I told you last week that “back in 1998-9 our instinct was to radically change the course of our lives”, promising to tell you this week just how, where and why. That was a tad ambitious for one small blog, but here are the bones.
Mother’s Garden is more than a brand; it is a way of life.
All we that do – the books, the olive oil, the farm cottage holidays, the farm – have grown organically from the principles that fuelled our life change and independence all those years ago, and which we work very hard to sustain today. We wanted a foundation on which to focus on the importance of family, to find time and never wish it away, and to find a place where we could challenge ourselves to make a new life that would fulfil us.
And here is a key point, one factor that had the greatest bearing on whether, particularly in the early years, we would succeed or fail: To everyone among the many who asks how he or she can do likewise, we always stress the need to build on rock.
The analogy of our beautiful, ancient farmhouse is a good one for anyone thinking of starting out on their own in business, whether in a foreign country or where they are. It is built on rock. The house needed attention in 2000 (it still does), but the roof was sound and it had electrical and phone connections. It is on fertile Priorat land with a well and spring, close to a village, school, medical centre and a railway station, 40 minutes from the sea, Reus Airport and Tarragona, 1 hour and 30 minutes to Barcelona.
The core of our business – whatever it turned out to be – would rise from this foundation.
The fact that we had no set plans regarding income, other than the gross gamble of finding a publisher and a readership for my books, was “very brave”, some people have said. No. It was mad. We had no savings and in the first two years attempted to be as self-sufficient as possible, watering vegetables until nightfall while we brainstormed how best to water the seedlings of this adventure and somehow find a way for Mother’s Garden to bear a different sort of fruit.
We believed totally in the Mother’s Garden concept of living and we quickly appreciated how the wide interest in it was important. So the ideas of how to support ourselves came. We shared our experiences through two No Going Back television documentaries on Channel Four, created and registered a perfect brand logo of a fruitful tree from a drawing by our niece and our daughter, turned our burgeoning Latin farming and cuisine knowledge into an olive oil export business and we restored a derelict house on the farm into a holiday retreat for people from around the world.
In the coming weeks I will talk about our steep and ongoing learning curve regarding marketing, language, planning, brand building and growing, covering the obvious challenge of basing ourselves in a different country and all that means. I will be honest about our failings and will chronicle our advances.
Despite the years we remain an almost kitchen-table business, one that now needs to evolve, because the jigsaw has now become too large for that significant table. I am happy to share that journey with you. And if you would also like a less-business, more earthy account of this family life, see my blog at mothersgarden.org.