Mothers are at the heart of what we do here. Our business was co-founded by pioneer and mother, Marion Wood. The reason it began as an organic business was because of the influence of Marion’s mother, Frances, who insisted they farmed using organic practices. Marion’s daughter, Lucy is the Chair of our board and works as our corporate services manager.
We had a little chat with three generations of the Commonsense family – Marion, Lucy and Lucy’s daughters Sylvie and Estella.
Has it always been important to you that we protect the planet for future generations?
Marion: I come from a social justice background so my focus when I was younger was always much more on people. The interconnections between people and planet were something that I gradually came to as I saw what was happening to the planet.
Lucy: Definitely. I grew up in a family that was strongly committed to environmental principles. My grandmother was quite a visionary in this area and had a big impact on lots of our lives. And looking after the environment is something I’ve always found very important on a personal level.
Frances (Marion’s mother) played a large part in Commonsense’s farm being organic in the first place, can you speak to her values?
M: Right back in the 50s, she was concerned about the planet and what was happening to it. She had a first edition copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and she was very suspicious of the use of pesticides in food production right from the start. She always grew organically, we had a big garden at home and she grew all of our vegetables. That was who she was and she was always that way. She was a huge influence on my life.
L: As a kid, I went along with what my family were doing and didn’t question much. I remember feeling a bit ripped off that we had to eat brown bread sandwiches when everyone else got cheese and marmite on fluffy white bread. In that dramatic way that kids can feel sorry for themselves, I associated the wholefood meals provided by my grandmother as a form of child neglect. It’s only now that I realise how nutritious and healthy it was and, and especially being a mother myself, how much care she would have put into it.
I only realised relatively recently how important and unusual her views of the world were for her age. They were quite radical for people of my age, therefore for her age, two generations ahead, her way of thinking was remarkable. I didn’t really get the opportunity to tell her that I thought she was amazing.
How has it been, working with your family?
M: I had always thought it would be difficult to work with my family. I’ve found it a little difficult to work with Lucy at times especially at first; because we both have similar strengths but similar weaknesses as well, we tend to either work brilliantly together or clash. But we’re incredibly honest with each other and we work everything through so our relationship gets stronger, both professionally and personally.
L: It’s not always easy. It can be difficult to compartmentalise things and separate our personal relationship from our professional one but we work hard to do that. One way is with language – I call Marion by her Christian name in the office to keep it professional. It was quite hard when I first started but we’ve fallen into a good pattern with it.
What’s inspires you about your mother?
M: That she was such a far-sighted woman. She was very true to her beliefs and that’s what shone through. She was very clear about her values and about the importance of growing organically, of growing gardens, taking care of plants and she recognised more than anybody else I know that human beings are a part ofnature and don’t have dominion over it. And she modelled the reality of human beings being interconnected with every aspect of life. She was an amazing, wise woman.
L: Similar to with her mother, when I was a kid, I wondered why my family couldn’t just be normal! She has always been a strong role model who is wholeheartedly committed to living a life in accordance with her values and she’s very uncompromising in that. She is also a very generous person and goes out of her way to support people where she sees a need. When you know her well you can see that, like anyone, she does have insecurities and vulnerabilities you wouldn’t assume her to have but she doesn’t let them get in her way.
What’s inspires you about your daughter/s?
M: I’m just in awe of my daughter. She’s incredibly competent, really good at what she does, fantastic at organising, very passionate about Commonsense and she cares deeply about the planet and about all the things that I care about. She is an incredibly loving perceptive person.
L: They’re amazing. They’re really strong, clever, confident and thoughtful. I think that adults can really underestimate the capacity that kids have to understand and to have big ideas. We make assumptions that they’re not ready for certain types of information, especially around touchy subjects like death, money and sex. But I reckon kids can process all kinds of information that adults struggle with because they don’t carry the baggage that as adults we bring to these things. I learn a lot from my kids and their response to the world – it’s a very magical process “growing people”.
What are your hopes for younger generations in the future?
M: My hopes are that we move towards a future which concentrates on creating harmony and recognising that we have a place on this earth but we don’t have control of it. And I hope for a future in which we learn to walk more humbly on the earth. I think my grandchildren are very lucky with their parents and the messages they are being given about what’s important in life. I have great hopes for their future.
L: I really hope their future isn’t as bleak as many commentators predict. But in order for this to happen we need more than to hope. We need to start taking collective responsibility to preserve a future for our children and grandchildren. It’s difficult to understand that, while most of us would do absolutely anything to protect our kids, time and again we make choices that are actively destroying their future. But I really believe that on a fundamental level most of us share very similar values and that we can choose to preserve what collectively matters to us by using our resources more wisely. My hope is that this is starting to happen.
When asked what Estella and Sylvie found inspiring about their mother, Estella replied “she’s fun and funny and always lets us have a fun time”. And for Sylvie it just came down to one thing: “She makes the best smoothies in the world!”