We had the good fortune of connecting with MEGAN BRE CAMP and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MEGAN BRE, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My journey from being a hardcore vegan/vegetarian to a lover of free-roaming animal products was a life-changing one, for sure. From my teens to mid-20s I went from vegetarian to vegan, then raw foodist, and finally locavore. Working in many vegetarian and Buddhist kitchens in the Bay Area, I didn’t eat seasonally, but I did eat organic. I loved going to Rainbow Grocery in SF to shop vegan/vegetarian, but most of that food was processed and packaged, not sustainable.
When I spent a summer homesteading in Maine in my mid-20s, I was exposed to radical farmers who were raising their own animals, harvesting them, letting them graze off of the land. These farmers fermented foods, they foraged and ate seasonally. That opened me up to the idea of farming and farming with animals. I started studying horticulture and permaculture and began working at a community-supported kitchen in Berkeley called Three Stone Hearth. I was introduced to traditional diets and the book Nourishing Traditions. My mind was blown. Grass-fed butter is good for you, fermented foods are nourishing, bone broth can heal your gut. I was so excited about learning and practicing how to make nutrient-dense foods. I immediately healed my body with pasture-raised animal meat and fats.
I had an epiphany – I wanted to work with grass-fed fats like beef tallow in the form of skincare products. Time passed, and I worked in other food-related jobs as a baker and as a French chocolatier. There is where I really learned attention to detail and how to slowly melt fat and chocolate. I spent over 2 years in chocolate production. I loved it. I loved taking care of my machine, tools, and equipment.
One day, sitting at my holistic dentist’s office, I revisited the idea of working with tallow I’d had years before, and this time I was motivated. I quit my job a few days later and dove right into creating a line of tallow-based balms, soaps, and candles.
I had the idea on a Wednesday, created my blends during the week and into the weekend, then on the following Thursday went to downtown Oakland, created a fictitious business name -Summer Solace Tallow, applied, and received my business license and seller’s permit. On Friday I created an email address, a website, and went out to a couple of shops who then became my first stockists. It was a brushfire of uncontrolled energy and excitement getting it all together. I had nothing to fear and nothing to lose.
Everything that I’ve done in regards to food, nature, and career, I feel, goes back to my ancestors. My father’s family is indigenous to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. They are coffee and rubber tree farmers, humble animists living in their ancient matriarchal society. My mother’s mother is Irogot, part of a group of indigenous minorities from the mountainous countryside of the Philippines. Nature, farming, integrity, respect, and connection to the land, seasons, and environment are and will always be a part of me. Even when I was a rebellious teen choosing the city over the country, I returned back to the land and found contentment. My roots were calling me home.
Vegetarianism was my way of seeking spirituality and looking back, it was inevitable. It was a rite of passage as a teen, but also important in shaping my culinary career and sustainable living. Because of it, I sought out natural foods and all things organic. I had the responsibility of cooking for myself. Learning about sustainable, seasonal, and traditional foods took me further into understanding that the Earth’s systems function necessarily with animals, and taught me that we can incorporate well cared for, pasture-raised animal foods into our diets in a holistic way.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Summer Solace Tallow is an artisan line of ethical and sustainable organic tallow balms, soaps, and candles handcrafted in Oakland, California with local ingredients from Northern California.
We are actively reviving the nourishing traditions of using local grass-fed and pasture-raised animal fat to moisturize effectively and soothe skin irritations.
Our tallow-based products contain unique and harmonious blends of organic, wildcrafted Absolutes and essential oils, organic Calendula flowers, native extra-virgin olive oil, and regional, nutrient-dense tallow which we render and combine in small batches.
Summer Solace Tallow renders suet (which is the fat from the inside cavity of the cow, closest to the loins and the kidneys) from grass-fed Cattle raised on 100% certified organic pasture lands just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean at Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales Bay, California.
The ranch is less than 150 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area and is a family-owned farm. Our rendered suet fat yields buttery soft tallow with a pleasant and mild scent that we infuse with organic, whole plant Calendula flowers grown in Sonoma county, then blend with local extra-virgin olive oil from Seka Hills grown on Native American land by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Capay Valley, California.
We use the highest grade of organic essential oils and wildcrafted absolutes in our product line from Ecologically responsible natural perfumers in California.
Tallow was commonly used as a sustainable, regenerating skin protectant before the introduction of Petrochemicals. Our wise ancestors knew the value and health benefits of using grass-fed animal fats in their diets and topically to protect and heal against the environmental elements.
Summer Solace Tallow is celebrating our 7 years since we first started. I am quite grateful for the challenges, triumphs, and all of the emotions and energy that goes into establishing your vision of what the world needs and giving it life, love, and recognition. A simple way of life is how I grew up and defines who I am. I understood that my intense passion for preserving the use of pasture-raised tallow fat on the skin would have a business model of Slow Growth, which I embrace and celebrate the seed which is slowly growing into a deep-rooted Slow Body Care Movement™ each day.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite places to visit in Oakland is the Grand Lake Farmers Market where Marin, Oakland, and Berekely vendors have stalls for market-goers to meet every Saturday. A great thing to do is prepare for a picnic by Lake Merrit by grabbing some great organic produce, hot food, and spicy chai tea (or a green smoothie) and take a walk by Oakland’s iconic Lake Merrit. I live in the Temescal District which is great for walking around and doing some shopping in the Temescal Alley. North Oakland also has a thriving Northeast African community, walking around you can find great restaurants to dine at for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you prefer to explore the city at a moderate pace, you can easily rent a city bike within two blocks of each other. Piedmont district is great for shopping, but if you’re looking for serenity or a quiet place to read a book under the shade of oak trees, the Chapel of the Chimes and Cemetary in Oakland is truly a place like no other. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to Fibershed.org for pioneering Carbon Farming in the area to provide Climate Beneficial™ fibers and good to the community. Fibershed is also working on inclusiveness in regenerative agriculture by teaching and providing opportunities and mentorships for POC to learn the systems of working on the land. I have been a member/producer with Fibershed for over 6 years now and I also host a curated Fibershed booth at the Temescal North Oakland Farmers Market.
photo by Alexzandria Compton