When New York City native Carmen married second-generation farmer Blake Gendebien, the couple moved back to buy a farm neighboring the one where he grew up. They joined his parents, Peter and Sharen, to create an expanded Twin Mill Farms in Lisbon.
Blake had always loved farming and they knew it would be a great place to raise a family. “This is where food comes from,” Blake says with satisfaction. “Every day we are making food for America.”
The couple has been busy on the farm over the last 14 years and has treasured the opportunity to provide a childhood deeply connected to nature for their three sons, Miles, Truman and Noah. “What I really enjoy is making small square bales of hay on a sunny day with the boys in the wagon and then jumping into the pond afterwards,” Blake says.
Carmen did, however, miss certain things about the city including access to regular, professional facials and other beauty treatments, so she decided to take matters in her own hands (literally) and become a licensed esthetician.
In May of 2011, Carmen and Blake opened Glow Skincare and Spa in nearby Canton, New York and have built it into a very successful business. Creating her own line of farm-to-spa products flowed naturally from this, Carmen says. While studying for her license, she had learned to carefully examine and analyze a client’s skin and develop a customized set of products for each one. “I realized that I could put together different ingredients and make my own,” she says.
What’s more, she realized that she had some incredible ingredients right at her fingertips like rich, restorative milk direct from the Twin Mills herd; fragrant alfalfa and red clover from the fields; and herbs like mint from her own garden.
Carmen launched A Wholesome Glow just this past January and immediately received positive press in a variety of spa and health magazines. Her products—available direct online and at a growing number of spas around the country—include “the richest soap I could make,” she says proudly, crafted right on the farm from pure, fresh milk; alfalfa; oats and six different oils.
Her tub tea sachets filled with red clover blossoms or mint and lilac pair beautifully with her calming lavender and chamomile milk bath, rich in vitamins and minerals. The blueberry, tea and mint body scrub was inspired by the many local blueberry farms and her apple-lavender body cream by the apple trees that are ubiquitous in northern New York.
For the Gendebiens, the farm-to-spa enterprise is part of the puzzle of making farming work for their family and for the earth.
In Pulse magazine earlier this year, Carmen was quoted as saying, “We believe a healthy lifestyle means more than a few moments per day of environmental awareness. As farmers and spa owners, we have a responsibility to be advocates for wellness, which means healthy people and a healthy planet.”
In a recent blog post on their farm website, Blake details the efforts the family makes regarding sustainability. “The only things that leave the farm are our milk and A Wholesome Glow products,” he writes. “We capture all of our animal waste, all of the uneaten food and all of the waste water to reuse and fertilize our crops in the spring.” After detailed energy audits, the family invested in high-efficiency lighting and started using cold water to pre-cool the milk on its way to the milk tank.
Blake goes on to explain that Twin Mill uses farming practices designed to reduce the number of times the soil is tilled and to keep herbicide and pesticide use to the absolute minimum. “This helps keep our soils full and rich with nutrients,” he explains, “which reduces our carbon footprint and makes for a healthier farm and a healthier planet.”
The work is ongoing, he concludes: “We are improving our sustainability on the farm all the time. We believe in sowing seeds of sustainability now, to create happy and healthy growth always and produce the best products we can for years to come.”