Mary and Emma Kingsley are the mother-daughter team behind Lady Farmer, a Maryland company that advocates sustainability in food, clothing and lifestyle. Lady Farmer began in 2016 with a Kickstarter campaign to develop a sustainable apparel company. Five years later, they have shifted from designing, sourcing, and marketing slow fashion apparel to curating already produced products that meet their standards of sustainability and offering those products in their online marketplace. “Our primary focus at this time is growing a community of individuals who have a desire to live more sustainably in their everyday lives.”
“As we grew our business, we became increasingly aware that a true change in the fashion industry will require a more informed and conscious consumer” said Mary. To that end, they now work to embrace end educate consumers about “slow living” with offerings on their website, through workshops, retreats, and their weekly podcast, The Good Dirt . Slow Living can mean different things to people, but to Mary and Emma, “we think of it as simply making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources, and how to be more mindful of and connected to the sources of the things we need and use every day, such as our food, clothing and products of daily living.”
In designing their clothing collection, they wanted a garments that could be added to the compost pile when the useful life has ended. This meant choosing fabrics that were 100% natural with no synthetic blends, implementing ties and wooden buttons instead of zippers, and using metal buckles that could be removed and recycled when the garment was composted.
“When thinking about ethical and sustainable sourcing of clothing, it’s important to come to it with your own individual set of values, as it is virtually impossible to “check all the boxes,” so to speak. At Lady Farmer, we think of clothes as an agricultural product, so we put a lot of focus on how the fibers are grown as well as how the garments are manufactured. For this reason, we prioritize care for the soil, responsible stewardship of the land and water, consideration for the lives that tend it and for the hands involved in the various stages of production. Our goal is an end product that reflects an overall respect for the planet and its people.”
Mary exemplifies the slow living lifestyle on her farm in Montgomery County, Maryland. As she describes it, “It’s just a fun little farm with a large garden full of flowers, herbs and fruit trees, sheep, chickens, ponies, bees, dogs and a barn cat. The wool production is a goal in progress. It’s a very fun place to be a Lady Farmer!” When I asked about their wool production, Mary responded, “We really aren’t a fiber farm, but we do have 5 (mostly) Gotland sheep that produce beautiful wool! We thought a small flock of wool sheep would be a nice addition to our farm, and it turns out they are sweet, fairly low maintenance and present relatively few problems. We love their beautiful wool, and hope to soon become more of a (very ) small scale resource for local artisans.” As with many who raise fiber in our fibershed, locating processing is an ongoing challenge.
A typical day on the farm for Mary and her husband starts with morning coffee, but the rest of the day varies by the seasons. Daily chores include letting out the chickens and ponies, walking the dogs, feeding the sheep, feeding the ponies and clearing the stalls. In the summer there’s lots of garden work – planting, tending, weeding and harvesting – and prepping for wonderful farm meals. In the winter, Mary works and reads by the fire and drinks a lot of hot tea. She also devotes time to playing with natural dyes, her favorite fiber arts activity.
As owners of a company that advocates sustainability in food, clothing and lifestyle, Lady Farmer is all about creating local supply chains. Being active participants in the Chesapeake Fibershed is helping them do just that.