Originally published in Taos News
If you haven’t visited yet the Winter Farmers’ Market that takes place every Saturday at the Guadalupe Church Gym, hurry up. It will be there until April 9th and the findings are incredible. There is produce, of course, like fresh pinto beans from Flowerdust Fruit Market, and plenty of sweet delicacies by award-winning baker Alexandra Rose, but there is also artwork, jewelry, organic creams, and so much more.
Being enclosed and smaller, it has a different feel than the summer market: the atmosphere is definitely more intimate, as if you were visiting a friend’s home. Vendors also bring in more fragile items, like painted silks and ceramics, that aren’t always found in the open-air. It is una feria de amigos, a fair created for and by friends.
A nurse and a farmer
One active and colorful table is Resa Sawyer’s, who sells everything from herbal salves and goat-milk honey soaps to fresh eggs and hand-painted silk scarves.
Sawyer was raised in New York and moved to Telluride, Colorado, around 1981.
“Later I settled in northern New Mexico with my daughter Amanda in 1989,” she said. “I became a registered nurse in 1995, which I still do, doing home visits with former uranium miners.”
She also owns a farm in Buena Vista: six and a half acres in the Mora River irrigated by an acequia. The farm is home to over a dozen goats (several ewes are due soon, so there will be many more in the next two weeks) and a hundred hens.
The Middle Aged Spread
The name of the farm, The Middle Aged Spread, came from a play on words.
“I started this new venture when I was about to turn forty and ‘spread’ is a slang term for a farm or ranch,” Sawyer said, “and that term is also a little joke about that little extra waist we get when we hit middle age! Of course, I could have just gotten a red sports car; it would have been easier but nowhere near as interesting.”
She took care of the farm by herself for seven years until her partner, Robert Medina Cook, came along. Medina Cook is a fine-art photographer and a mixed media-artist whose family has been in the Taos area for 400 years.
“It’s really nice to have him around,” Sawyer said.
The perfect recipe
Though she has been gardening and raising chickens for years, Sawyer officially started The Middle Aged Spread about fifteen years ago.
“I added beekeeping and dairy goats to my homestead lifestyle,” she said, “with the conscious objective of recreating a wonderful goat milk soap I had found years earlier in Colorado, but hadn’t been able to find again and had such wonderful effects on my skin, especially since I react strongly to any form of synthetics.”
Sawyer spent many months developing her recipe for the goat milk and honey soap, with the focus being on safe, non-toxic ingredients.
“I never use palm oil or chemical ‘fragrance oils,’ and I produce as many of the ingredients as I possibly can,” she said. “I grow or wild-craft most of my herbs, use milk from my goats, and honey and beeswax from my bees and hives. I like to source as locally as possible.”
Salves and other remedios
Among her other products are herbal salves—herbal blends she has created specifically for various conditions.
“I’ve been using and studying herbs since I was fourteen years old and joined a yoga ashram where I worked in their herb shop,” she said. “Plus I really delved into the local, traditional remedios when I moved here. Hence my soaps have sage and blue corn grown at the Pueblo and trementina and osha from the forests in the area, honoring the local traditions, cultures, and wisdom.”
Among her soaps are “Rosemary and Mint,” “Tea Tree Oil and Lemongrass,” “Oatmeal” and “Biscochito.”
She also makes two kinds of lotion bars: “Lavender” and “Bug Away” for summertime.
“The biggest reward for me is when someone tells me that what I’m doing made a difference in their life,” Sawyer said. “That’s what we’re all here for.”
Eggs, honey and produce
She also sells organically-fed and very free-range chicken eggs. Sawyer has old heritage breeds of chickens, the kind that people used to raise two hundred years ago. They are “antique-kind” of chickens that haven’t been over-bred to just produce eggs.
“My heirloom chickens run where they want,” Sawyer said. “They hatch their chicks and eat bugs—everything they would do in the wild. A lot of modern chickens wouldn’t know how to hatch their own eggs if they ever needed to.”
She also has raw local honey and honeycombs. Sawyer has partnered with Melanie Kirby and Mark Spitzig of Zia Queenbee Company since 2009.
“All of their hives are from local survivor bees,” she said. “This is very important genetics given the difficulties that bees are facing.”
And she sells produce from her garden.
“It will be even larger this year,” she said, “with bedding plants, especially herbs.”
Last but not least are her silk scarves, with bright colors and a soft and light texture. Sawyer, who did a short stint at Parson’s School of Design, customizes the scarves and hand-paints them so no two of them are alike.
Where to buy The Middle Aged Spread products
They are carried in about fourteen stores around New Mexico. In Taos they are available at Taos Herbs, Optimysm, Taos Cookery, the Blumenschein Museum, the Martinez Hacienda, and Sol Food in Arroyo Seco.
“I think that my products are not just a ‘business’ because the bottom line that is most important to me is participating in the creation of a new kind of community where our focus should be collaboration, not competition,” she said. “We are growing a local sustainable economy that supports everyone in a healthy way and gives back to the Earth that supports us all.”
To find out more about Resa Sawyer’s products visit her website http://www.themiddleagedspread.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org