From Milan to The Herb Farm – NZ's answer to Miranda Kerr

Sarah Cowan, former model and current owner of The Herb Farm

Sarah Cowan is New Zealand's answer to Miranda Kerr. She's had a glamorous modeling career in Milan, Athens, London and Sydney, and now owns her own pure skincare range The Herb Farm, dedicating herself to playing her part in making the world a better place.

Cowan may not be a Victoria’s Secret angel, or her husband Orlando Bloom, but when it comes to doing business with panache, style and a thorough eco-philosophy, she’s right up there in the global stakes.

When life on the modeling circuit started to pall, it was a peaceful corner of Palmerston North paradise that called Cowan home; first to complete a business degree, then to take up the reins of the family business. Cowan works closely with her mother Lynn Kirkland, who began the purity range more than 20 years ago.

What began as bare paddocks has turned into a thriving multi-faceted business. The Herb Farm products are stocked by more than

100 retailers in New Zealand and shipped to international customers; there is a fragrant beauty therapy clinic at home base, along with a bustling café, shop, function centre and sprawling herb gardens for visitors to wander through.

“We are about botanical simplicity,” says Cowan, 32, as she strides through offices and stock rooms overlooking acres of green to reach the heart of the enterprise: the manufacturing room with its vats and mixers.

In a retail world that is saturated with the 'natural' message, Cowan and Kirkland are the very real deal. The Herb Farm products are all hand-made on site, many of the ingredients grown in the organic paddocks just outside the window.

The shelves of their stockroom carry other special ingredients sourced solely from people who sign full traceability and disclosure agreements about the purity and quality of what they supply. Containers of floral waters are inscribed with the positive intentions that go into each product, words such as 'love', 'beauty' and 'harmony'. It is in the inner sanctum of the manufacturing room that these are turned into botanical skincare.

“Our intention is to make everything with love,” says Cowan. Words such as 'gaia' flow from Kirkland, while Cowan talks of how they work with the philosophy of 'kaizen' (continuous improvement for the better). “And we do everything in our power to ensure the ingredients are totally pure … or else we couldn’t sleep at night.” 

With Cowan in charge of business, Kirkland is now freer to focus on her primary passion: formulating ever more effective products. There is a smart harmony between the two women as they share child-minding of Cowan's 15-month-old son Taj during the day. Fourteen staff help keep The Herb Farm humming in harmony.

The mother-daughter pair's steady commitment to pure is finally starting to be recognised. The Herb Farm won the Sustainable Business Award, and the Integrity and Ethics in Business Award last year at the Westpac Manawatu Business Awards. Auckland businesses are now asking The Herb Farm to manufacture products for them and investigating joining them in business.

“In the end, [family] is the core of everything we do,” says Cowan. “It’s about our family and all those families over New Zealand … we are trying to make a difference in the world and in peoples’ lives.”