I am so excited for the third installment of the Tending the Hedge, a series highlighting herbalists, artists, educators, and activists who engage in a practice of “magical stewardship,” all bravely sharing their magic with the world, living and working with intention. I see this as a form of mutual aid and raising each other up, and as a rejection of competition and scarcity culture. Moreover, at a time when many of us (myself included!) can feel hopeless in light of all that’s happening in the world, I hope to counter this narrative by highlighting ways in which folks are tending the hedges of their communities, so to speak!
Today’s feature is thanks in part to the magic of… social media! I first became aware of Headland Homestead through owner and founder Chelsea Wallace’s instagram, and in chatting over time, have cultivated a friendship for which I am truly thankful. Chelsea is a true blue, creative, committed, and kind, and with her husband Pat she diligently farms land that has been in her family for three generations. Here she shares her vision for a more sustainable relationship with the land and how we might give back in our communities.
What are your pronouns and what is your sign?
She/her/hers and I’m very, very much a Taurus.
Are you a witch? If so, what does that word mean to you?
I technically do not consider myself a witch. I know that declaring oneself a witch is completely, 100% acceptable and I think that is part of the beauty of the title. Being a witch can take so many forms and it isn’t limiting or constricting. Especially as a Taurus, I feel pulled toward magical rituals that uplift and protect the hearth and home. However, I still do not feel able to adopt the title of witch. I find joy and contentment in keeping some special areas of my life very private. Certain hobbies, experiences, emotions, rituals…they’re just for me. I don’t want or need anyone else to know about them. I wouldn’t enjoy these aspects of my life if they were public. I love the idea that a witch can support and uplift a community without the community ever knowing there has been a silent, determined individual fiercely contributing to its wellbeing. The privacy of the experience will be where I find my strength and creativity.
What drew you to your work? Why is it important?
On a very basic level, the earth itself drew me to work in farming and hemp farming in particular. The land I now am the proud caretaker of was gifted to me by my mother and her mother gifted it to her. Babies have been born on our land within the current century and native Abenaki lives came into this world on this land long before that. I grew up spending most of my childhood outdoors among the plant life and animal inhabitants. And I always knew I would venture away, but return one day to live on my mother’s land again. When she deeded almost 7 acres over to me about two years ago, I instinctively knew that I wanted to work with the land in hopes of providing a living for my family so we could all remain at home together. The soil is clean, the land is private, and my family is most happy getting our hands dirty. Hemp became an agriculture option when I was trying to decide what we should grow and I couldn’t see us being yet another vegetable or flower farm. No disrespect to the many amazing farms here in Maine and beyond, but I wanted to try something different. And I wanted that something different to still contribute to the community’s health and wellness. What we grew on our land should make people happy and be something that they need, but not otherwise be able to get at the level of quality that we could provide. I knew nothing of hemp originally, but the more I learned the more I began to love it and respect it. As a plant, its tricky, yet simple…respected, yet misunderstood. Growing it would be a new adventure that could definitely crash and burn, but at the time, I was tired of living life with complete caution and hours, if not days, of overthinking before making decisions. So, we jumped in, purchased our seed, and so far, even though it hasn’t been easy or smooth sailing, we haven’t regretted the decision.
I think this natural pull to work with our land and grow hemp upon it is important because tending to the earth and its inhabitants with love and respect isn’t as accepted and widespread as I would like to see it. There is so much pressure to be “successful” in this society and I’d like to think that I am contributing to offset this mindset by just doing my own thing; my own thing being feeling wealthy in experience, love, contentment, and community…not the wealth that we are pushed to achieve for achievement’s sake. And I know I am incredibly privileged to be able to live the way I do and have the opportunities that have been provided for me. But I hope my choices and being drawn to work with soil and hemp can one day provide opportunities for others who may need to make the jump into farming the same way I did with my family.
I also want to quickly note that I see a lot of individuals not honoring hemp for the amazing plant it is. So by farming it responsibly and sustainably, with both the integrity of the plant and the eventual consumer of the plant’s magic in mind, I hope that our work is important by providing a realistic yet ethical model for other farmers.
How can others engage with this work and tend the hedge in their own communities?
There are so many ways that others can engage with the work of farming or of promoting the use and normalization of hemp! On a very simple level of tending the hedge within your community, all it takes is being aware of your community members’ emotional and physical needs, and if a hemp derived product could possibly elevate their quality of life then recommending a responsible local provider of these goods. Maybe even a step before this is simply trying a well made, sustainably produced CBD product yourself! And if your stumbling block to trying a CBD product is the stereotypical stigma surrounding cannabis use, then just educating yourself to the differences between hemp and marijuana is a wonderfully place to start.
Overall, I would appreciate an open mind and an eagerness to support local, small scale farms as a way to tend the hedge in your community. There are a lot of crappy hemp products out there that don’t provide the mind, body support that they could and should. If you’re open to trying a hemp product, take the time to find a really good one from growers and makers who love the plant and want the best for you. Your purchasing power is an incredible tool and will direct support to those who deserve it.
Did you enjoy this feature? Check out other magic-makers in the Tending the Hedge series!