No Rest for the Gifted

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Mason says that biodynamic farming methods yield herbs with brighter flowers and a stronger aroma, two of the most important indications of an herb’s efficacy.
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Immune-boosting echinacea goes into many of Resting in the River’s Wellness products, and provides tall rows of beautiful purple blooms.
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Mason says that her organic farm brings her joy, beauty and a connection with nature, making it more than worth all the hard work.
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Calendula is a major ingredient in Resting in the River’s body-care products because of its skin-soothing, healing properties.
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Resting in the River’s organic products are infused with the farm’s own certified-organic herbs and contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
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Actress Marsha Mason’s 250-acre biodynamic herb farm near Abiquiui, New Mexico, features acres of zinnias, lavender, sunflowers and much more.

Founder of the biodynamic herb farm Resting in the River
and Oscar-nominated actress Marsha Mason gracefully maintains an
intimate connection with the earth and an incredibly busy

Many people are fascinated by the glitz and
glamour of Hollywood. But for Marsha Mason, who’s seen her share of
Hollywood’s charms, the natural world is a far more fascinating
place on which to lavish her attentions. Not to suggest that Mason
doesn’t love the craft she’s spent her life cultivating and for
which she’s won two Golden Globe awards and received four Oscar
nominations. Some of Mason’s most recognized performances were
opposite James Caan in 1973’s Cinderella Liberty, and in the 1977
production of then-husband Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl. She also
made several guest appearances on television’s Frasier in the late
’90s, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. More recently, she
portrayed Ouiser in the 2005 Broadway production of Steel
Magnolias; she appeared in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s
production of Hecuba in the summer of 2006; and she just completed
working on the Turner Network Television production of Stephen
King’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes, which will premiere in

Still, her successful acting career is only one part of Mason’s
very full life. She says a connection to nature and an inherent
belief that it is our responsibility to care for Mother Earth led
her naturally into gardening and becoming a steward of the land–an
interest that eventually blossomed into Resting in the River
Organic Farm & Natural Products. Mason’s sustainable organic
and biodynamic farm near Abiquiu, New Mexico, produces thousands of
pounds of herbs each year and turns many of them into organic
Wellness Sprays, salves and body products.

Finding the Garden

Mason’s farm produces thousands of pounds of herbs each
year and turns many of them into organic products.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Mason says her connection with the
earth and living things started at a very young age. “As a young
girl, I was overly sensitive and emotional and I used to walk down
the road of our house to an old cemetery at the bottom of the
hill,” Mason says. “I spent a lot of time just communing with
nature during times when I felt somewhat an outsider. I think I’ve
always had some kind of connection to nature and seen the beauty in

She was introduced to gardening and farming in the 1970s when
her burgeoning acting career took her to Los Angeles. Her
across-the-street neighbor and avid farmer Henry Fonda introduced
Mason to the concept of organic fertilizer–in the form of chicken
manure–which piqued her interest. She ended up transforming her
entire back yard into a large rose garden. “I was very hooked on
compost,” Mason says of her early gardening years. “There was
something about making compost that really excited me.”

That interest would come back to her when Mason moved to
northern New Mexico many years later and bought 250 acres of land
along the banks of the Chama River, set against sculpted white
cliffs and ancient cottonwood trees. “When I moved to New Mexico, I
didn’t know I would become a farmer again, but I did have that
connection,” Mason says. “The land I bought was just land with no
organic matter–it really bothered me that there was no organic
matter. That’s when I started studying and became an avid reader of
[commercial-scale organic and sustainable farming magazine] Acres
U.S.A. One thing led to another and before you knew it I was trying
to grow chamomile and echinacea.”

But Mason’s small beds at that time were nothing compared with
the large operation she manages now. While she was first planting
small patches of crops here and there, she was concurrently
nurturing a growing interest in alternative medicine, such as
acupuncture and herbal remedies. “I have a Chinese doctor in L.A.
who has a very well-respected, stringent course in Traditional
Chinese Medicine,” she says. “After a session with him, he said to
me, ‘If you ever try to grow anything large-scale, you should think
about medicinal herbs.’ That kind of put the seed in my head and
before I knew it, that’s what I was doing.”

Dynamic Gardener, Dynamic Garden

As Mason began to map out her plans for a large-scale, organic
medicinal herb-growing operation, she became interested in the
concepts behind biodynamic farming. Biodynamic agriculture was
developed by Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner in 1924. The oldest
nonchemical agriculture movement in the world, biodynamics seeks to
“actively work with the health-giving forces of nature,” according
to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s website
( The movement is very present in European
gardening, and Mason began to gain interest in the techniques and
employ them on her farm. “What piqued my interest were some
pictures I saw in this Acres U.S.A. newsletter. They showed some
fields in Germany side-by-side. One had used biodynamic
preparations and the other one didn’t, and it was so impressive,”
Mason says. “Plus, I knew at least it wasn’t going to hurt
anything. It’s all natural, and there are no chemicals involved.
It’s just whether you want to take the time and energy to do

Some of the most important aspects of biodynamic farming are
“preparations” –made of plant and sometimes animal materials–that
are sprayed on the field at certain times of year or for specific
reasons. Mason began exploring the preparations and doing her own
field research with them. “We had an area where we grew echinacea:
we grew one plot with organic materials; one with the biodynamic
preparations we decided were important for the health, vitality and
energy of the plant; and one regular control plot,” she says. “We
planted them at the same time. When we harvested them, what we
noticed was that the roots were substantially larger in the
biodynamic plot than in the organic, and definitely larger than in
the regular control plot. So was the color and smell of the plants’
flowers and leaves, which is how you determine the efficacy of an
herbal plant.”

