Spring has come to Foxhollow Herb Farm in Hollister, and the fields of organic lavender, chamomile, white sage, rosemary and horehound, are reaching their prime. Owner Jackie Mendizabal will be picking the finest of this bounty to make her soaps, lotions, creams, incense, and all of her other products.
Foxhollow came into being in 1995, when Mendizabal and her husband Rey moved from Morgan Hill to a five-acre property in Hollister. The farm’s name comes from the problems they had when they first tried to raise chickens.
“We noticed they were slowly disappearing,” Mendizabal said. “As we were looking around, trying to figure out where they were going, we found a few dens of kit foxes. And we took the name from that.”
Her father, Robert Jimenez, who worked as a migrant farmworker in his youth, sparked her interest in plants by helping her plant her first vegetable garden.
“I remember growing up that he had the most magnificent gardens,” she said. “So I have always had a natural affinity for plants, starting from when I was a young child. As I got older, I wanted to find out what plants do for healing purposes and started studying how they can enhance health.”
The move to Hollister allowed Mendizabal to indulge herself in gardening, eventually tending two acres of lavender. And that left her with a lot of herbs that she could start selling.
“I was working in the health education department at Good Samaritan Hospital, and I started selling my herbs at farmers markets as well,” she said. “One day, my husband said, ‘You really don’t seem to have time for both jobs, so you should probably pick one or the other.’ I chose the farmers markets. I was a little scared at first, but everything grew from there.”
Mendizabal does all the production work herself, cutting and drying the herbs, then infusing them in either olive oil, grapeseed oil, witch hazel, or spring water, depending on what she plans to make. After straining them, she mixes them with melted beeswax and other natural ingredients.
“I used to have a few employees,” she said. “My husband, who is retired, helps with the gardening and tractor work, and I did have high school girls who helped when I was doing a lot of private label products. But as they left for college, I just scaled back rather than replacing them. I have slowed down a bit as I have gotten older, but I enjoy doing it. It keeps me going.”
The olive oil she uses comes from Oils of Paicines as a base for her healing salve, body butter, lip balm and soap.
“When they started the business 20-plus years ago, the owners met with Jackie” said Shelley Hartman, business manager of Oils of Paicines. “They agreed to carry some of her body care line in our store. After a while, Jackie started using our olive oil in some of her products. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities of olive oil are a perfect match for what she is doing.”
The relationship between Oils of Paicines and Mendizabal has turned into a great partnership.
While Mendizabal has worked with some of the same plant species for years, she is always open to new things to try.
”I look for new herbs all the time, growing them from seed so I can find out more about them,” she said. “I love my plants. Touching them, working with them, learning about them, even talking to them. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true.”
Her best venues over the years have been the farmers markets, and she hopes to start selling at them again soon. But during the shutdown, her online business kept her going.
“It was hard because, due to COVID, nobody could sample anything,” she said. “But my customers are so loyal, a lot of them were happy to buy from me online. It made me think for a moment, ‘maybe I should just stick to selling that way.’”
Shirie Eshel has been one of those loyal customers, since discovering Foxhollow products at her local farmers market in Mountain View eight years ago.
“Her products are very amazing,” she said. “I use all the creams, massage oils, essential oils. I really recommend the deep moisture face cream, and they have a great facial serum with chamomile and rose. Their hand therapy cream is also wonderful. They have a few different kinds, and I like switching them around. Everything is sourced and organic, which makes me more confident in putting it on my skin.”
Mendizabal spoke of one satisfied customer stocking up on her products before traveling to Africa. The customer sent Mendizabal photographs of her creams and lotions being used by tribeswomen there.
“There is a lot of hard work in what I do,” Mendizabal said. “But I get satisfaction from being with the products from start to finish and knowing people trust them. The thought that someone will open a gift on Christmas Day, and it will be something I made, that gives me a real sense of accomplishment.”
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