WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SERIES-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ORGANIC FARMERS/ARTISTS SONYA AND NINA MONTENEGRO

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Hello Beautiful ppl! ^_^/

In today’s edition of the Women Entrepreneurs Series, please allow me introduce Sonya and Nina Montenegro, from Portland, Oregon. Organic Farmers/Crafters of handmade goods/Designers/Artists/Illustrators-they wear many caps and play several roles in their quest to living a self-sufficient, simple and wholesome life. Read on to find out more about THE FAR WOODS!

LMW) Hello Sonya and Nina! A very warm welcome on behalf of all the readers of Lil Mrs Wifey. Please share with us something about yourself and your journey.We would love to hear your story!

Sonya & Nina) We are sisters in a family full of artists: painters, musicians, potters, writers, poets, and puppeteers; growing up we’ve always been encouraged to express ourselves creatively. After attending the same university in Michigan, we each followed our own separate paths: Nina worked for an interior designer in New York City, learned to surf in California, began her own graphic design business in Portland and sought out our family roots in Chile. Sonya waitressed in Chicago, volunteered on farms in Oregon and learned to farm in Alaska.  But we dreamed of one day living in the same place again so we could work on projects together. 

Then circumstances shifted and now we live together on a small organic farm just outside Portland, OR. Our home focuses on intentional living practices and we have a large garden, a berry patch & orchard, two goats, a big yellow farm cat, and are within a short distance to the city PLUS incredible hiking trails, waterfalls, mountain tops and rivers, ALL of which are incredibly inspiring. 

We started The Far Woods in 2013 as a place where we could share our creative projects.  Each project is the product of a personal journey — one that begins with discovering an inspiring material, exploring a new process, or feeling moved to highlight an issue we are passionate about — and is an ongoing exploration as we build upon old ideas or find new inspiration.

Collaboration

LMW) Deep in our hearts, we all want to harvest fresh produce for our family but we don’t know where to start from. Any tips for our readers on how to start something small like a kitchen garden? 

S&N) Yes!!  Ideally everyone would have the space and time to grow even a small garden, but we know that many people don’t have that opportunity – an equally important thing is to support the local and organic farmers in your area by shopping at farmer’s markets or getting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share.  If you do have space and a little time, we suggest finding a book about growing plants in your specific microclimate and starting small with a few easier foods like herbs, kale, peas, lettuce, etc.  We’ve found Seattle Tilth’s “Maritime Northwest Garden Guide” to be extremely helpful for growing in the Portland Area.

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LMW) Which farm activity do you enjoy the most?  

S & N) Every step of the process is exciting!  Starting with preparing the ground in the spring, building compost, seeding and caring for new little sprouts, to watching everything grow and harvesting for our meals everyday.  Even weeding is a strangely satisfying meditative task!  Oh, and we love animal chores – daily watering, feeding, and ranging – we can provide such simple things for them and they give us the most amazing food in return….once you’ve had a farm egg you’ll never want to go back to store-bought!

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Nina in the field.

LMW) How do you like to unwind after a busy day? 

S & N) Honestly, being farmers is as demanding as a full-time job or more.  We are also running a business, maintaining our art practices and striving for a more creative, handmade life by cooking, canning, sewing our own clothes, and making our own household items.  All of these ambitions leave very little “free” time at the end of the day, but our work is satisfying and we are doing what we love.

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Farm grown quinoa.

LMW) Who do you turn to when you need farm-related advice? Is there any special person who guides you?

S & N) Over the years we’ve had many mentors including various farmers we’ve worked with.  We frequently reference many farm-related books.  Some of our current favorite authors are Steve Solomon, Carol Deppe. Eliot Coleman, Tradd Cotter, and Shannon Hayes. 

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Alpaca Farm (awwwww!!!)

LMW) Besides farming, we know that creating handmade decorative pieces is one of your passions. How and when did you start this?

S & N) We’ve been designing, drawing, and sewing all of our lives – making things out of whatever we could get our hands on, where ever we are.  Now, Nina has a graphic design business and Sonya is a freelance illustrator, and when we both moved to Portland it seemed natural that we should join forces and open a shop.  Collaboration has it’s challenges, but it also stretches us and takes our projects in directions neither of us might have gone solo.

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Handmade rag doll. Lula 🙂 (listed here!)

LMW) Where do you draw inspiration from? Any artist whose works you admire?

S & N) There are plenty of classic and contemporary artists that we admire and draw inspiration from, but we are also heavily influenced by people who are living lives that challenge the status quo: other artist-farmers, craftspeople, seed savers, bio-remediators and wilderness advocates such as Wendell Berry, Scott and Helen Nearing, William Copperthwaite, Winona LaDuke, to name just a few.

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Handmade circle scarf. Listed here!

LMW) And one final question before I take your leave. A piece of advice for all the lovely women who want to take a different path and follow their dreams.

S & N) The best advice we’ve heeded is simplifying, downsizing, and lowering our overhead.  These are the ways to free yourself to follow your dreams.  When you simplify your life and find ways to meet your needs in non-monetary ways, you can afford to do what you love to do.   Try to ignore all the “shoulds” we encounter everyday in our lives.  Resist the mainstream, extractive consumer society.

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Planting the beans.

Thank you once again for sharing all these wonderful things about your life. We wish you super-success in all that you do. Love and hugs <3

Make sure to follow these lovelies on Instagram here, for a glimpse of their beautiful journey!

You can also take a look at their Etsy store, where they put up most of their handmade decor pieces for sale here!

(Find Nina here: @nimonte and Sonya here: @sonyamontenegro)

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