Alexandra is a farmer, food and agricultural educator, and endlessly inspiring culinary creative who is deeply devoted to the medicine of truly nourishing foods, the art of preservation (in the kitchen and beyond), and pantry apothecaries as one of the highest forms of empowerment. Currently residing in the Great Lakes area of Michigan while creating a new farmstead project focused on resilient, food-bearing, and community-scale systems, Alex helps uplift us all by generously sharing her lifeways rooted in place-based tending.
Spoiler alert: she also crafted an incredible seasonal chimichurri recipe for us, featured below!
R+B: Hi Alex! It’s a true joy to connect with and learn from you, so thank you for agreeing to have this conversation. I am constantly amazed by your rich stores of such embodied wisdom, which I know you frame as reskilling and remembering. I assume that means that, like many of us, you have worked hard to both find and reclaim the path you’re now on. Can you share what inspired this journey, and how your Jewish heritage is connected?
ARR: Hi! I am so honored to be a guest on the blog, thank you so much for inviting me! I am so excited to dive into this conversation.
Yes, I do love to frame a lot of my work as reskilling and remembering. I think it's so important to emphasize the “RE” here, as none of what I am up to is anything new. What a relief, right? I don’t believe we need to invent the wheel; we just need to pick back up where we left off a generation or two ago. I like to ask myself: how can I infuse those wise, old ways into my present-day lifestyle? It truly isn’t about reenactment or re-creation, but a blending of tradition into the now.
My reclamation journey started in my very early 20’s after struggling with substance abuse and addiction. I never felt at home in my external surroundings in adolescence and felt very trapped by an environment that I didn’t belong or thrive in. When I became able to make autonomous choices for myself as an adult, I explored living in different places and holding different roles. After working in the healthcare field as a CNA, I got very curious about how food impacts both our physical and mental health. Long story short, I felt a deep desire to understand the food system and how it could harm us or heal us. I made my way onto a farm as a residential work trader, and everything fell into place for me. I’ve been farming ever since!
The Jewish connection piece is super fun to talk about, and I am still exploring and learning more about this every day. A few years ago, when I was struggling to grasp my own Jewish identity, my very dear friend told me: “Alex, farming and working with land is THE MOST Jewish thing you can do.” At a time when I felt like the casualness of my practices were seen as “not enough” for the role I currently hold, those words were a balm. They still are in my heart to this day and this is the exact message I hope to communicate with other Jewish land stewards that I am connected to. Jewish people, like so many other ancient cultures, were an agrarian people. Bringing these cultural ethics, rituals, flow, and traditions home into my daily life has been a joyful, grounding anchor to my ancestry.
R+B: Wow, thank you for sharing! It’s amazing to remember that all of us have a shared heritage of tending to the land and that it’s something we as humans have been doing for much, much longer than not—even if it feels foreign, it’s there for us to return to. Has your “diet” evolved as your life has so intimately merged with land stewardship, and if so, how?
ARR: Yes, it absolutely has! Before I was a full-time farmer, I was eating a diet that leaned heavily towards veganism. My relationship with food at that time was more so influenced by dogma, fear, misinformation, and a black and white outlook rather than what was actually taking place in the context of good stewardship in the region where I live. The deeper I dug into agriculture, the clearer I saw that a diet rich in local, well-raised plant and animal provisions was a better fit for me. Letting go of plant based ideologies helped me form a deeper connection and relationship with my food and my body. A lot shifted for me after I allowed myself to change my mind. My physical body, emotional state, temperament, mental capacity, community, and basically everything in my life changed for the better.
I feel my best when I eat foods that I've raised and foraged or that are grown by local producers, who I have tons of respect for. I’ve been raising my own small livestock and buying locally raised larger animals for several years now, and I feel much more grounded in my body and in the place where my body lives. While I certainly don’t have a 100% local diet (nor do I strive to; there is so much pleasure in diverse fruits, seafoods, imported cheeses, rice, spices, etc.), local and home-raised foods do make up most of what I consume because of my integration with both the land and my belief/support for bioregional living.
