Amber Bradshaw knows a thing or two about growing, storing, and selling local, wholesome food — and how it can transform people’s lives.
A little over eight years ago, Bradshaw started The Coastal Homestead, a website focused on teaching others about healthy, homegrown food and the simplicity of nature. She then took her knowledge of and passion for healthy, holistic living to the local community college, where she taught students how to make non-toxic household products and how to grow herbs, among other homesteading-focused classes.
Eventually, she started frequenting the local farmers market, where she got her introduction to selling produce. And she’s never looked back.
Bradshaw’s been offering healthy, local produce in her South Carolina community for two years now.
When she was a young single mom, Bradshaw fell on hard times. She found herself homeless, relying on food banks. Noticing how unhealthy the food was, she decided then and there that when she got back on her feet, she would dedicate her resources to helping others eat well.
Today, that’s exactly what she does.
Bradshaw works five days a week at the local market. She also supports other local farmers by running an online farmers market called Low Country Health Living, where people in the greater area can get locally grown produce, organic dairy products, household goods, and even pre-made meals delivered straight to their door.
And instead of writing herself a check, Bradshaw pays herself in food. “It’s not about the money. It’s about the mission,” she says. “We use all the proceeds from the sale of the food to provide food for people in need.”
In this way, Bradshaw supports two local soup kitchens that feed over 100 people every week. She also provides several outreach families with free boxes of local, organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables.
As her business grew, Bradshaw encountered the challenge of keeping her produce cool. Initially, she stored her crops in a mudroom with a window. But she quickly realized that, to continue offering fresh produce to people, she needed a better solution.
Bradshaw heard about CoolBot through her community. And she decided to give it a try. “We didn’t have the means to go and buy a commercial walk-in cooler. But I knew we had to do this business because so many people were counting on me,” she says.
The investment didn’t come without some sacrifice. Bradshaw’s husband had to give up his Harley Davidson room to make room for her walk-in cooler. However, the sacrifice was worth it. “When we got turned onto CoolBot and then we got the cooler, it all came together.”
A big advantage of the cooler is that Bradshaw is now able to buy in bulk, which helps her sustain her business, support local growers, and also feed her family. “We can do it all if I help support the local farmers and growers in my area. But the only way to do that is to buy in bulk,” she says. “Farmers don’t want to stop their tractor to sell a tomato. But they will stop and meet you to sell you 25 lbs.” She’s even created different microclimates in the cooler for different produce.
The CoolBot is also part of the Bradshaw family’s preparedness plan, which is essential in a time where the economy is unpredictable and an area where the weather can be highly variable. “That’s where the CoolBot comes into play. Even if you aren’t a reseller like me, it’s part of your food storage,” she says. Last year during a hurricane, the cooler even doubled as a shelter.
Bradshaw’s commitment to holistic, healthy living goes beyond just what she and her family eat. “We try to live very environmentally friendly,” she says. “When I say that, I mean it all goes together. You can’t care about the food that goes into your mouth without caring about the chemicals you put on your skin.”
She has also replaced all of the aesthetic elements on her property with functional ones. Their property features a saltwater pool, a traditional row garden with rainwater irrigation, and beehives for local honey, as well as space for milking goats, chickens, composting, gray water recycling, small container gardening, and aquaponics. An impressive setup, to say the least!
Years ago, Bradshaw made a promise to help provide people in need with fresh local produce. That’s a promise she constantly reaffirms. And, she says, she will continue to serve her community and educate people about the benefits of self-reliant, healthy living, “as long as God allows it.”
If you live on the northern coast of South Carolina, order your produce from Low Country Health Living. You’ll not only get the best farm fresh food the region has to offer, but also support the local economy and help feed local families. A win-win-win.