Hanukkah is a celebration of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebel warriors, who fought to recover Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. The miracle of lights we celebrate each year is all thanks to oil.
At Benevolence Farm, we too are grateful for oil. All of our products are infused with oils made from herbs and flowers grown on our farm. Our infused oils allow us to use simple ingredients while preserving the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of lavender, chamomile, calendula, rosemary, peppermint, and more. And since everything’s grown on our farm, we know it’s of the highest quality.
Creating oil does not happen overnight; it’s a months-long labor of love performed collaboratively between our staff and residents.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: We grow the herbs and flowers as part of a permaculture practice in partnership with our resident-employees.
Working on the farm is really rewarding, but our skin reflects the hard work! We often get abrasions, bug bites, and dry skin from the planting, weeding, care, and harvesting. Our Healing Salve, infused with chamomile oil, was designed by a resident-employee to moisturize and heal our skin so we can continue to commune with the land. Sometimes, you have everything you need right in front of you to heal.
Step 2: We harvest our herbs and flowers.
One of the most calming farm activities is harvesting our herbs and flowers. The fragrance is abundant and it is so fulfilling to see the plant you’ve been caring for flourish. This year, we harvested lavender, chamomile, calendula, rosemary, peppermint, mojito mint, echinacea, lemon balm, catnip, in addition to the fruits and vegetables we grow seasonally.
Step 3: We dry our herbs and flowers in our greenhouse.
Although we use our herbs and flowers year-round, we can only harvest for a few months in the summer. Therefore, we have to harvest abundantly to last us throughout the year. Exposing the leaves and flowers to dry air in our greenhouse quickly evaporates the moisture so as to preserve them. In 2023, we will complete a dedicated drying shed to meet the growing volume of herbs and flowers.
Step 4: We make the oil!
Our infused oil is a simple process using just two ingredients. We put our farm-grown herbs and flowers into grapeseed oil and let it “seep like tea” in our greenhouse for about two weeks underneath the sun. During this time, the vitamins and minerals within the herbs and flowers are absorbed by the grapeseed oil. All the wonderful medicinal properties are now readily available in our body care products.
Step 5: We press the oil.
Once the oil has seeped long enough, we need to remove organic material out so we can add the oil to our products without compromising the textures. To isolate the oil, we use cheese clothes, colanders, multiple jars, and a lot of rags for cleaning up as we extract the organic material. Because this process is so tedious, we have to be extra focused and relaxed so as not to waste any precious oil.
Step 6: We use the oil.
Finally, we have our infused oil! This is what makes Benevolence Farm’s products so unique. By tending to our plants from seed to product, we’re able to ensure that each item you purchase is the highest quality — and contains some extra care! We treasure our infused oils because they make our candles smell better, our body care products more effective, and remind us how important it is to take things one step at a time.
On Hanukkah, Jewish people celebrate oil that lasted for eight days, when it was only supposed to last for one. The shamash, or helper candle that is used to light an additional candle each night, reminds us that by simply lighting one candle, we have the opportunity to light many more. Benevolence Farm does exactly that. We push our residents to find their best selves and, through hope, we see that our own light is never diminished.
When you invest in Benevolence Farm, you’re getting so much more than a simple product or funding a place to live. We invest deeply in everything and everyone at the Farm. Each day, we remind ourselves that a seed does not become a flower overnight, nor can it become a flower by itself. It needs water, sunlight, pollinators, and a safe environment to thrive.
Similarly, healing from the trauma of incarceration does not happen overnight. It does not happen alone. Like the Maccabees, we exist in community and work alongside one another, stretching the resources available around us, to make miracles happen.
This Hanukkah, we invite you to reflect on your own community. Reflect on the beautiful, miraculous events that occur when we unite together towards one common goal. They do not happen overnight. They do not happen alone. And when those miracles do occur, the impact lasts for generations.
This article was co-written by Brett Rapkin-Citrenbaum, Employment Coach, and Hana Hawthorne, Support Queen.