At the foot of the Wolkberg Mountains, Hazel Roskelly is harvesting lavender for the latest batch of her Lavender and Baobab nourishing balms. Her one-woman artisanal business, Hazel’s Harvest produces a gorgeous range of small-batch, handmade soaps, beeswax balms and specialised skin creams made with love and individual attention to quality. The insect repellent, muscle vapour, lip therapy balm and sausage tree sunscreen with their distinctive colourful and funky African Shweshwe branding, are small enough to slip into your pocket or handbag, while her range of sausage tree cream comes in glass jars and bottles. With her handmade, natural vegetable soaps, Hazel has perfected the pairings of Baobab oil combined with fragrances like pine & eucalyptus, mint & cocoa, tea tree & lemongrass or orange & cinnamon.
Hazel is committed to using these natural and eco-friendly ingredients like raw beeswax mixed with essential and pure vegetable oils from Africa including avocado and baobab. Her products contain no unnecessary elements like palm oil, nano-zinc or potentially harmful preservatives like parabens and none are tested on animals. She takes great care in utilising clean, fair and locally produced ingredients, growing much of them in her farm-garden and steam-distilling them. She describes her process as ‘an evolution arising from my own health challenges and recognising that I wanted to use pure, natural, healing and nourishing personal products. I decided to make them myself because then I was completely assured of exactly what was going into them.’
An important turning point for Hazel was when she started working with the fruit of the Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana) which is ‘an important ethno-medicinal plant across much of sub-saharan Africa, and is used by innumerable cultures for all sorts of problems or applications. Some of the finest properties of this plant are related to skin health in general, and much mainstream research has been conducted on its efficacy, which is well documented and strongly proven. I incorporate a pure extract of this plant, which I perform myself from fresh and wild material. I also grow and distill some of my own essential oils on my property.’ The pure, cold-extract of the Sausage Tree fruit combined with Aloe vera and an Avocado oil-base, makes an anti-aging and skin toning cream which also works well for people with eczema, acne, fungal infections, psoriasis or sun-damaged skin. She says, ‘I get feedback every day from customers saying how much they love my natural products and how the healing properties are more effective than modern strong pharmaceutical chemicals. I am certain that a large part of my sales is because of this.’
Hazel’s Harvest is also aiming for 100% plastic-free packaging using mostly waxed paper, tins and glass jars which are featuring more and more as an earth-friendly alternative. Unfortunately some caps and other closures are only available in plastic at the moment but she uses only paper tape to seal her boxed orders for shipping, reuses cardboard boxes from the local village stores for packaging as well as recycled newspaper to protect the products in shipping - no bubble wrap!
Hazel moved to Haenertsburg in 2007 to support her recently widowed Mom, moving her from Johannesburg for a better, rural and beautiful existence on the mountain. She says, ‘I also wasn’t enjoying the heat of the Lowveld after living and working there for many years with my husband who is a pro safari guide operating throughout Africa. Mountains are a love of ours and we knew reflexologist, Colleen Ballenden, who was a locum at the same Lowveld game lodge and thus the introduction to Haenertsburg in particular came about. I love having the space for growing plants, vegetables and chickens, the cool climate, nature, quietness and solitude’
When they first left the game lodge industry, Hazel tapped in on her expertise as a trained chef and started making jams and experimenting with making natural soap and balms which she sold on the Midlands Meander. She says that ‘the jams took off and I concentrated on that for over a decade, even travelling to the Slow Food Festival in Italy to represent South Africa with my Marula Jam. Business was good but very labour-intensive, especially since I was growing my own fruit, so I decided to get going with soap, beeswax balms and sausage tree cream which I remembered from growing up in Zimbabwe where they were already producing this kind of product. Hazel’s Harvest has grown organically from there, going from strength to strength, mainly through word-of-mouth, although I do sell online now as well.’
Hazel is against allowing the business to grow too large as she feels that she will ‘lose the personalised, intimate nature of the business and the relationship with every one of my customers. A local couple, John and Maggi Phoshoko from Segwashi assist me with growing and harvesting plants, and are training to become more proficient with production, packaging and despatch but I don’t have a goal to grow the business much more.’ This passionate and principled woman lights up as she talks about the alchemy which takes place in her fabulously fragrant workshop, saying ‘I love nature intensely and creative art has always been a big part of my life so I have certainly found my niche in Hazel’s Harvest.’
Hazel’s Harvest products are available locally at The Tin Roof, Stella’s Farm Deli, Zwakala River Retreat, Allesbeste and Olive Tree Gift Shop as well as in Hoedspruit. Contact her on 082 218 1619 | firstname.lastname@example.org or shop online @ www.hazelsharvest.com.