For Christina Dedora and Eliza Sutton, co-owners of Sanctuary Herbs of Providence, herbs are more than just a plant – they’re the foundation of their growing social enterprise.
Shortly after the 2016 election, the surge of anti-immigrant and -refugee rhetoric being debated led them to establish successful partnerships with local refugee and immigrant farmers.
Dedora, a farmer, and Sutton, a community organizer, says that their endeavor was the perfect storm. “I was between jobs and Christina was looking to transition to herb farming, and knowing [so many] refugee farmers, we decided to make an herb company,” tells Sutton.
The pair, who previously worked together at South Side Community Land Trust, had spent several years working with farmers and gardeners of low-income background from other countries. “We wanted to help refugee farmers prosper,” Dedora says.
Though their processing facility is in Pawtucket, their farmers are located all over the state. Nine of their 16 farmers, plus Dedora herself, have businesses at Urban Edge Farm in Cranston, which is where they get most of their herbs. Sutton calls the operation “community-supported agriculture,” saying that “[consumers] reap the harvest of the farmers who, from community support, can purchase seeds to continue farming.”
Though the business is very seasonal, Sanctuary Herbs impacts farmers from different countries year-round. The pair sell herbal tea blends and culinary herbs at a dozen local stores in addition to their “Tea of the Month Club” that delivers hyper-fresh and hyper-local herbal teas to their subscribers’ doorsteps for a mere $10 a month. Dedora and Sutton say that they call it “farm to tea” because the person gets a package of tea that went from local farms to their steaming hot teacup in only one month.
Dedora and Sutton are proud that they’re the only company in the state doing what they’re doing, and in turn creating high demand for their products. With hundreds of pounds of herbs coming to their facility each week, expansion is most definitely in their future. “We’re bursting at the seams,” laughs Sutton when discussing Sanctuary Herbs’ growing momentum in the capital city. She continues, expressing that through their herbal essences, they continue to help promote health, comfort, and peace.