‘We need to realize that we are nature,’ says Fat and the Moon founder Rachel Budde

Rachel Budde lived in Brooklyn for 11 years, honing her skills as an artist while feeding a growing interest in mythology. At first providing inspiration for her art practice, it was this interest that gave way to a realization: she had lost a connection to her surroundings that formed a part of her Slovenian heritage. Rachel’s resulting transition from New Yorker to Californian, and artist to herbalist, was inspired not only by a desire for a more conscious life, but a deeper calling to nature and its role in her ancestry.

The full interview was originally featured in our publication City Quitters, which portrays creative pioneers pursuing alternative ways of living and working away from big cities.

What made you want to leave the city?

Leaving New York was difficult for me. I was developing my art career, and was fresh out of graduate school, when I felt a calling that was connected to plants and healing. I think of that time as a fork in the road of my destiny; one road led to one life, while the other led a different way. Once I left the city to live on a farm, I felt flooded with purpose and inspiration. 

What prompted the shift from art to plants?

What really informed my art practice was mythology. A fundamental part of mythology is how people relate to their landscape, the animals that live there, and the plants. I realized that I had no connection to any of that. I was interested in mythology but wasn’t really investigating my place in this eco-system.

This dichotomy of nature and culture is a construct

When I began studying permaculture I heard an idea that some weeds growing in urban areas have medicinal properties correlating to the illnesses people suffer from in the same landscapes. That was a really powerful discovery for me – seeing this connection to nature, even in the city. 

First I moved to Oakland, but l felt a strong desire to have more plants and animals around me than people. I ended up moving to a very small town in Northern California called Point Arena, with a population of about 500 people, where I lived on a farm. I learned more about being a human by being around plants, animals and wild landscapes than I did from being around other humans. It just gave me a wider perspective. 


How did you get to Nevada City?

I really loved Point Arena. I lived in a tiny house that was off the grid. I learned about myself deeply during that time, but it also felt a bit lonely. My partner and I broke up, and I wanted a bit more of a community. Nevada City seemed like a happy medium. That’s how I landed here, in the hope of buying a farm at some point. 

When did Fat and the Moon start?

It started in Brooklyn in 2011. At the time I started to get really alarmed by the toxicity of the products I was using. If you want to see something in the world, as an artist, you make it. That’s how it got started, that’s what is at the core of Fat and the Moon. 

My background as an artist, feminist and herbalist converged. Our products are alternatives to the toxic ingredients and toxic messaging ubiquitous in body care products. We provide plant based body care potions that support self-care and self-love.

How did you learn about plants and their properties? 

When I came to California I studied with various herbalist and ethnobotanists. My family is from Slovenia and herbalism is part of the ambient culture there, like it is in many countries outside America. For most people it’s just practical to use plant medicines.

I learned more about being a human by being around plants, animals and wild landscapes. It just gave me a wider perspective

Four years ago I started to research the medicinal plants of Slovenia but also their uses within my family, and that’s turning into a book. It was really fascinating to learn the stories about plants and how people related to them, how they fit into their mythology and their culture. That’s been a humbling part of my education, and taught me to revive our relationship with these old allies. 

We need to realize that we are nature. This dichotomy of nature and culture is a construct. We need to see our relationships with plants, even weeds, as alive and full of potential – and we can do that no matter where we are based.

How different is your day-to-day life now compared to New York?

In some ways I am just as busy as I was living in New York. My work is multilayered. I am writing a book, I am running a business, and I am pregnant and want to have a family. But what feels really different is my ability, my privilege, to go out and be in the middle of nowhere without any people around. It feels very nourishing. The beauty of the natural landscape here is a huge resource for me.

How easy did you find it to connect with the local community here?

I came into a wonderful community, so I feel very lucky in that sense. Bringing my art or business with me was a great bridge. Fat and the Moon was the entity that helped me gain access to the community. Now my business is here and I’ve hired people, it’s something I could bring. And that feels really good. 

Do you grow the plants for your products yourself?

Some of them. I work with local farms to source some of the plants and we work with a company in Oregon as well.

My home burned down in January. That was a real shift in my life, in big and small ways. Now I live closer to town, but my hope is to buy a farm to grow the plants for Fat and the Moon in the next five years. 

What happened to your house?

I was away in Hawaii on a writing retreat for a couple of days. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but it was electrical and happened in the middle of the night. My home completely burned to the ground. It was pretty intense. It’s been a huge learning experience for me; of course it was devastating, but it’s also given me such a different sense of what home is. My sense of belonging had to come from belonging to myself. I think it’s an experience I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

In some ways I am just as busy as I was living in New York. But what feels really different is my ability to go out and be in the middle of nowhere without any people around

And honestly, I don’t think I would have gotten pregnant if it weren't for the fire. That’s how fire works in the natural landscape, it brings fertility. It brings total destruction, but from that destruction comes new life.

When you are in a landscape where the cycle of life to death is more visible, it starts to affect you deeply. The elemental parts of life become more natural. I think it opens you to the transitions that happen in your own life. That doesn’t always mean it’s easy, but it can give you a sense that this is part of life, part of nature. It’s strengthening. It gave me such a different sense of worrying – the worry about something bad happening is often much more limiting than how we actually end up reacting in the moment. 

Has your consumption changed at all since living in a rural place?

I am much more aware of what happens to something after I have finished using it. Once I had the experience of living on a farm, eating mostly the food that we grew, and enjoying the quality of life that came from that, I could never go back. I still love beautiful things – I love art, I love fashion – but I try to direct that interest and energy into more reciprocal, sustainable relationships with my environment.

Your products sell all over the world. Do you mainly sell to an urban customer?

Actually, yes. The places that we sell the most are New York, LA and San Francisco. Our deodorant is like the gateway drug to other herbal medicine. It often prompts people to look at what they’re putting on or in their bodies in a more critical way. 

When we talk about sustainability it is often about restriction or having this boring, limiting lifestyle. But it is not just about the actual things that you are consuming. It’s an entry point into thinking about the quality of life of the people who are producing the things that you consume. If your food or clothing is made by people who are enjoying themselves, it’s usually a better experience for you too, and everybody wins. 

What are your plans for the future?

I really want to have a farm. I would love to have a space where I can teach workshops, invite speakers, and facilitate more cross-pollination between the urban and the rural landscape.

I am hoping to finish this book in the next couple of years. It is a longer term project, but one that’s really exciting for me. It is very much inspired by my experience in Slovenia and the mythology there. Plant medicine and mythology is part of all our ancestry. For me, herbal medicine is about healing ourselves, healing our bodies, but also healing our relationship to our landscape. 


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