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Farms & Sanctuaries

How to Source High Quality Herbs, Essential Oils, & Herbal Products + Where I Buy Mine

I am often asked where I like to buy herbs, essential oils, and other herbal products. I tend to be a little vague when answering this question and give people several options to choose from because I try lean toward a brand-neutral presence. That said, this is a question I receive so often that I decided to open up to you about it today. Let’s put aside the business side of things for a moment and talk as if you are sitting in my living room and we are just having a friend-to-friend chat about the companies from whom I personally choose to purchase products for my own home. Okay? If you were to come over for a visit and raid my stash, this is what you'd find.

Note: This article is not an endorsement of any company.
It is simply a look at what I have in my own apothecary.

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FRESH HERBS

I try to grow as many of my own fresh herbs in our organic garden as I can (we currently grow 70+ varieties, not counting lavenders), but if I need to source a batch from somewhere else, I always try to purchase locally first. Friends in my own local herb community are sometimes open for trade and many of our local farms grow organic herbs that can be purchased in bulk. If you’re unsure of where to find local farms that grow herbs, start asking around at your local farmer’s market. Many farms will even contract grow a crop for you if you let them know what you want to purchase (and how much of it) ahead of time. An online search for organic farms near you should also produce some results for farms that you might not have known about. Additionally, the master gardener’s extension office in your area is a great resource for finding people and farms who might be able to sell you what you’re looking for.

If I am unable to source a fresh herb locally, I will order it online from an organic farm that ships fresh herbs the day they are harvested. Pacific Botanicals in Oregon has been my favorite company to source fresh herbs from in the past and I have personally visited their beautiful farm several times. They will harvest an herb, pack it with ice, and ship it overnight to you the same day. Overnight shipping cost may be a deterrent for some, but if you absolutely can’t find what you need near you, this is an option. Pacific Botanicals sells herbs wholesale, requires orders of at least one pound of herb at a time and does have an order minimum. You can see their fresh herb selection here. Zack Woods Herb Farm on the eastern side of the US also ships fresh herbs, but requires a minimum of 10 pounds per species for most herbs. You can view their selection here.

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DRIED HERBS

If I don’t grow an herb in my own garden (the best way to source the highest quality herbs) or need more of it than I was able to harvest in its growing season, I’ll order dried herb by the pound from Pacific Botanicals. They are local to me and I love the quality of their products. I recommend ordering dried herbs from a farm that is local to you if at all possible. People often ask me how I am able to source such vibrant, high quality herbs for the products I make and photograph for the blog and the magazine and the truth is – growing them yourself will give you the best results, but when ordering herbs, as long as you are ordering freshly harvested and properly dried herbs from nearby, you should be able to source herbs that are high quality.

If I cannot find an herb locally or at Pacific Botanicals, I will turn to small farms who make their dried herbs available for purchase online. If it's a harder-to-find herb that I'm after and I absolutely can't source it from a small or local farm, I will turn to Mountain Rose Herbs and then try to add that herb to my garden the next year.

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HERB SEEDS

My most favorite place to order organic herb seeds is Richo Cech’s companyStrictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs). I have had successful germination rates with his products and he has such a wide selection available that I have to whittle down my shopping cart contents every time I go to purchase something from their website. They will also ship plant starts when seasonally appropriate and they offer excellent customer service. Richo’s books are all excellent, enjoyable, entertaining reads with a wealth of information about growing herbs and using them to make plant medicine.

I also purchase herb seeds from Renee’s Garden, which was a local-to-me seed company when I lived in California, but they also sell online on their website. Their flower and pollinator plant seeds are outstanding.

Botanical Interests is another favorite source for organic herb seeds (and veggie seeds) and their products are available at most garden stores, co-ops, and online.

There are many other companies that offer organic herb seeds for sale, but these 3 are my personal favorites and are the ones I most often purchase seeds from. I also enjoy trading seeds with like-minded local gardeners who I know and trust and I recommend saving your own seeds from your garden whenever possible.

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HERB PLANTS / STARTS

I will sometimes purchase an organic herb plant or start from a local grower if I want to get a head start on a plant. My favorite source for organic herb and pollinator plant starts is Goodwin Creek Gardens. They specialize in Lavender varieties, but also offer hundreds of varieties of organic herb plants. Their nursery is certified organic and they do offer mail order plants. The owners are planning to retire soon, so I’m not sure how much longer the company will be selling plants, but their plants are amazing. The owners are super sweet – we always love visiting them. I have never ordered from them through the mail – I have always picked up plants from their nursery or at the farmer’s market, but they do offer shipping. I would call ahead first to see what’s available for shipping if you plan to order plants online, as their online catalog lists most everything they offer, but not necessarily what is currently in stock for shipping.

Strictly Medicinal Seeds also ships organic herb plants / starts seasonally and offers a wide selection. The plants that I have picked up from them in person are all happily thriving in my garden.

Several organic local farms sell organic herb and veggie starts in the spring and early summer. Many of the ones near us sell both on-site at their farm stands/stores and at our local farmer’s market.

