Sarah Bellos

Sarah Bellos's picture
Basic Info
Wild Gift Class Year: 
2011
Better World Expertise: 
Community Engagement/Activism
Sustainable Food & Agriculture
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Southern Hues
Through Wild Gift, I was able to take a step away from my previous business to ask myself: how can I create a life that better reflects my values, honors my strengths and makes the world a better place? Mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell said, ‘your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.’ Maneuvering through the back-country, I faced feelings from contemplative to exhilarating to downright challenging, but no matter what the outward feeling, the reality of surviving and thriving in the wild called to mind just how false my perceptions of security and success really were. My true nature, it seemed, was waiting in the wilderness -- my own sacred space -- to be freed from layers of fear and conformity we wear in the so-called real world. The vastness of the wilderness was tempered by the close- knit company of other young leaders and a dynamic cast of supportive mentors. Somewhere between solitude and the support of peers and mentors, I began to awaken to my essence, my core values and beliefs. It was here, in this sacred space, that I envisioned my life’s work matching my social goal of cultivating new farmers, with my environmental goal of protecting and restoring farmland through sustainable agriculture. The project that emerged from the wilderness, Southern Hues, is one of the most innovative and sustainably scalable projects in the domestic eco-fashion industry.

In early 2012 I launched my new business, Southern Hues. Our mission is to increase the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems in the Southeastern US by helping women and beginning farmers diversify into natural dye crops.  Southern Hues supports the next generation of land stewards and caretakers of the soil by lowering the barriers to entry into the value-added alternative crop market. Through our beautiful product line, we engage a broad range of consumers in support of a sustainable agrarian economy and restoration of our earth.  From shawls to naturally dyed fabrics, we are making healthier products available to our customers while providing small farmers with a living wage.

No colors on earth surpass natural dyes in their beauty and life-affirming nature, so the were a clearly superior choice to synthetic fabrics and chemical dyes for our product line. For farmers, natural dye plants have great potential as an alternative industrial crop to improve crop diversity, wildlife and beneficial insect habitats, and to minimize fertilizer and pesticide use on farms.  The beauty and colors these plants produce can translate into increase revenue for the farmer, and therefore more money flowing back into rural economies.  We are all hungry for beautiful and useful products that connect us to a purpose and to planet. By supporting Southern Hues, our customers know they are supporting a supply chain that provides women and beginning farmers with a living wage for growing crops that make their farms more sustainable while improving the ecological resilience of our landscape.

 

Prior to launching Southern Hues with the support of Wild Gift, I was co-owner of Artisan Natural Dyeworks, an eco-dye facility located in Nashville, TN.  Artisan Natural Dyeworks specializes in the use of all-natural plant- and earth-based dyes to dye garments, piece goods and production yardage. It is one of the only U.S. based companies to provide natural dye services at a scale suitable for independent designers.  Artisan Natural Dyeworks is currently being run by my co-founder while I focus on building Southern Hues.  In addition to my work with Artisan Natural Dyeworks, I was a co-founder of Nashville Urban Harvest, a non-profit focused on promoting sustainable agriculture and increasing food security in Middle Tennessee. Through creation and stewardship of an urban community farm and a producer of the only farmers' market in downtown Nashville, we created dialogue and on the ground partnerships promoting economically and environmentally viable farming systems and market outlets.  After farming on rented land for the past four years, in 2011 I started my own farm in Whites Creek, TN, where I help a bee hive flourish, have chickens and a vermiculture system, and am waiting to see what the season brings.  I regularly blog about life on four acres at interdependencefarm.com

Before moving to Tennessee, I worked at the Investor Responsibility Research Center as a research analyst on the food and agriculture industries.  I also interned in the Sustainable Enterprise Program at the World Resources Institute, researching business and biotechnology. While an undergraduate in Natural Resources Policy and Management at Cornell University (BS, 2004), I managed the student run organic farm and led an elementary school tutoring program through an Americorps grant. I am a member of the inaugural Fellowship class for the Southeast region of the Environmental Leadership Program and currently a Senior Fellow. I am very excited to have been a part of the Wild Gift Class of 2011 and one of the 2012 Wild Gift grantees.