Gabrielle Mirkin, the founder of Activist, a family-owned Manuka Honey company that specialises in high-grade Manuka products. Gabrielle has a beautiful way with words, so we decided to let her tell her story and share with you in her own words.
I was born and grew up on a beautiful avocado farm in the countryside in New Zealand with my English mother and an American father. I have many fond childhood memories, most from spending time in nature with my family. My dad loved to bushwalk, every weekend we would discover a big new walk to take out in the Waitākeres through the thick native New Zealand bush. The colour and smell of this native flora is embedded in my mind forever; wet, green, fresh, herbaceous, smells of Manuka, Nikaus, Pungas and the songs of native birds, Tuis and Kererū. The smell and sound of home is so comforting to me. We also spent a lot of time at the beach in Northland swimming in the salty sea, collecting pāua and pipis, eating fish ‘n’ chips and fresh strawberries in the summertime and grilling corn on the cob on the BBQ. Every day, I know how extremely fortunate I am to have grown up in Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud and the many blessings that this peaceful land has brought to so many people. I lived in New Zealand until my twenties when I then moved abroad and lived in Sydney, NYC and now California. I spent many years working in publishing as an art director for magazines; some of the highlights were working in Manhattan as an art director at Harper’s Bazaar and then Vogue magazine.
I now live in Topanga Canyon, which is nestled into the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, with my husband Luke and two young children, Cisco River and Tallulah Blue. My husband and I founded and run our family business Activist, which is a Manuka Honey company specializing in beautiful high-grade Manuka offerings for clean beauty skincare and internal immune support and wellness. As a family, we’ve built a company that works prolifically with natural resources, not only natural resources but ones with an origin from our native country of New Zealand; which is our larger playground and one with which we have a deeper understanding. The ability to build a brand with limited industrial impact was very important to us. In essence, we are simply letting Mother Nature, the seasonal cycles, symbiotic relationships, and microclimates, cultivate the basis of our products. It is our role to present these to the world in their highest and unadulterated form with as little human interference as possible. My heart still lives in New Zealand and I know our family will live back there one day so, it is beautiful that our business is so connected to my home.
I like to visit places that are very culturally different from where I live and how I grew up. I like to show my children new countries and different ways of living. My favourite country to visit is India and I would love to visit Africa when my children are older. A special place to me is Kerala in southern India. I studied at an Ayurvedic retreat centre for a month with my husband and my then, one-year-old son. I love this part of the world for many reasons. Culturally and spiritually it is very special; the people and the land. I loved my time here studying Ayurveda and yoga. It was the cleanest I have felt in my mind and body for a long time. The food is also incredible; all vegetarian and local. Fresh coconuts and mangoes from the trees outside, lassis, curries and chai tea. We also love to visit Mexico, which is very accessible when living in California. We have just returned from Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. That is where I shot these photos, staying at a very special hacienda with friends. The property was filled with fresh fruit trees, avocados, figs, mangoes, bananas and citrus. The fresh food there is beautiful; limes, mangoes and cilantro are a favourite of mine, as well as the local cacao, coffee and mezcal. I love the ocean and my husband likes to surf here. Speaking Spanish is something I want to learn for myself and my children.
I am passionate about growing and cooking food for my friends and family. I love Manuka Honey and add this golden nectar to daily teas, tonics, smoothies and recipes. We eat a spoonful each day for immune support and overall wellness. I apply a Manuka Honey face mask each night! Yoga is a great love of mine but something I have put aside the past few years as my kids have been my number one priority. I feel a calling to ignite my passions again now that my little girl is almost two and more independent. We have a large unruly property in Topanga Canyon, California and my next project is a big vegetable garden so we can grow all our own produce and be self-sufficient in this way. We are also planting a lot of fruit and citrus trees. I love architecture and design and our old house is an ongoing project for Luke and I.
In our lives, we are faced with the great challenges in which we learn, grow and surprise ourselves with our capacity for resilience and strength. My biggest life challenge by far was almost losing our baby boy when he was 2.5 years-old. He ended up in the pediatric ICU with a bad case of Croup which then turned into viral and bacterial pneumonia after being in the hospital. Our boy was in the hospital for two months, in a coma and on an ECMO life support machine. It was an extremely traumatic experience for our family. Cisco is the strongest and most beautiful person I know and made a miraculous recovery learning to breathe, drink, eat and walk again. He truly is a miracle to us and my greatest gift and teacher. My husband and I have always supported each other through the ups and downs of life. We have been together since our early twenties, have grown up together and lived many different lives together. He’s my best friend and soulmate.
Protecting planet earth for our children and our children’s children is something I am truly passionate about. The joy I see in my children’s faces when they are jumping through the whitewash at the beach, going on a bushwalk through native trees in New Zealand, on the farm feeding animals with their grandpa, picking ripe juicy peaches at the end of summer, playing under the oak trees at preschool, spotting dolphins playing beyond the break at Zuma beach, planting grasses with dada and watching the spectacular sunsets from the canyon over the Pacific. That joy and happiness cannot be recreated. Mother Nature is our greatest joy and one we must protect for our future generations. Or what will there be to live for?