Last week I had an opportunity to catch up with a dear friend I’ve known since high school. We usually touch base on Christmas and birthdays, but my friend Pam (not her actual name) had called excited with the news of her forthcoming addition to her family. She was going to be a grandma and she was to the moon and back excited. I could hear the joyful exuberance in her voice and exclaimed how delighted I was for her.
She has been witness through many of my life incarnations including marriage, childbirth, having a developmentally delayed schizophrenic child, divorce, struggling single mom, and now farmer; and so we cheered her new life celebration and discussed my newest life stage.
“Why an herb farmer?” she asked me, trying to understand what on earth I was doing.
I told her how I’ve always wanted to be a farmer, and she laughed agreeably reminding me how I always had my nose buried in Mother Earth News magazine or growing avocado trees from the pits in my windowsill, but she didn’t think I was actually serious.
She teased me about my “Lola Granola” status and then got back on the subject of her new grandbaby and when it was due to arrive. We ended our telephone conversation on a happy note, and promised we wouldn’t take so long to catch up again.
As I stood at the kitchen sink washing the dishes, I got to thinking about my friends question as I stared out the window overlooking our scrappy garden and wood lot. Why an herb farmer? Our farm’s four acres is tiny compared to the hundreds of acres of cultivated agri-corn and soybean that surround it. And that’s just how I like it. I prefer to focus on value rather than volume and find I enjoy the diversity of my small farm rather than a monoculture environment.
I’ve always known I wanted to become a farmer, and my vision has always included farmer as a lifestyle, not necessarily a job title. I formed an early relation with herbs, both growing them and using them for healing, cooking, and crafts. When I became an herbalist I recognized it as a calling, just like farming.
Combining my love of growing and using herbs along with growing vegetables, raising chickens and goats, and living sustainably just made sense to me. I didn’t see my farm and my herbs as being separate but more like a natural part of who I am.
As I consider the path my life has followed to where I am now, I realize that I have always been curious about alternative ways of doing things, whether learning herbal and homeopathic healing, birthing my last child at home with a midwife, or finding my spiritual relationship closely related to earth and nature, it makes perfect sense to me that I would grow an herb farm and call it Whimsical Moon. It’s foundation relies on alternative styles of farming (also known as traditional) including permaculture, sustainable soil practices, and raising animals naturally with plenty of space to thrive.
Herbs, as a market product have their own special niche and they appeal to a wide variety of needs and uses, including healing, crafting, and cooking. Working hard to make a living growing, gathering, and marketing herbs appeals to me on many levels. It fulfills my desire to live with the seasons and cycles of nature, to live as sustainably as possible, and to live with mindful intention focused towards healing and creativity.
So, why an herb farm? For me, it is a natural outgrowth of who I am and how I want to live my life. I enjoy the hard work of cultivating the herb gardens, learning the intricacies of marketing my herbal soaps, balms, and dream pillows, and writing about our experiences, both joyful and challenging.
Some of my favorite references include:
Carpenter, Jeff and Melanie. (2015) The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer
Schafer, Peg. (2011) The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm
Phillips, Nancy and Michael. (2001) The Herbalist’s Way
Soule, Deb. (2013) How to Move Like a Gardener