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Visiting Organic Herb Farms in the PNW

My husband and I just returned from a 10 day road trip through the Pacific Northwest - the first real vacation we've taken together in our 7 years of marriage. We like each other pretty well so confining ourselves to the car off and on for days at a time is actually enjoyable for us. =) One of our goals for this particular vacation was to visit as many organic herb farms that we purchase products from as possible. I'm so glad we did! Each place we visited was so lovely and more beautiful than we expected. We also stopped at a few more touristy spots, which filled in those empty spaces in our schedule nicely. I'd like to share some of the things we saw with you.

One of the first farms we visited was an organic herb farm I purchase my fresh and dried bulk herbs from. The owner of the farm prefers not to have images of their farm posted online so I won't be sharing any from that location but it was the most peaceful place I think I have ever been. The farm was about 150 acres of beautiful, quiet land tucked back into the forest so you don't even know it's there until you arrive. The gal I normally speak to when I order in a batch of freshly harvested, not yet dried herb gave us a small tour and spent some time talking with us up on the viewing deck that looks out across the farm. It was wonderful to learn about how responsibly and sustainably they care for their land. We were able to watch as they harvested fresh Tulsi and to look out on the fallow, resting fields blanketed in usable cover crops [oats & red clover] and wild Queen Anne's Lace. We left with a greater appreciation for the work our organic farmers do and a renewed commitment to be mindful of where we source our own products and ingredients from. Large commercial farms and distribution centers may sometimes be able to offer more competitive prices, but often at a cost to the land, the organic farmers, and the quality of the products. We've long been passionate about sustainable sourcing and supporting small organic farms and visiting this particular farm further inspired us to continue being advocates for responsible lifestyle and business choices.

The next company we visited was Herb Pharm. I love their organic tinctures and enjoy using their products in various herbal remedies so it was a blast to visit them at their home base. When you visit Herb Pharm, you check in at their main location and they give you directions and passes to visit their Botanical Sanctuary. It's not far from the main office but is tucked back in a hidden corner of the forest away from the noise of traffic. This day of the trip was one of the most fun! Being able to see such a wide variety of herbs, some of them at risk, felt like such a blessing. It was almost surreal! Many of the herbs we saw don't grow where we live, so it was even more special when we would 'meet' herbs we'd only learned about in classes or books or seen in their dried, packaged forms. I still think the trees full of Usnea were some of the most beautiful botanicals I have ever seen.

One of the things that the Botanical Sanctuaries do is commit to restoring and preserving the habitats of our native medicinal herbs and the plants themselves so they will still be around for future generations. Walking through the gardens at this particular sanctuary was a lovely experience. Every plant we saw was valuable medicinally / therapeutically and many of them were plants that are already on the "at risk" list [meaning that they are at risk of being put on the endangered plant species list] because they have been so wildly and unsustainably harvested. When you purchase an herb that is on this list, always purchase it from organic farms that use sustainable harvesting methods - know your farmer, talk to them, be careful about your sourcing. Be mindful of where your ingredients and products are coming from.

I'm of the opinion that everyone with room to grow anything ought to be growing milkweed for the butterflies. Every time I see it, I smile. =) My parents' house has a unique variety of milkweed in the front yard and I often find myself checking it for Monarch butterfly caterpillars - last time I was there I found two!

Aspen was one of my favorite trees to meet. I can't recall ever seeing one here in southern California [they tend to like the cooler growing zones]. Her flower essence is one that I find particularly lovely when working with people lately and being able to take a moment to connect with the living tree was wonderful. She's such a strong, graceful tree with a calm, steady presence [even if some have unfortunately mis-nicknamed her 'quaking'].

Borage is another favorite because our pollinators are such fans of it. We're really responsible as humans for taking part in our ecosystem - we care for the land and cultivate the plants, the pollinators work with us and the earth yields its food and medicine for us. When we fail to care for the earth or our pollinators [by not growing their food or contaminating it with chemicals], the whole process of nature is set off balance and we begin to feel the results of it in uncomfortable ways: lack of pollinators, poor soil quality, less nutrient-dense food, more illness and disease...it's a nasty cycle. Choose responsibly - take part - be involved. You'll find that simple practices that care for our ecosystem are incredibly fulfilling.

The St. John's Wort was another herb I was so excited to see in person. It's on our noxious weed list here in California so we're unable to grow it ourselves. This particular patch of it was one that we found near a waterfall in Oregon [more on that later].

We also came across a whole flock of turkeys at the Botanical Sanctuary! They could have belonged to the owners of the property, but we really don't know if they did or if they were wild. Either way, it was amusing to hear them converse and, at times, argue with each other.

After a few days of falling in love with Oregon [we're probably moving there in the near future to start our own little farm], we drove up to Washington to visit some family there. We were able to stay in a lovely little guest house on an organic farm! What a peaceful place. It was up in the hills in an area without any street lights, cell phone reception or internet and the owners graciously allow their visitors to wander through the gardens and the apple and pear orchards. We were allowed to pick anything we pleased and to feed their flock of social free range chickens. They even stocked the guest house fridge with fresh multi-colored eggs! The herb gardens were especially lovely.

One of the last places we visited was a series of waterfalls in Oregon. We found wild St. John's Wort, Bittersweet Nightshade, Arnica, dozens of lichens and more while we were there. As all of the other tourists were scrambling over each other to take selfies at the falls, we were exploring the surrounding forested areas like children at Disneyland. I couldn't get over how green it was there! Ferns that we pay for at our garden centers here were literally covering the forest floor there! What a lovely sight.

We came down the coast on our way home and stopped at a sweet Elk Reservation along our route. This was such a beautiful place, full of Cattails, nightshades and bird nests. We even found colonies of Usnea growing along the wood of the viewing platform!

Have you visited the PNW? Do you live there? We're going back soon - please leave your recommendations for places to visit in the comments below. =)

Much love,
Erin

For educational purposes only. All photos and graphics are copyright Erin Stewart. May not be distributed, copied, or published without express prior written permission from me.

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