BUSINESS – Calcite & Comfrey is rooted in personal story

Calcite & Comfrey’s Arnica CBD Salve.

Calcite & Comfrey’s Arnica CBD Salve. PHOTO COURTESY DEB WALDINGER

Calcite & Comfrey’s booth at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market.

Calcite & Comfrey’s booth at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market. PHOTO COURTESY DEB WALDINGER

Calcite & Comfrey’s Fascia Release oil.

Calcite & Comfrey’s Fascia Release oil. PHOTO COURTESY DEB WALDINGER

Calcite & Comfrey’s chocolate macadamia lip balm.

Calcite & Comfrey’s chocolate macadamia lip balm. PHOTO COURTESY DEB WALDINGER

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-17-2024 12:04 PM

Deb Waldinger’s business, Calcite & Comfrey, started as a way for her to take greater control over her health through alternative, all-natural, locally sourced herbal body care products.

What started as a personal project for the Antrim resident eventually grew into a full-fledged business, and now Calcite & Comfrey is at several local farmers’ markets in and around the Monadnock region.

Calcite & Comfrey’s story began when Waldinger started working toward her liberal arts degree at Sarah Lawrence College in the mid-1990s, where she spent most of her time as a tech in the theater department doing things like lighting, preparing costumes “and coming down with bronchitis – every year.”

“Medical treatment for bronchitis at that point was, and probably still is, antibiotics,” she said. “By the time I graduated college, I’d done four courses of antibiotics in four years. Meanwhile, my elderly grandfather was on large doses of antibiotics for an illness more serious than bronchitis.”

After four years of seemingly ineffective antibiotic treatment, she decided to seek out alternative treatment methods.

“[It was] something that I thought I could use herbs to prevent,” she said. “So I started learning about herbs to boost immune function. From then until now, I have been self-taught.”

While Calcite & Comfrey’s origins trace back to Waldinger’s initial foray into herbal medicines, the business itself didn’t come around until 2017, when she began attending New England College for her master’s degree in mental health counseling. As an additional source of income, she decided to begin selling her own holistic body care products using her knowledge of medicinal herbs.

Her first products were comfrey and plantain salves, the recipe for which she found online. Making the products, she said, “is a lot like baking. Once you know the basics, you can start to make your own variations.”

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Her selection has since expanded to five different variations of salves, lines of essential oils, tinctures, soaps and tonics known as oxymels, which are made from infused apple cider vinegar.

Her selection, she said, is based “a lot on what I can get locally.” She receives honey and wax from a vendor at the Keene Farmers’ Market, and she has foraged most of the herbs she uses in her products. She emphasized the importance of sourcing as much as she can from local producers.

Waldinger works with producers like Dog Days Farm in Fitzwilliam, Ten Talents in Greenfield and Abenaki Springs Farm in Walpole, among others.

While business started off slow – which Waldinger said was “to be expected” – it began growing after she began selling at the Peterborough and Keene farmers’ markets. Waldinger added that business during COVID “absolutely exploded.”

While she was working full time in community mental health through 2021, the business grew enough that she was able to pursue it full-time – all this despite having no background in running a business.

Waldinger credits the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene for much of her business knowledge.

“Hannah Grimes does an eight-week business lab course culminating in a pitch. I’ve done their regular business lab, as well as their farm lab,” she said. “It really helped me to hone in on my niche, develop my vision and helped me to gain confidence in talking in front of people.”

Waldinger said the labs also cover things like marketing, business finance and developing a business plan.

Calcite & Comfrey can be found at the Keene Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the Peterborough Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, the Rindge Farmers’ Market on Thursday and the Jaffrey Farmers’ Market on Friday.

“Calcite & Comfrey produces and sells wild crafted herbal body care,” Waldinger said. “Community is at the core of all the work we do, and drives the choices we make in running the business.”

Information about Calcite & Comfrey can be found on its Facebook page at facebook.com/calciteandcomfrey.