Regenerating Life & Land with the Lovely Molly Chester

June 6, 2021

Regenerating Life & Land with the Lovely Molly Chester

Farmer, Chef, Dreamer, & Mother

Christy drove back to the incredible Regenerative Apricot Lane Farms where the first chapter of the Farm-to-Closet collection was shot to connect with the visionary and very lovable Molly Chester. They discussed the challenges and magic of Biodynamic & Regenerative farming, organic design, motherhood, and how to live your passion and grow your business.

Molly is wearing The Remy Dress in Amaryllis Plaid Molly is wearing The Remy Dress in Amaryllis Plaid

Can you share a little about yourself?

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, raised in Atlanta, GA. Both experiences were suburban, lots of concrete and an overall disconnect from nature and my surroundings never struck a chord with me. However, my most vivid memories came from my grandmother’s farm that I got to visit consistently growing up. The smells, sounds, and sights deeply captivated and inspired me and still prominently live on in my memories as I now create my own with my family on our farm decades later. I’ve had a passion for food and healing and found a way to combine them through regenerative practices that nurture us and the earth. My husband and I left the big city life ten years ago for a dream that turned into something much greater than we could have ever imagined.

Did your parents/upbringing lead you on your journey to health?

In my late teens, my mom’s health journey hit a wall, and she turned to food as healing, which ultimately addressed her concerns. I watched this with wonder, and it informed me, certainly. However, I also knew intuitively as far back as 10 or 11 years old that what you eat affects how you feel. My mom, who did cook lovely meals at home, but also had become understandably confused by the packaged foods and advertising of the 80’s, and used to pack my lunches with bagged snacks, chocolatey bars and gummy treats. Innately, I would ask to pack my own lunch and cut up little salads for myself and other fresh foods, knowing I felt different after.

Molly is wearing The Mairin Dress in Elderflower Embroider Molly is wearing The Mairin Dress in Elderflower Embroider

How did the regenerative farming journey begin for you?

It started as a means to the end of wanting great food to cook with in the kitchen and not being able to source the quality that I desired. I could not have imagined that it would become so much more. I now know that cooking starts long before the kitchen, as it really starts with the farmers, and their relationship to how they decide to grow their food.

“I lose inspiration when I don’t go deeper to solve a problem, so we just keep choosing to go deeper, and thus far, we have found our answers there.”

Sheep

When did you first hear about Regenerative and Biodynamic practices and what are they exactly?

I learned of Regenerative principles through the study of Biodynamic practices. Biodynamics is a method of farming that looks at the land through the lens of an ecosystem, in order to relate with its needs and learn from its tendencies, which also defines the concept of Regenerative. Biodynamics also brings in the qualities of the cosmos, which is infinitely inspiring. At the farm, we don’t necessarily define ourselves by any one label, but we use all the tools, whenever applicable, in order to find the true essence of this individual piece of land. That said, we do have a number of certifications, Biodynamic, Regenerative Organic, Certified Humane and Organic.

So the land was extractively farmed for 50 years before this journey began. What was the process of bringing it back to life and how did you not get overwhelmed?

Relating with this land was much like raising a child, in fact, we see Beaudie as our first human child, but we have been through the birthing process many times now! When raising a child, any committed parent knows that overwhelm is part of it, so is fear, anxiety, joy, bliss, all of it. The one thing that never gets questioned, though, is whether you are going to keep going. Well, in truth, I guess hopelessness is a real part of life, too, but a good nap usually helps you find the small whisper of next steps, and we just choose to keep listening to the whispers.

Christy is wearing the Bianca Dress in Carnelian Aster Garden Christy is wearing the Bianca Dress in Carnelian Aster Garden

Has the journey of Apricot Lane Farms changed your relationship to Mother Earth?

Entirely. And, I expect that it will continue to do so until the day I turn back into everything! I love her. And, I want to listen to all that she has to say.

As a chef, you must have been blown away at what you guys were producing in terms of vitality and flavor…what are some of your favorite dishes you like to prepare?

We actually have a cookbook coming out in Fall 2022 called The Apricot Lane Farms Cookbook (Avery). It will be a celebration of the food that we have cooked for the last 10 years and a reflection of what we grow, raise and eat here on the farm. Seasonality is in my bones so much more potently than when I began. The first year on the farm, we barely grew anything, but I had one rosemary plant near the house, so it became the year of rosemary everything! An apt example of what it feels like to grow and eat your own food!

Molly is wearing the Bianca Dress in Larkspur Ditsy Field Silk-Cotton Molly is wearing the Bianca Dress in Larkspur Ditsy Field Silk-Cotton

“Our pond restoration reminded me of what Robin went through in Braiding Sweetgrass”

Unlike conventional practices, farming regeneratively and biodynamically requires that you work with the forces of nature instead of against them. Has this posed a challenge at any point?

Daily! I lose inspiration when I don’t go deeper to solve a problem, so we just keep choosing to go deeper, and thus far, we have found our answers there. I’ll keep you posted on water, ground squirrels, slaughter facilities and any number of other problems. Change is life, and I am coming to finally dance with it. I used to fear it to a point of anxiety induced, adrenal burning, energy expenditure. However, I am starting to ride its wave, which should be a bit more sustainable, one would hope!

This part of the farm is known as the “Fruit Basket” with over 75 varieties of fruit this part of the farm is known as the “Fruit Basket” with over 75 varieties of fruit

How has stewarding land and becoming a farmer affected how you are as a person, what lessons has it taught you?

First and foremost, it has taught me curiosity, humility and the power of observation, but truly, the natural world is my teacher. I learn from her every day.

During this ten years journey, you became a mother, how did that influence your mothering?

Learning to engage an ecosystem is a wholistic process, which carries over into all aspects of life, most definitely mothering. It’s all regenerative. Beaudie makes us better. The time with our land makes our parenting better. Beaudie’s time in the land makes his life richer. The natural world gives more than it takes, so much more. When in relation with it, everything improves, though you have to look deeply and vastly to truly feel and know that truth.

Witnessing first hand the cyclical nature of life on the farm, has that brought you to becoming more present and grateful?

Oh my, yes! Look what the earth does every single year! Its offerings, and its seemingly infinite patience and resilience! It’s an incredible self-less bounty. It is just a magical beautiful gift, all of it!

Your husband John directed the incredible documentary “The Biggest Little Farm” about your lives and the journey to create this farm. What was it like to see your life on the big screen?

I found it incredibly powerful and healing to hear my story told back to me, especially as beautifully as this story was told. And, to have the story told by my husband was another special layer of it. Seeing the film come together helped me to understand our struggles in a way that was very healing. And, it was definitely surreal to sit in a theater and hear the laughter, tears and applause of others. I don’t know that one could ever get used to that entirely, but rather than take it in myself, I choose to view it from the lens of the land. If people care, love and are moved, that is an incredibly good thing for our natural world.

Since the movie’s release, you guys are looked at more as educators and ambassadors to regenerative, natural, indigenous, and harmonic ways to farm and live. How do you feel about taking on that role?

If that is what the universe has planned for me, then I am up for being the channel! I have come to understand that people are actually falling in love with the earth, when they are seeing the movie and meeting us, but if I am the representation of that love and can serve as a tangible hug, I would be honored.

How do you Honor Mother Earth?

By becoming the most authentic and expressed version of myself that I can muster. If we all come fully and completely alive, I believe we will see the true harmony that is possible, which will be a reflection and an honoring of Mother Earth, who lives effortlessly in that truth.

The Biggest Little Farm: The inspiring and award winning documentary about John and Molly’s journey creating their farm

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