I first had the opportunity to interview Emma Letessier, editor of Barefoot Vegan Magazine, earlier this year for the 1st part in this interview series with editors of vegan magazines. Since then, she and her husband have moved to a six hectare (approx. 14 acres) farm just south of Pau, at the foot of the French Pyrenees. I was excited to have a moment for a bit of dialogue and to catch up with Emma on their new location and lifestyle.
Annika: In a recent email you mentioned that where you are, it is “Just starting to get cold after an ‘Indian Summer’ and we woke up this morning to snow capped mountains – gorgeous!” What are you looking forward to this season and how has Autumn been in the region?
Emma: Due to the ‘Indian Summer’, it kind of feels like we’ve just skipped Autumn and now gone straight into winter! Some of our Autumn days were reaching temperatures of around 24 degrees Celsius! Autumn was lovely for us farm wise, as we were able to take advantage of the abundance of apples, figs, walnuts, and chestnuts that we have here. We also spent time trying to make our 300-year-old farm house more liveable for the winter, by installing a wood-burning fire and insulating the front bedroom (a task that we are still currently working on!). We also had to invest in a chainsaw so we could cut and store wood for the winter, but luckily there were quite a few fallen/dead trees on our property.
For the winter we are looking forward to doing a lot more work outdoors. We will install raised beds in our kitchen gardens in preparation for spring, and we also plan to prune and mulch all our fruit and nut trees, as well as digging swales on the hillside and planting more fruit and nut trees. In about two weeks’ time, we will be welcoming our first animal residents to the farm sanctuary – two piglets. We are so excited!
It’s a lot of work for just two people on their own, especially as we both have full time jobs. There’s no time for a social life or any kind of recreation, but we know it will be worth it once everything is done.
Annika: In our first interview, you commented that “interest in both veganism and spirituality are increasing and I want Barefoot Vegan to demonstrate how those two things play out in a practical way in everyday life.” As both an ethical and spiritual vegan your words really resounded for me and I also enjoy exploring how these two facets play out in a practical way everyday. How is your spirituality woven into your everyday?
Emma: I don’t partake in any rituals or practices. I start and end my day with prayer, giving thanks and asking for guidance to make sure I’m doing God’s will and living my purpose on Earth (but during any quiet moments during the day, I’m usually praying as well). As a Christian, there are pretty clear guidelines given on how we are supposed to live. With all my daily decisions and interactions with people, animals and our living environment, I am conscious of what I’m doing and how my actions fall into line with God’s commandments – don’t judge, don’t kill, don’t lie, love one another, treat others as you’d like to be treated etc. For me, this is what spirituality is and how this differs from religion. It’s not something reserved for a Sunday but a consciousness that always accompanies me. If I see a beautiful flower, or a sunset or the snow-capped mountains, I remind myself how lucky I am and give thanks to God for creating it. It spurs me on to promote justice for others (people and animals) so we can all share in the abundance and beauty that could be available if our society was different.
Annika: I remember at some point you weren’t using a smartphone?. Was this a conscious decision to step away from the digital overload that many people experience with being constantly plugged in and often with multiple devices in our lives?
Emma: We do have a smartphone now (shared between the two of us) because we are so remote at the farm that we can’t get a landline, plus a smartphone was the only option available with our phone package. But, most of the time we have really bad reception. So we don’t use it really unless we’re making calls. The truth is, we are so busy that we don’t have time to be on a smartphone all the time.
I was in London recently, and I noticed how attached people are to their phones. You can be in a conversation with someone and if their phone beeps, you’ve lost them. Technology can be great, but it can also be really disconnecting. We have to be conscious about how we use it and how it uses us!
Annika: As a photographer, I ultimately would love to have the opportunity to photograph everyone I interview of course! If I were to photograph “A Day in the Life with Emma” what would you be doing?
Emma: It would probably change from day to day. There would always be some walking involved, as our dog, Hatchi loves to go walkies. I’d be working on the magazine, either on content, liaising with contributors or doing the design and marketing. Right now, you’d find me gathering wood, chestnuts and also working on our permaculture design for the farm and building an outdoor space for our piglets. And we’re also still working on house renovations. Cooking good, wholesome food to keep our spirits and energy up is also something that is important so I spend some time in the late afternoon cooking our evening meal. Plus, I’m trying to carve out time to improve my French! So always lots going on!
This interview is part of an ongoing series about vegan magazines across the globe. For more interviews click here.