Stephonia Roberts of Mrs. Jack's Body Food uses natural ingredients from her garden for her soaps, lotions and bath salts.
Feb. 20, 2017
Native Americans and our other ancestors cured ailments and promoted health naturally by using plants and herbs. Fifty-three-year-old Stephonia Roberts, founder of Fort Worth-based Mrs. Jacks Body Food, says her natural personal care products do the same thing.
It took a chronic ailment for Roberts to appreciate the homeopathic lessons she learned as a child.
At age 45, Roberts was in the midst of suffering from a rare bladder disease, interstitial cystitis, which caused extreme pain after sitting 10 to 15 minutes. So much pain that she often had to pull her car off the road and return home during the 45-minute drive to her job at AT&T in Dallas. She was taking 16 medications, some of which were narcotic, and causing serious depression.
Feeling western medicine had failed to relieve her symptoms, she returned to the home cures she’d learned from family.
Roberts grew up in Fairfield in Freestone County, raised by her vegetarian grandmother who taught her about plants and nature. As a child, she often found herself in the kitchen experimenting with recipes.
“My grandmother was very patient. I set her field on fire twice by throwing hot things into it,” Roberts chuckles. “I was told that I would be a botanist or evangelist – I just like plants.”
Mid life, she remembered those lessons and began experimenting wth natural remedies. Soon she was weaning herself off her prescriptions.
Wanting to share what she learned, in 2009, she started Mrs. Jacks Body Food in her kitchen, deriving the name from the initials of her children and grandchildren. At first, she was just selling her soaps, lotions and bath salts to coworkers and friends. But in 2012, Roberts left her job and took the business full-time.
Today, the majority of her products are made from natural organic ingredients. She grows about 30 percent, but if it’s something special, she orders from a company in Oregon.
“Because I don’t use pesticides in my garden, I lose quite a bit of plants,” she laments. “I try to bring harmony to the garden.”
Roberts, who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, says about 80 percent of her products are vegan.
“I have been really working to try to get all vegan products, and they are definitely cruelty free.”
Some of her recipes were made by trial and error. The recipe for a popular bath salt - grapefruit, bergamot, English Tea and Earl Grey Tea – came to her while she standing in line at the grocery story.
Roberts has also become something of Pied Piper of plants. As she grew her business, Roberts was posting photos from her garden on social media with brief descriptions. Her friends loved it.
One of them told her: “Hey, I know a group that would be great for you.”
That group turned out to be Cross Timbers Master Naturalists. She started attending meetings and became a Texas-certified master naturalist. Today she teaches others about nature, volunteering with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth and the Oliver Nature Park in Mansfield, where she conducts tours for children and adults, teaching them about plants. She also helps people set up community gardens.
“I am a herbalist, and my garden is called ‘The Garden of Eve,’” she shares. “Twice a year I host five-course garden dinners and teach people how to incorporate weeds and herbs into their meals.”
Roberts, who has also authored a book on herbs, feels her own story can be a lesson for all.
“I was blaming everyone and God, so who better than I to talk about alternative medicine and going back to the land and the natural way we’re supposed to eat,” she proclaims. “It took me awhile, because I was really hardheaded. You think you have all the answers and when you go back to God, everything seems clear.”
Products can be found at her online store.