We last met Four Cow Farm, makers of natural skin care products for children, as they shared their top 5 eco tips. Now we go Behind the Brand with Delphinia as she tells the story of how they got started, the choices they make in creating their products and why it’s so important to be informed about where the things you buy really come from.
Little Green Dot: I’m always fascinated by what drives people to create. What was the inspiration behind Four Cow Farm?
Delphinia: The inspiration behind Four Cow Farm was my little baby girl, although she’s not so little anymore. At about five months of age, she developed eczema and was immediately put on steroid creams. As I learnt more about how damaging steroid creams could be to the skin of someone so little, I started searching around for really great natural skincare products to help her skin deal with the eczema.
I pretty much went through every natural brand out there! And my frustration began to grow as I began to learn more about skincare ingredients, natural and non-natural, and how ‘good’ they actually were for the skin. Most of the mainstream brands out there are terribly harsh on young, sensitive skin as they’re laden with synthetic detergents, extremely potent preservatives and strong fragrances – all three of which are important triggers which lead to eczema flare-ups.
It was in desperation that I turned to my mum-in-law, who’s a former midwife and a very knowledgeable natural remedies advocate. She started making products for my daughter, sourcing very carefully the very best ingredients from suppliers she knew and trusted, and literally cooking them up in her kitchen on the farm and sending them over to us. We started sharing them with friends and family, and it really just grew from there!
Nanna – that’s what our little ones call my mum-in-law – is really the heart of the brand as she’s an absolute stickler for quality and is very particular about the ingredients she chooses, where they’re sourced from, and how each product is formulated and made. The products were really born from her love and concern for our little girl, so they carry all her superbly high standards, even more so since they are designed and made for her own two grandchildren.
And one of Nanna’s principles is an insistence on a totally natural, ‘what you see and smell is what you get’ approach to formulating the products. That means that no additives, fillers or fragrances are added to our products. Even essential oils need to be used in very specific doses for young children and babies as they can actually have undesirable side-effects if not used carefully. So we only use essential oils for their beneficial qualities, and never for fragrance, and then only in the safest dosages.
So, when you open up a Four Cow Farm bottle or jar, what you see and smell and touch is just our wonderful ingredients and nothing else.
Little Green Dot: Where are the Four Cow Farm products produced? Can you tell me us a little about the process?
Delphinia: All our products are still produced right on our family farm in South-East Queensland, Australia. It’s an old dairy farm and is situated in one of the finest bits of countryside anywhere in Australia, we think! Lush rolling hills, little towns, lots of countryside and plenty of cream teas! We’re high up on a mountain range and the lovely weather makes for good growing the year round. It’s also old volcanic soil so pretty much anything will grow without the need for fertilisers!
The farm runs on 100% green energy, so that means all the products are produced with that. Granddad and Nanna have also dedicated part of the farm to a local scheme called ‘Land for Wildlife’, which pledges protection for that land to native flora and fauna, nothing else is allowed to interfere there. That means it’s a bit of a wildlife reserve so we often get wallabies and hares wandering through, also lots of kookaburras and the odd koala or bandicoot!
One of the dairy sheds has been converted into a production room, with all Nanna’s machines and ingredients kept safely there, and all our products are still made right on the farm, in that room, before being shipped out to our customers and retailers. Nanna still personally oversees all production, and still makes a lot of it by hand herself, so every product is still most definitely grandmum-approved before being shipped out the door!
Little Green Dot: Where do you source the ingredients used in your products?
Delphinia: We source many of our ingredients from local suppliers, many we know personally, and some right in neighbouring areas. One thing which makes us rather different from other skincare brands is that Nanna insists not just on using natural fruit, nut or vegetable oils (and not mineral oils), but on using the highest grade of them. That means that all our oils are extra virgin cold-pressed oils.
Extra virgin refers to the quality of the oil in terms of acidity, taste, colour, etc. and cold-pressed refers to the method of extraction. Most oils these days are extracted using solvents, chemicals and heat. Cold-pressed oils are the most traditional method of expressing oils as it’s completely mechanical – the fruit, nut or vegetable is literally placed in a press and pressed without using any heat. That retains as much of the natural qualities of the oil as is possible since nothing synthetic is used in the process. Iit takes a bit more time and effort, but the oils are absolutely worth it, the finest available.
The other thing that Nanna insists upon is that every ingredient used is food-grade, that includes the most highly desirable and valuable emulsifiers and preservatives (both very necessary in skincare). For example, we use a 100% essential oils-based preservative which is almost literally worth its weight in gold! And we also use a 100% olive-derived emulsifier, which is one of the gentlest and most soothing available.
Little Green Dot: In the time that you have been learning about natural skin care, what are some of the most important and surprising things that you’ve learned?
Delphinia: Firstly, the realisation that many of the ingredients which go into baby skincare products aren’t really good at all for babies, much less baby skin! Some are downright toxic. For example, mineral oil is known to be fatal if inhaled. There have been cases in the US and Australia where toddlers have died through inhaling it, which is why bottles of mineral oil (which is basically sold as ‘baby oil’ around the world) now have to have tamper-proof caps in the US.
The second thing was the shock that many of the very expensive bottles of natural creams I had been buying for my daughter were full of questionable ingredients, some of which were basically synthetic! It made me guilt-ridden as a mother and angry as a consumer. It also made me determined to learn as much as possible from Nanna and others about the whole area of natural skincare and foods. Which is why one of the things Four Cow Farm is absolutely passionate about is educating other parents about how to identify ingredients in the products they buy, which we do through talks and workshops with groups of mums and dads.
Our belief is that the whole movement towards natural and organic food and skincare is really great, and something that absolutely needs to be happening – not just for us, but for our earth! The heart of the natural and organic movement is really about getting closer to where the things you buy come from – how they’re grown and made, what goes into them and who makes them. And that’s why we’d really like to help customers take that step closer to truly understanding what buying natural and organic really means.
You can find Four Cow Farm baby products stocked in selected retailers in Australia and Singapore, and the full list of where they can be found here on the Four Cow Farm website.