R+B: I love that this remembrance has also transformed to the way you eat. So, you’ve shared about the joys of a layered kitchen or “packing in extra flavor / medicinal / elemental layers” wherever possible. This concept really resonates for me and my purpose with Root and Bones, highlighting just how exciting our pantries can be. I can only imagine the colors and variety of your reserve stores! Yet you are honest about how much work it is to grow, harvest, preserve, and prepare such a variety of herbal vinegars, infused honeys, and spiked salts. Do you have advice for someone who’s just starting to build a pantry apothecary?
ARR: This is one of my favorite things to share about. When you log onto a social media platform and see what everyone else is doing and has been doing, it can feel defeating or overwhelming to begin… like “how will I ever learn all of these things!?” I know I felt a mix of both excitement and a slight paralysis around how to get started when I was first getting my toes wet here. My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting in on this ever-ongoing pantry/apothecary process is to begin with what YOU know YOU already enjoy. For example: if you already cook with tons of garlic and ginger from the store, start there. Make garlic and ginger oxymels, infused honeys, salts, etc. Look for abundant things in the landscape that taste similar. Harvest garlic mustard from the woods and make pesto, dehydrate onion grass and make wild allium salt, pickle a few jars of magnolia petals, etc. Look at what you and your family enjoy and expand upon that. Try new things, of course, but know that there is nothing wrong with starting where you’re at and diversifying what you know you already enjoy.
If this is something you want to truly take seriously, invest in good equipment to help you get there. A good dehydrator, best quality menstruums, proper storage containers and bottles, etc. will make the process 10 times more enjoyable and help extend the life of what you create.
R+B: I love this advice… and also realizing that we don’t have to make every single thing in our pantry apothecaries can relieve a lot of pressure! I’ve heard you speak about your “silly little coffee routine” being a highlight of your day, and you know I feel the same way! I think a lot of us can relate, and truly honoring this morning ritual as such really set the tone for my day. Do the contents of your morning brew fluctuate daily or seasonally, and what did you enjoy today?
ARR: My coffee routine really is one of my favorite parts of the day! Currently, I am loving Root and Bones He Shou Wu and Marine Collagen in my coffee to make it a functional tonic for blood-building and hair/skin nourishment. I am focusing on upping my protein intake right now so I add a scoop of unflavored grass-fed whey powder to my coffee, which makes the drink super frothy and creamy. I always add cinnamon and homemade half and half made from raw milk and cream from my herd share program. When I sweeten my coffee, I use homemade maple syrup or honey from our hives. Then it all goes into a blender to get everything nice and emulsified. This is such a delicious part of my breakfast.
Making this doozy of a beverage and a solid breakfast for myself is one of my non-negotiables. No matter if it's a slow winter day or a busy high-season summer morning, this is my gift to myself and helps me start the day with solid, sustainable energy. Even if I'm traveling, I pack all of my ingredients, grab a plain coffee or use instant, and use a hand frother to make the magic happen. It’s nice to know I can start the day with something so yummy and so beneficial!
R+B: Agreed, and our daily habits are so foundational when it comes to how far our vision can stretch! You and your husband have been working hard on Northwoods Farmstead and Skill Center in northwest Michigan. Can you share about the ways in which this project expands upon your work and where you source the energy to dream so big?
ARR: Thank you! Northwoods Farm and Skill is the physical love child of everything my husband and I believe in and what we want to offer to the world. It’s a homebase for us to share the food we grow, a place to come learn practical skills both in the kitchen and in the field, a space for makers and doers to share their crafts, and a spot for folks who don’t live rurally or on a farm to experience what that feels, sounds, and tastes like. Starting a farm project like this really isn’t for the faint of heart. I do believe you have to be slightly insane to know the economic reality and labor requirements of small-scale farming and say, “yep let’s do that!” But at the end of the day, there is nothing on planet Earth that we would rather be doing. I have been involved with several different educational farms over the past decade and I really believe in the model of not just growing food, but also offering on-farm opportunities for other folks to come and learn something new.