Convinced, Mason adheres to many of the methods the biodynamic
theory suggests, including planting in accordance with the lunar
calendar and treating plants and soil with biodynamic preparations,
as well as other sustainable and organic growing methods, such as
beneficial insects, crop rotation and manual harvesting. “There’s
an energy field in everything that’s living and it’s that field
that biodynamics started to deal with. The bottom line is that
biodynamics addresses the vitality and energy of the plant,” Mason

In addition to Mason’s inherent belief that the universe is all
connected, other experiences and people in her life made the
principles behind biodynamics really make sense to her. One of the
farm’s first growers was Peruvian and had learned many similar
traditional planting techniques from his grandfather–techniques
that considered the placement of the planets in relation to
planting and harvesting. She says the techniques also make sense in
the context of her Southwest location because American Indians
followed the same sort of belief system. Also, Mason spent some
time at an ashram in India in the ’70s that predisposed her
thinking toward this plant energy idea. “The ashram was so amazing
to me because these incredibly huge papayas and healthy, vibrant
plants were all over the place and it was in an area that wasn’t
necessarily that fertile. What I really began to understand was how
the whole vibrational energy of the ashram was also what was
helping the plants grow.”

And the theory that plants’ energy reacts to the energy around
them has been confirmed on her farm, Mason says. As time went on,
she began to notice changes in the plants and the farm in relation
to the dynamics of human situations. “I began to see honest-to-God
shifts in the fecundity of the farm when everything was moving
smoothly versus when we had disruptive situations with the workers
or managers. We began to notice that the farm really reflected it.
That encouraged me to make sure I was finding the right people to
do the right jobs,” she says. And despite the fact that some of the
tenets of biodynamics can border on the strange, Mason says, hey,
it works! “You get what you put in. I won’t let anyone go into the
field angry. I won’t let others treat each other badly. A lot of
what was considered ‘woo-woo’ 20 years ago is now accepted
scientifically. I’ve even tried to pipe music out onto the fields,”
she says.

Getting Back More Than She Gives

Mason’s focus on creating a team that works synergistically on
the farm does more than just encourage healthy plants. It also is
one of the main reasons she is able to manage so much in so little
time. Along with her rigorous acting schedule and managing the
farm, Mason also wrote an autobiography in 2000 and is the current
chairperson of the New Mexico Organic Com-modity Commission.

“I found wonderful people to run the farm,” she says. “There’s
an interconnectedness among all the workers. You become part of the
same family. I’d go to London to do a play but I could still do
this. It’s sort of like directing–there’s a lot of preproduction
that goes into a project. A lot of energy is put into the planting
and preparation, like the energy that goes into rehearsing a play.
Sometimes you have to put things on the back burner, but then you
also have to have people there who can help you.”

Mason says she’s motivated to try new things just to gain the
experience of having done them. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I
raced cars for seven years. I thought ‘Well, I’ll try it out and if
they tell me they want me to get off the track, I’ll stop.’ And I
thought I’d try the farm and see if I got any resistance, but I
never did–from the farm to the products and where that all took
me,” she says.

Despite the fact that the farm is a ton of work, it gives back
more than it takes, Mason says. “It’s a constant sweatshop. It
really is. It’s hard and it does wear on you,” she says. “You have
to learn how much energy you have and re-evaluate every year and
see what you can do and where you’re really headed. You want to do
everything well, but it’s not easy,” she says. “It’s taught me
humility. But I’ve also gotten a lot of happiness and contentment
out of it. And it’s very creative to me, having those fields of
yellow and purple and looking out at them when the sun is slanted
in a certain way, or when you’re walking through a field of
calendula and your boots and jeans release the scent–it’s just

“It’s really satisfying to know that you’re giving back to the
earth and the community. Someone stopped in the shop to tell me
that they take a special route to work every day so they can see
these fields. It reminds people that this little part of the world
is a pretty spectacular place, which can be hard in a poor, rural
area. … If I’d stayed in L.A., I would have ended up in a gated
community. Being in an exotic place such as Abiquiu, you really do
have a bigger sense of what’s going on in the world. You see the
poverty, you see the real aspects of the world. It gives you a much
broader and more compassionate point of view.” •

Jessica Kellner is coordinating editor of Herbs for Health and
sister publications The Herb Companion and Natural Home.

To learn more about Resting in the River, or to order products,
visit or call (888) 456-0563.

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