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Crafting Organic in Charlottesville

Written by John, SRNB Charlottesville


organic products made in Charlottesville, VA

Savvy Rest can trace its local organic mattress manufacturing back to 2003, but we certainly aren’t the only (or even the first) organic producer to call Charlottesville home. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite local “organic” businesses.

Barefoot Bucha

Locally-brewed kombucha

It all started with a friend’s scoby. Ethan Zuckerman was in college when he was introduced to the art of brewing kombucha—a fermented tea-based beverage. And in the 12 years since he’s never looked back. Now re-settled in his native Virginia and married to Kate (also a local; they attended middle school together), all is well with the husband-and-wife business owners…but it wasn’t always so.

After the kombucha fiasco of the summer of 2010 (a bottle of kombucha was found on a Whole Foods shelf containing more than 0.5% alcohol, a major no-no), the normally non-alcoholic brew became difficult to find. At the time, Ethan and Kate were brewing mainly for fun. Suddenly, business boomed. They formed a “CSK” (community-supported kombucha) and operated from the parking lot behind Mas. “Basically, we were bootlegging,” says Kate. “We were brewing for friends, and then friends of friends, and then we just couldn’t wash that many bottles every day.”

Fast forward to 2015…Barefoot Bucha (now Blue Ridge Bucha) is now available all over Charlottesville and in Whole Foods Markets throughout DC and Maryland. And, as of 2014, they’re officially certified organic.

Kate’s favorite brew? “I usually can’t go wrong with the ginger, but with the sleepless nights of parenting two young kids, our caffeinated ColdBrewcha (we make it with Trager Brothers organic Guatemalan beans) is great!”

Brigit True Organics

Age-old, natural skin care

Organics may be trendy now, but there’s nothing new about organic skin care. In fact, some of Brigitte Rau’s formulas are nearly 1,000 years old.

After being educated in the European tradition of herbalism, Brigitte moved to Charlottesville with her husband in 2000 and opened Brigit True Organics. (And no, that’s not a typo: Brigit is the Celtic goddess of healing and herbalism.) Drawing on inspiration from her grandmother and the earth around her (and Brigit), Brigitte loves finding natural solutions to everyday problems.

While her Magic Skin Balm is still her favorite product to make (it was her first, after all), Brigitte says creating new formulas keeps her job interesting. “I was recently asked by a customer, ‘Could you make an organic deodorant?’” I said, ‘Hmmm, that is a challenge.’” It’s clear she also thinks that the challenge is the fun.

So why Charlottesville? “Charlottesville is just a charming town,” says Brigitte. “It has a very European flair. The Downtown Mall, the outdoor cafes, the vendors. It’s a great place for small businesses.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Radical Roots CSA

Certified organic farming

Lee O’Neill grew up farming. Her family’s Virginia farm wasn’t organic (“Dad farmed very differently”), but after apprenticing on the West Coast, in Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico, a love of organic farming, and its bounties, had taken hold.

Founded with her husband Dave in 2000, Radical Roots Farm began offering certified organic herbs and produce in Charlottesville before Charlottesville knew it even wanted them. “It felt a bit like pioneering,” Lee says. “There was a lot of education we had to do about the benefits of organic produce.”

Now, Radical Roots’ produce is available throughout Central Virginia. Lee and Dave offer their harvest directly to the public through their CSA, farmers’ markets and co-ops, as well as several local restaurants and caterers. (Feast! in Charlottesville is one of our favorites.) They even offer seedlings.

What’s the best part for Lee? “I love showing people how to grow. I think that’s a disconnect many people have. I love helping people learn how to play in their gardens.”

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