"It's really important to slow things down, learn how to get outside and enjoy your surroundings. You are walking around things all the time that are food."
Gazing at the ingredients list on a Sakari Botanicals product, you'll typically find just three things—whether it's a lip balm, a salve or a culinary salt. Founder Spring Olson works to make sure every ingredient that goes into her products is 100 percent local.
It's hyper-local, in fact; when people buy Sakari products at Newport Market, they're buying something grown just two blocks away, on the quarter-acre plot behind Olson's house. You don't get much more local than that.
Olson began Sakari Botanicals a few years ago under the federal wing of the Department of Agriculture's USDA inter-tribal cultural council, using the traditional practices she learned from her Inuit Eskimo family while growing up in Valdez, Alaska. Sakari means "sweet" in Eskimo. Deeply inspired by her Inuit roots, Olson strives to make her products in a manner that honors her tribe's traditions and values. She takes a plant, saves the seed and then uses the whole plant to create foods and healing materials.
When she was younger, the oil spill in Valdez inspired her to study nature and waterways. "I was so pissed when that happened! It's not surprising that I went and got a degree in natural resource management," says Olson. But it was the lessons she learned from the other native students and the exploration of plant materials on her own that inspired her the most, she says.
Sakari offers a number of products, including teas made from locally-grown flowers and berries. Olson sources wax from local beekeepers for her lip balms, and creates salves from a variety of native, medicinal plants including yarrow, echinacea and pine, which help to combat bacteria. Perhaps her most "Bend" product is a soaking salt made with hop oil. "It smells like beer! If you have stinky feet, these will do the trick," Olson offers.
Recently, Olson began making culinary salts with flavors that include smoked cider, smoked oak, lavender and even nasturtium flowers. Another "Bend" product is the Beard Oil, which she creates using pinyon pine and sweetgrass she collects from Idaho. Because Olson makes everything from locally-sourced materials, when the seasons pass, some products become unavailable until the next harvest.
Her practice of respecting the land extends beyond her business. Olson is also chair of the Deschutes County Weed Board, helping people identify and eradicate noxious weeds. Through The Central Oregon Seed Exchange, Olson also collects and identifies seeds and packages them for purchase. The packets are available for $1 at Central Oregon Locavore. The intent of the program is to make growing local, native plants easy for people. Local farmers donate land for the seeds to be grown and Olson even gives each child in the Bend-La Pine school district a free packet every year to encourage the practice.
Olson also offers classes in identifying and saving seeds at Locavore. She travels around the country, educating native people on how to do what she does: utilize traditional practices to make locally-sourced products as part of the Indian Tribal Food program.
Olson's passion for the environment and the land is obvious in the way she's devoted to passing down her traditions to her daughter, making her locally-sourced products and educating people in seed saving. "It's really important to slow things down, learn how to get outside and enjoy your surroundings. You are walking around things all the time that are food."
Sakari Botanicals is available at Newport Market, Central Oregon Locavore, Oregon Bath and Body, Melvin's Market in Sisters and Farmer John's in Tumalo.