By  on August 1, 2008

LOS ANGELES — Given that her first love is teaching children to grow vegetables and fruit, Lisa Ludwigsen knew that if she was going to have her own body care line, ingredients picked straight from nature had to be at the heart of it.

As a result, School Garden Co., the Petaluma, Calif.-based body line that Ludwigsen is just now taking nationwide, is filled with things she would ordinarily find in her own garden.

“I’ve been working with schools and kids since I first became a parent 17 years ago,” said Ludwigsen. “I’d always been interested in gardening, and after I had children I became a fanatic.”

While running a garden program for children at her local school, Ludwigsen started to take herbalist courses and experiment with plants in potions.

“As part of a school project, we started to make salves from plants,” she said. One of the first successes, a lip balm, was named “lipchap” by one of her eight-year old students — and the line was officially born.

The collection is now at a compact six stockkeeping units, although Ludwigsen is planning to add a body oil and other body care products, as well as candles.

But she said the most important factor was to eliminate parabens, phthalates and preservatives from the line entirely, and to use only fresh and organic plants, herbs and oils. As an example, the Handhelp hand cream is made from extra virgin olive oil, lavender, rosemary, calendula, vitamin E and lavender essential oil. The Superhealer salve is designed for scrapes, burns, insect bites and eczema, and contains yarrow, comfrey and white sage. There are three bath salts — Simmer Down, Brighten Up and Soothe & Soak for sore muscles — which contain sea salt, Epsom salts, sweet orange, grapefruit, eucalyptus and geranium. Prices at retail range from $3.50 for the lip balm to $15 for the salts. Still connected with school garden programs in her area, Ludwigsen said that aftertax profits are given back to that cause and to help educate children about growing fresh produce.

The packaging for the School Garden Co. line runs from small tin containers for the salves to glass jars for the salts.

“It harkens back to a time when we knew about the plants in our backyard, and packaging evoked an old-fashioned yet modern look. I just wanted to stay away from plastics. And I really wanted to use the plants that spoke to me, things that I knew to be effective healers,” she said.

The line has been sold in about 15 small stores in the Sonoma County region, but Ludwigsen is now making a big push for national sales. She anticipates being in between 100 and 200 stores around the country by the end of the year.

“I see this as having a really large appeal,” she said. “For a long time, I saw my customer as somebody like me, someone who wanted a natural product and was willing to search it out.”

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