Local Heroes

Cynthea's spa staff "pops up" at farmers' markets to perfrom free indigenous hand scrubs.

Cynthea’s Spa in Burlington, Vermont

On the menu: A rotating “Farm to Spa” body treatment section including the Red Wine Grape VinoTherapy Scrub and Wrap; Apple and Pure Vermont Maple Scrub and Wrap; Great Pumpkin Scrub and Wrap; Rose Petal Sea Salt Scrub and Wrap; and a Chocolate Brownie Sugar Scrub and Wrap (all 75 min./$150).

Recipes call for: Red grape pith and pulp (from a local vineyard), apples and pumpkins (care of nearby farms), flowers, coffee, raw honey, maple syrup, chocolate from the Vermont Brownie Company and more!

How they’re served: Ingredients are blended with Dead Sea salts and essential oils provided by local herbalists, and guests can participate in the preparation if they wish. The scrub and wraps are removed with warm towels while guests recline in warm blankets, and all body treatments include a scalp massage.

Inspiration: “I’ve always grown my own flowers and herbs, and I’m dedicated to buying and eating locally,” says owner Cynthea Hausman. To comply with the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept, Hausman holds a share from a local farm—she pays a set price at the beginning of harvest and receives a weekly shipment of what’s fresh and available—and she regularly cooks using the flavors of the season. “You get local honey, flowers, bread, meat, vegetables, syrup... all kinds of amazing things,” Hausman says. “Then last June it dawned on me: I could be partnering with them for the spa!” So she reached out to members of her CSA co-op, the Intervale Food Hub, a farmer-run collaborative that aggregates, markets and distributes local food products. “They call me if they have a surplus of ingredients they’re looking to unload at a wholesale price, and we promote them: I’ll include their farm or company name in our menu descriptions, link them on our website and tell our clients about what they offer.”

Trade secrets: “Spas are a great liaison for farms,” Hausman says, “because ingredients don’t necessarily have to be perfect to be beneficial for your skin. They can call us and say, ‘Well, we’ve got a bunch of strawberries but they’re a little over,’ so it’s a great way for them to still earn money on crops.” Hausman also plans ahead for seasonal changes. “I created a rotating menu featuring three to four ‘flavors’ per season”—making use of berries in the spring and coffee in the winter, for instance—”but there’s still an element of surprise,” she says, referring to the frequent phone calls she receives announcing the availability of, say, tons of calendulas. “It’s all easy for us to customize, and it gives regular clients a sense that we have a ‘secret’ menu.”

Final verdict: Plenty of guests come to Vermont seeking an “authentic and memorable” spa journey, and as Hausman notes, “it doesn’t get any more unique than being able to sit down with a therapist and craft your own treatment from a bowl of strawberries, some goat yogurt and oils.” Client response, she says, “has been fantastic. And our bottom line is up since June, because this has been such a cost-effective operation.”