving, not foraging... and not teaching others how they can too.

Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn your trade/skill?

I've been gardening and foraging since I was about 8 years old. Back then, I would build rock gardens, and I would grow corn in my sandbox that I filled with soil. I would pick berries in the forest I lived in, and I would read books about the native animals and plants of the region I lived in (Quebec).

After I left home at 17, I started growing vegetables on my apartment windowsills in cups... and I never stopped growing. I grew vegetables in found objects, otherwise known as people's garbage: swimming pools, storage totes, recycling bins, broken flower pots- anything could be a pot for growing in if I drilled holes in it and filled it with compost. I would forage in the urban areas I lived in, plants that people would just walk by, with fruit falling onto the sidewalks.

In 2016 I started to take growing food for my family more seriously, because it tasted better and was cheaper than the grocery stores. That year I also started teaching myself how to can, dehydrate and preserve what I grew and produce I could buy on clearance. When my husband and I bought our first home in 2018, I gardened the entire backyard to grow as much food as possible... and then I did it again at the next home we moved to... I grew more than 200 tomato plants, 140 pepper plants, greens, beets, squashes, cucumbers, and mushrooms. I canned, froze, dehydrated, fermented, pickled and freeze-dried the produce I grew to last through the winter months to the following summer. What I didn't know how to do, I taught myself how to do, with careful research and trial and error... because even though something can work/grow perfectly, it doesn't mean it will do the same for you in your gardening zone/climate/soil.

This year we finally moved to 27 acres of property in North-Eastern Ontario, which had been a dream of ours for many years. We had given up on the "dream" many times, but we still kept looking. We may have worked hard to get where we are now, but we mainly got very lucky.

Now I am building a homestead and a potential farm. My dream has been to start a farm, but I also want to go slowly and make it work/grow enough for my family before I grow more. In the past, I have always sold and given a way a small percentage of what I have grown, but I would like to expand one day to be able to provide more for our local community. Most of our 27 acres will stay as "wild", and a small percentage will be used for our animals and my garden.

What did you want to be when you were growing up, or a little kid?

I wanted an alpaca or sheep ranch. I thought alpacas and sheep were so neat. I also wanted to move to Australia. I wanted to work with my hands, and write books.

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

To be good at growing can take years, mainly you figure out what works for you and how you want to do things. What you do and what makes sense for you doesn't have to make sense or work for other people. It just has to make sense for you and your own life. The same goes for foraging, for trying to become self-sufficient, for putting yourself out there on social media. Nothing you do will make sense to everyone, you just have to do what makes sense to you.

I have been told, since I was younger, that I like to do things the "hard way". To do this day, I get that comment over and over. Why would I want to do things the hard way when I can take a more leisurely path... Why would I want to "hard work", to work with my hands, to get dirty? But it's what I enjoy. So I take the reduced pay, I take the "hate" for putting myself out there. Because this life is short and if I go out with dirty hands, I know I lived a good life. A life worth living.

 

What are you great at, and what do you suck at? We all have strengths and shortcomings. Tell us about 'em.

I'm great at growing most plants. Plants can tell me what they need simply. Some plants are very forgiving if I mess up. Plants allow me to learn from them, and the seeds to the foliage can tell you a story, especially when it comes to seed saving.

I suck at being on social media. It's anxiety inducing, and for someone who has social anxiety to be on social media isn't the best combo. I focus more on growing plants, building stuff and real life. But if you're on social media you are supposed to be posting all the time, sharing everything, and loving the attention... and I'm just not that sort of person, ironically.

So I try and post at least slightly educational content so people can learn from me, my mistakes, and the things I do well, because then what I've learnt goes further than me... and that's what keeps me posting. That maybe my tips for growing food, preserving, building or foraging go further and help someone.

 

What scares you?

Honestly, lack of bugs and climate change. Or bug population has severely declined in the last 30 years, and we don't think that will one day impact us, we are wrong. And also climate change. I talk to older farmers in their 80s who have seen the climate shift, and it changes what they can grow. It's a politically charged topic these days, climate change, but I've watched it change in my 35 years of life.

 

What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?

Most small farms in the world are run by women, but they don't get the credit for running them, mainly because they rent the land and the property titles are owned by men or a company/corporation.

 

How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?

I think anyone can grow anything. Including, and starting with, herbs on their windowsill. Herbs can be expensive in the stores, and by growing a few small herb pots on your windowsill you can save money.

 

Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?

I make a YouTube video every week for my channel at www.youtube.com/@thefairlylocalfamily and my Instagram www.instagram.com/thefairlylocalfamily

 

What does workwear designed for women mean to you? What does it mean to you, how does it affect your life and why is it important, philosophically?

To me, workwear designed by women for women is what women should be supporting. I have worn boys/mens clothing since I was a kid/teen, because I wanted to wear practical clothing that was tough enough to stay intact while I did stuff... but that clothing sometimes didn't fit me properly. The alternative, back then, was girls/women's clothing that didn't have enough pockets and weren't built to last; that's still true for most women's clothing today.

To find clothing that is made for my body and the way it moves, has pockets and is built to last, checks all my boxes. And I would rather support a company that is founded and run by women; women who understand what hard work is and what is needed to get the job done. The only overalls I truly love, am the most comfortable in and that I never have to give a second thought to are my Dovetails. I can focus on my projects; the last thing I want to think about is my clothing... even though my husband tells me I look damn good in them.


Share this post


Leave a comment

Note, comments must be approved before they are published


Sale

Unavailable

Sold Out