Exasperated by the hustle-and-bustle of city life and the monotony of a cyclical 9-to-5, Xanthe Gladstone decided to pack her bags and head for Wales, aged just 23. Two years on, Xanthe has embarked on a new life as a chef, organic grower and Director of Food Sustainability at Hawarden and Glen Dye. I got the chance to speak to her about all things sustainable, her new day-to-day, as well as the importance of being upfront and candid on social media.
I first asked Xanthe about whether she'd always known food was the industry she wanted to pursue. She told me about her struggles with IBS as a teen and how that led to a few internships in food marketing. However, sitting indoors at a desk all day soon took its toll on Xanthe's mental health.
"The life I was leading in London wasn't making me happy, so I knew there had to be quite a drastic change," she admitted. "I am a very motivated and ambitious person - and I was losing that completely. I had no motivation or work ethic. I would read my sustainable food books in my spare time, and I was becoming really nerdy!"
She continues, "Then I started speaking to a few different chefs. My family runs a festival in Wales and it's very food based. One of the jobs I first started was to organise all the chefs, who eventually became my friends and mentors. I could then see that you could be a chef without going into restaurants, there is a middle ground.”
This eye-opening realisation spurred Xanthe to head back home with her parents and start afresh. She began by working in the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, where she started on her sustainable eating mission. Most of the fruit and vegetables sold are homegrown by Xanthe, and she hopes two years from now, all the produce will come from her farm in North Wales. They are currently undergoing an organic certification process, which will eventually allow them to sell stock around the country.
Xanthe is also the Director of Food and Sustainability for The Good Life Experience, Glen Dye Cabins & Cottages and The Glynne Arms. This, she explained, involves curating and developing menus, overseeing food and product sourcing and helping these businesses run as sustainably as possible.
"For people our age and most people who don't have as much, the easiest way to eat sustainably is by becoming more aware of where your food comes from and not just the final product," Xanthe explained. "The first place to go is shopping organically, getting into vegetable boxes and going to the farmers market.
But, if you can't do that, if you don't have the time or the money, even when you're buying your veggies from supermarkets, they legally have to label where it comes from. Eating from the UK and seasonally is better for us and better for the soil.
I don't eat meat, so I don't go through the same process, but if you do, don't eat it everyday if you want to be more sustainable. Eat it once a week then with the money saved put it towards going to a butcher free-range a whole free range chicken, using all the parts for a stock etc - valuing food that has gone through a sacrifice."
Xanthe promotes this way of life on her Instagram, which has amounted to an impressive 10.5K followers. Her beautiful feed is filled with pastoral scenes of Xanthe picking fruit baskets and cooking up delicious new recipes made entirely from her fresh produce. From an outsider looking in, her life seems pretty idyllic, and I'm intrigued by what Xanthe thinks about this. "People see what I am doing as very wholesome, and I get people saying they are jealous. But I don't want to exclude that feeling as that is the thing I hate about Instagram. I don't want my life to look perfect because it definitely isn't.”
Delving a little deeper into Xanthe's feed, I came across some moving captions that express her issues with stress and experience with acne. She bravely posted images of her skin at its "worst" and commented on how "important it is to normalise very normal things that people struggle with on a day to day basis”.
She told me, "I suffer from anxiety, which has made me want to post about acne. Some people were saying my skin is so clear - but I have been through it all with my skin! I just want to make sure I'm not becoming one of those toxic people on Instagram that I don't want to follow."
One thing that has undoubtedly come across is Xanthe's work ethic and how she effortlessly seems to juggle multiple projects at one time, in tandem with lengthy hours on the farm as an organic grower.
"The days are pretty full and stressful, and I like being able to just take the evenings to properly chill," she admitted. "You can spend your whole day in fight or flight mode, but if you're working for a high pressured job and can't switch it off at all - you won't be able to function the next day."
Xanthe swears by a bath - replete with salts and oils - each evening and claims that "it's the only thing that zones [her] out of work." I couldn't help but wonder whether she'd be slipping into her Stolas post bath? "I love my pyjamas, but I don't sleep in them... I wear them like tracksuits."
So what does the future hold for Xanthe? "I would love to create a space where people can come and learn from what I do," she stated. "I want to normalise the fact that you don't have to go to London and work in these office jobs. You can do something different."
She proceeded to urge anyone who might be interested in following her footsteps to reach out. "Most people in any industry, whether it's food or fashion, will want to tell you their story," she said. "Through these conversations, you'll get the most value in trying to figure out what career path you want to take. It's the only way you're going to know."
Very sound advice from a unique and inspiring grower carving out her own path.
We can't wait to see what the future holds for Xanthe.