85% of the time, our energy to keep this project moving forward is there. The other 15% of the time it can be difficult to find it. We get tired, especially in the growing season, and sometimes making the 4-hour round trip journey to work on infrastructure feels exhausting. Honing our discipline and keeping our eye on our goal is where we bridge the gap. Yes, sometimes we choose to goof off and go recharge at Lake Michigan with a basket of plums instead, but then we get back to it. Making time to take those breaks and enjoy the process keeps us going. Rick and I are two people who are very good at being selective with where we put our energy. Deciding who and what gets our attention helps us refocus our energy on what we truly value and what nourishes us in return. We’re playing the long game here so sustaining this energy is vital for us.
R+B: Speaking of plums and water immersion, it has felt like a very long winter for us out here in northern California… maybe you can relate? How are you feeling and what are some herbal allies that are currently helping you feel supported while it’s technically Spring but hasn’t really felt like it?
ARR: I can absolutely relate! I have gotten out of the mindset of wishing away the winter, but the slowness of a Michigan early spring can be challenging after months of very little sun! I really love to support my body through the early spring with moistening herbs and nutritives. I tend to run very dry and my body struggles in the heavy spring winds that we get. Wind makes me feel like a dry, dusty, shriveled up version of myself. Drinking herbal infusions made from marshmallow root, violet leaf, linden leaf, roselle hibiscus, and seaweed (with a little pinch of salt!) helps hydrate my body in a deep way that feels like it sticks around. Root and Bones Tremella extract is so helpful for me, too. Brewing bone broth using medicinal herbs is another strategy I love. I use herbal bone broth in so many of our meals, which helps us consume more hydrating herbs, along with all of the wonderful lubricating support from the broth.
Once spring starts to progress, I can never get enough blended and strained cold infused cleavers. It’s my favorite spring herb for sure!
R+B: Well, you definitely added some brightness to the horizon with this amazing recipe you’ve crafted utilizing our He Shou Wu and 5th Kingdom extracts. Thank you so much for sharing! We hope you all find some joy in the kitchen, no matter what’s happening outside.
Spring Greens Chimichurri
This is a punchy, seasonal take on a classic chimichurri sauce. Since fresh chilis aren’t in season, I subbed in spring radishes for that toothsome and warming crunch. The heat will come from dried chili instead. Use whatever wild edible weeds you have access to and that you can confidently identify. If you can’t find any, sub with more parsley. Try serving this chimichurri drizzled over proteins, tossed through roasted vegetables, within tacos, used as a marinade, stirred into yogurt for an herbaceous dip, with rice, as a dressing base, etc. Resist the urge to use a food processor as this sauce is much more fun with a hand chopped texture.
-1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley (1 cup minced)
-1 large handful of wild weeds (I used garlic mustard and dandelion greens)
-1 large bunch of scallions (green and white parts)
-4-5 sprigs of monarda, sub with a sprinkle of fresh or dry oregano if you can’t find any
-1 small red onion or 1 medium shallot
-1 dry hot chili or 1-2tsp chili flakes
-1 tsp Root and Bones 5th Kingdom powder
-1tsp Root and Bones He Shou Wu
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1 tbsp fire cider or vinegar of choice
-3/4 cups olive oil
-Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
•Wash, dry, and finely mince the fresh parsley, scallions, spring weeds, and monarda. Add them all to a medium bowl.
•Finely chop the red onion/shallot and radish roots and add them to the bowl.
•Pulverize the chili with a mortar and pestle and add to the bowl.
•Add the freshly squeezed juice of the lemon, fire cider into the bowl and toss.
•Drizzle your olive oil over top, mix well, add the R+B powders and toss again.
•Season with salt and pepper until satisfied with the flavor.
•Allow the mixture to sit at room temp for 30-45 minutes before serving.
•Keep leftovers in a jar in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
If you wish to see more from Alex, we couldn’t more highly recommend following her on Instagram! Find tons of inspirational content by connecting with @alexandraskyee.