Honey Girl Grows • Robin Jones
Since the dawn of our human record, bees have been a symbol of spiritual death, life + rebirth - from fifteen thousand year old cave paintings in Valencia to the mythology of the ancient Celts, Egyptians and Greeks.
For Robin, aka @honeygirlgrows, bees were at the center of her own story of near-death and rebirth. Like many in the Junto, Robin pursued a traditional career before fate threw a wrench in the gears - a serious car crash that left her physically and psychologically injured. The experience of losing everything does something to a person - it forces you to give up or fight. In the process, you tend to learn what you're made of.
Robin's journey to recovery lead her away from a path that, while "stable" and prestigious, was inconsistent with her - heart, soul and roots. Liberated from the 9-5 hustle, she started designing gardens and apiaries for chefs, communities, and non-profits, and hasn't looked back since.
For me, her story was a poignant reminder that the universe has a way of bringing us back to who we're meant to be, if we just let it. It's never easy - but without pain, discomfort, and fear, what is there to overcome? Without sacrifice and hardship, how do we measure the weight of a character untested by loss? These are ideas to hold close in times like these, when cynicism and hopelessness are at a peak.
What’s the story behind where you are today?
I had a great career as a creative director branding and creating ad campaigns for big agencies. Then a car accident landed me with anxiety that worsened over years, and a second LA rear-ending eventually graduated me to panic attacks and hallucinations before I was finally diagnosed with severe PTSD. I was disabled for two years, then got extremely lucky to find help and recovered 100% in just two years (thanks to a somatic method from the Trauma Resource Institute). I was so damn grateful to get my life back, there was no way I was returning to work inside an office again. I launched my business designing culinary gardens and apiaries for residents, hotels and corporate and never regretted it.
What’s your Why?
Bees are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet, they just amaze me. Putting friendly bee species apiaries on hotels and designing guest programming around them and educating the public is so much fun, but designing culinary gardens for chefs is equally exciting. Chefs and home cooks see food differently, “get” and match my passion for growing exotic ingredients, edible flowers, organic practices, the difference good soil makes in flavor. And each chef takes our collaborations and creates thoughtful, conceptual art on the plate. And this is the stuff that gives me goosebumps.
What’s on the list for today? What’s next?
A current and exciting not-for-profit project includes a visionary young corporal on a military base and involves bees and gardens. Can’t say more than that just yet.
I’m also about to put culinary gardens and the only apiary, on a hotel in Orange County. Unlike the small “PR” garden beds at another OC hotel, this will be a sizable garden the kitchen and bar will regularly harvest, with guest experiences custom designed around the gardens and bees.
I’m also working on a kitchen garden for a hotel in Newport Beach with a chef previously from Alinea, and can’t wait to see what she does with our ingredients. I just completed a sustainable edible garden design for Red Bull Corporate in Santa Monica, using what was previously a completely dead space. The 3-bin compost system and worm bins take the company’s paper, and restaurant’s food waste full circle, returning as rich soil that feeds herbs, greens, Alpine strawberries and more. Hopefully we’ll be adding bees next year.
I pinch myself that I’m returning to corporate thru gardens, and getting people outside and connected to their food, bees and nature.
Bigger picture, I hope my work with chefs, residents and corporate gardens plays a tiny part in shifting our food system away from monocrops (growing only one type of crop), which will benefit all animals and ecosystems. I believe chefs hold the power to influence this change and are, already.
What’s one thing that you’d like people to know?
Don’t wait a minute to chase your joy. My family owns @WhiteFishStage organic farms in Montana (follow them!), my aunts are homesteaders, and I grew up with chickens and a greenhouse, cooking/baking with my mom from our tiny garden. Despite a lifetime of gardening, for years I didn’t think knew enough to launch my business. It took losing everything before I found the ovaries. I doubted myself so hard, I went to volunteer at a local farm before I’d be convinced I wax ready. On the farm (for almost a year), I learned very little. It was the most ass-kicking lesson. I watched the farmer (who I adored) till the soil repeatedly with each crop, and finally realized I knew way more than I thought knew and was beyond ready. (No Till people. Give your hoe to your enemy.)
I wish I’d made the leap years ago. I absolutely love my job.