As part of our "Rethink Rural Meet the Author" series, Sarah Asp Olson interviews our fearless editor, Kristen Boye on her au naturale upbringing, how she launched her writing career and how she and her husband are making their sustainable dreams come true on just one acre of land.
These days, Kristen spends her time with her husband, daughter and son on one acre in Western North Carolina where they grow medicinal herbs and vegetables using bio-intensive and regenerative farming methods. But Kristen’s not native to the southeastern United States.
In fact, she grew up outside Vancouver, British Columbia. It was there in the frozen north—on her parent’s communal homestead that included a 40-acre organic farm—that she fell in love with all things natural living.
Kristen has built a career around her love of natural and holistic living.
As a kid, Kristen didn’t realize her upbringing was special in any way. But growing up on a farm surrounded by all manner of animals and vegetables, she naturally absorbed a love for nature.
Kristen moved to Georgia with her dad and stepmom at the age of 16. She describes feeling the humidity the first time she stepped off the plane in Atlanta, “it felt like I got punched in the face! I had never felt anything like it.” She quickly adapted to the culture (although the humidity is still an issue) and has been living in the south ever since.
I had the chance to speak with Kristen about her organic roots and how she’s built a career that combines her passion for writing with her love of natural living.
Rethink Rural (RR): What was it like growing up on an organic farm in Canada?
Kristen Boye (KB): My parents had a little homestead when I was born, so we always had goats and chickens and gardens. And then when I was six, we moved about an hour east of Vancouver to a 40-acre communal organic farm there. And that’s where we grew a ton of vegetables. My parents and their circle were a big part of the early organic farming movement, and the original owners of Cascadian Farms used to visit our farm.
RR: How did you end up in Georgia?
KB: My parents separated when I was 10 and my dad moved to Atlanta to be with his new wife. I didn’t even know where it was. As a kid growing up in Canada, I knew about Washington state, New York City and about Los Angeles and Hollywood...that was about it. When I was 15, my dad and stepmother bought some property in north Georgia. I was ready for a new adventure and realized it was my chance to get dual citizenship. So I moved down to live with them when I was 16 and I've been in the States ever since.
RR: How did you end up in North Carolina?
KB: Even before we got married, my husband had a dream of starting a medicinal herb farm. We always wanted to move somewhere different, but we couldn’t figure out how we were going to purchase this plot of land because we thought we needed at least 15 or 20 acres. We spent some time just trying to figure out where we wanted to be and decided the Asheville area was going to be perfect for us. Property here is a lot more expensive than other places in the Southeast. We realized that there was no way we could get 15 or 20 usable acres in the location we wanted. What we wound up getting was an acre less than 15 minutes from downtown, close to all the schools, close to all our friends here.
Kristen and her daughter at Craggy Gardens, NC.
RR: How are you making a small plot (in farming terms) work for you?
KB: My husband has been studying bio-intensive farming for years---where you can grow a lot on a small space. We decided we wanted to start a bio-intensive, regenerative agriculture urban farming model...but in the country. People are doing it with vegetables, but not with herbs, but we think we can do it. We’re also going to start a mushroom operation for medicinal mushrooms. Our goal is to make a sustainable income doing it and also to be able to teach the model to other people who might want to do something similar.
RR: What does your current setup look like?
KB: Right now, we have three gardens set up and a high tunnel, which is like a big greenhouse. And that is where we’re growing the herbs. And then the mushrooms are going to be set up along the creek bed. We managed to do this still making room to put a pool up for the kids and the playground and some vegetable gardens. It’s been a dream come true.
RR: Tell me about the medicinal herb farm you’re starting.
KB: My husband and I both have a background in herbology and natural medicine. He’s an herbalist, my family owns a supplement company, and I have my degree in natural health and do a lot of health-focused writing. We always turn to herbs and homeopathy if we’re sick and everything like that.
Medicinal herbs are our focus, so right now we have St. John’s wort, Lemon balm, Ashwagandha, a variety of Chrysanthemum used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hyssop, Mountain Mint, Tulsi, and various types of mints and basils we're growing for a local tea company. We also have a lot of wild herbs that grow that we’ve discovered around the property. We have Poke Root growing wild, Nettles, and Jewelweed to name a few.
The Boye Family (left to right): Kristen, Rolando, Gabriela, and Rafa
RR: How did you get into writing?
KB: Writing has always been what I love to do the most from the time I could write. It was my passion. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a writer, but the only career options were: you could write sales letters/direct response, try and be a novelist or screen writer or become a journalist. None of that sounded super realistic, and I didn't want to write sales letters all day. I was interested in natural health, so I went off in that direction and got my degree there and started working within that industry. It turned out I had a knack for marketing, but any chance I got I’d want to do copywriting.
Maybe about 10 years ago my mom sent down a bunch of my old report cards. I looked through them and every note from the teacher was “Kristen is an excellent writer,” “She’s a really good writer,” “pay better attention, but she’s a really good writer.” That kind of sparked something for me. I was working for my father’s business at the time, and we were ready to get out on our own. I picked up a book called The Well Fed Writer. The author basically laid out a blueprint for how you could make a living writing. I thought, “I can do this!” After [my daughter] was born I left my job and launched a business as a health writer. Because I’d worked in the industry so long, I was lucky to get clients right off the bat.
RR: You’ve been writing for Rethink Rural for quite a few years. How did you make the leap to editor?
KB: Former Rethink Rural editor Tiffany Wilson was promoted just as I was about to have my second baby. It was a week before I was due and she contacted me and said, “hey, do you want to take over as editor?” I said, “are you trying to put me into labor?”
Tiffany's good at helping people realize a good opportunity when they have one. We talked it over and she came out and trained me when my baby was two months old. The rest is history.
RR: What are your favorite things to cover for Rethink Rural?
KB: I love covering the health benefits of country living for kids. I love writing about self-sufficiency too, we’re always aiming to be more self-sufficient. I love interviewing rural people who have done amazing things. One of my favorite pieces ever was that one about Vickey, the sustainable shepherd. To be able to tell her story was amazing. I feel so lucky every day I get paid to meet such interesting people and write about their stories. And now I get to mentor other writers, which is amazing.
RR: What might our readers be surprised to learn about you?
KB: Even though I’m super health conscious, I really like eating chocolate. It's my vice. I'm also a big hockey fan, a former childhood WWF fan, and love pickup trucks...I guess that's the farm girl in me. My husband and I love to travel internationally---his family is from Chile---and we hope to pick that back up again when my youngest is a little older.
RR: What are your favorite outdoor activities?
KB: We spend a ton of time in the backyard and on the local trails with the kids just kind of mucking around, letting them play and explore. We also love hiking, biking, swimming and checking out the local farms and farmer's markets. Of course, we love gardening and berry picking too. Western North Carolina has so much to offer nature-wise, it's hard to list all the things we enjoy about this beautiful place! Oh, and we also love escaping the mountains for beach vacations. We feel very blessed to call this place home.
Read some of Kristen Boye's writing for Rethink Rural here. And learn more about her work at Holistic Writing Concepts