Annie Withey, 45, found success not once, but twice. Her first foray into the food business began as a lark, when her then husband needed a snack food to fill the resealable bags he'd invented.
Convinced there was a healthier alternative to the standard snack fare, Withey came up with a recipe for cheese-flavored popcorn, and thus Smartfood was born.
When she sold her stake years later -- and remarried and relocated to an idyllic organic farm in Hampton, Connecticut -- she still had a hankering for cheddar and the like. So Withey set her sights on mac and cheese. The resulting Annie's Homegrown took off, eventually spawning an entire line of natural snacks and meals that are now staples in pantries across the kitchen.
Here, Withey shares the eco-basics that she and her family have come to rely on.
With more than 700 pages packed full of info, Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (currently in its 22nd printing) is the go-to resource for Withey and her husband, Robert, when a question about the farm comes up. $19.95, rodale.com.
Great-tasting veggies start with quality seeds, and Withey counts on two companies to supply her with just about every variety she needs: the all-organic, family-owned High Mowing Seeds out of Vermont, and Maine-based Johnny's Selected Seeds, which adds more organic options to its catalog each year. High Mowing Seeds from $2.50; Johnny's Selected Seeds from $1.40.
Sure, Whitney could go out and buy the latest organic fashions. But she opts for a much more sustainable and down-to-earth approach when it comes to outfitting her two daughters. She does most of her shopping at nearby thrift stores that support local charities.
With hair that falls past her waist, Withey needs a shampoo that can keep her locks looking lovely. She uses the organic and paraben-free Kiss My Face Whenever shampoo. $7.99.
Many companies have jumped on the eco-cleaning bandwagon recently, but Withey sticks with chlorine-, perfume-, and dye-fee Bon Ami, a brand that's been around since 1886. $9.95.
Withey has to get up pretty early in the morning to plant, pick, prune, and sell her crops at the local farmers' market -- and she relies on a cup of joe to keep her on her toes. Her beans of choice: the medium roast Organic Breakfast Blend from Equal Exchange, the oldest and largest fair-trade food and beverage company in the United States. $8.50 for 12 ounces.
To keep her skin looking young (and to fight off the effects of hours spent under a blazing sun), Withey uses natural Suki products. Her nightly ritual includes exfoliating with a gritty cleanser and a spritz or two of toner, followed up by a bit of face cream. $22.75 to $26.25.
"I'm a big fan of Gary Hirshberg," she says, referring to the founder of Stonyfield Farm. "He offers a lot of inspiration when it comes to running a sustainable business." It doesn't hurt that the yogurts taste great, too. "My daughters love the fruit-at-the-bottom ones for an afternoon snack, and I use the plain yogurt for cooking dishes such as chicken tandoori." $.89 to $3.50.
Withey tries to support small, independently run companies, so she was delighted to discover organic Lakewood Juices one day while shopping at the local Willimantic Co-Op. "They're one of the few juice companies in the United States that haven't been gobbled up by someone else yet," she says. $2.99.