Our local chain of co-ops sells organic herb and veggie starts from local farms, including the ones we purchase directly from at their farm stands and Goodwin Creek. Your local co-op may be a great place to find organic starts too, but you’ll want to ask them about how they manage pests at their location. Our co-ops are pretty good about keeping organic plants separated from non-organic plants (and we are in a non-GMO county, which also helps), but not all garden departments are the same. If you’re planning to save seeds from your plants and you want them to be organic, I’d recommend purchasing directly from an organic farm or nursery or growing the plants from seed yourself.

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HERBAL TINCTURES

When I don’t make them myself, I usually purchase them from Herb Pharm and will buy them from iherb or vitacost because they are sold at a slight discount there. I’ll also pick them up at our local grocery co-op if I don’t want to wait for shipping. Herb Pharm is an outstanding company – I’ve visited their location as well and have always been pleased with the quality of their products.

Gaia Herbs also sells beautiful herbal tinctures – I’ve tried a couple of theirs and have been pleased. There are several smaller companies that offer tinctures as well, but these two are the brands I purchase from most often. Local herbalists often carry their own line of tinctures too.

FLOWER ESSENCES

The Bach Flower Remedies are probably my most purchased (when I don’t make them myself), but I have also been impressed by the flower essences from Lotus Wei. Several smaller companies sell a wide variety of them as well and you can often find a unique selection at a local herbalist / apothecary.

ESSENTIAL OILS

I have been able to work with many brands of essential oils over the years, but for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to feature the ones I most often purchase from at this time.

Please note: There are obviously many other brands that produce quality essential oils. Please don't take this as a "These are the only good ones" kind of list - it is simply a glimpse into my own apothecary. I often recommend other brands as well, but that is not the purpose of this post. It is simply a, "Sure, come take a look in my fridge and I'll show you what I have right now."

I'm an advocate for choosing essential oils and related products that are produced from organically cultivated plants whenever possible – regardless of whether or not any contaminants make it through the distillation process (there are mixed reports about this), essential oils represent a lot of land mass. Choosing organic is supporting organic land (caring for the planet and the soil and future generations) and protects our pollinators.

I am also a huge fan of home distilling. If you’re able to purchase or build a still to use at home with your own plants, I highly recommend doing so. I’ll be writing a lot more about distilling at home and becoming part of the process in a deeper way in the coming year.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m also a huge advocate for purchasing from local sources whenever possible. I try to purchase essential oils from local farms and artisan distillers whenever I can, especially if I have had the opportunity to visit the farm first and see their distillation process firsthand. Small farms are often able to craft their essential oils with so much more love and intention than a commercial farm and that is something that I personally believe makes a big difference in the subtle nuances of the end product. Whenever I can, I try to purchase essential oils from small farms who distill their organically grown plants with mindful intention and lots of love. My favorite essential oils have come from these small farms.

When I purchase essential oils online from a larger brand, the company I most often purchase from at this stage of my life is Aromatics International. They offer a beautiful selection of essential oils from organically cultivated, wildharvested, and conventionally grown plants. This brand offers batch-specific GC/MS reports for every essential oil they sell and the sales page for each oil includes basic chemistry information about the oil as well as its date of distillation and some suggestions for use. Their customer service is excellent. They follow the NAHA and AIA guidelines for safe use.

Other brands I have purchased from and been pleased with include Stillpoint Aromatics and Eden Botanicals, both of which offer batch specific GC/MS reports on their websites (and sample sizes!). I have also liked Snow Lotus' products.

CONCLUSION

If you were to come over and go through my stash of herbal products, this post summarizes what you would find, aside from my homegrown goodies. When it comes to herbal remedies, body and personal care products, and cleaning products, I make most of them myself at home. This post isn't by any means a comprehensive guide to all of the great brands out there. It's simply a glimpse into my own apothecary, as if you were sitting here with me and asked if you could take a look at what I have.

Where do you purchase herbal products? Do you grow your own herbs and make your own remedies? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


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It's Lavender Season! A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at Lavender Farms

When you ask an herbalist or an aromatherapist to choose a favorite herb or essential oil, most of them preface their response with a statement somewhat like, "What!? How could you ask me that!? I could never choose just one!" I'm the same way. But if you were to ask me what my favorite herb to grow is, I would say Lavender, without hesitation. Walking out into the garden and seeing her happy, purple-topped stalks makes me feel so at home and so peaceful and so joyous that I would choose her first for my garden every time. I always come home with a batch of new varieties when I visit our local Lavender experts (I just can't help myself!) and Jon and I dream of planting at least an acre of it after we purchase our land. Since I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only one who feels this way about this special plant, I thought I would set aside a day to take you on a relaxing, behind-the-scenes stroll through some of our local Lavender farms here in the PNW. Here are a few of the photos I've been taking at some of our dreamy, purple hot spots this season.

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If you're ever able to visit the PNW during Lavender season, try to visit near the end of June or the beginning of July. We have Lavender festivals and events most weekends during that time frame throughout both Oregon and Washington!

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I could get lost in these rows for hours and be quite content. I recently told a friend that if I were a mouse or a fairy, I would want to live in a Lavender garden.

Every plant in a Lavender garden is alive with pollinators. Thousands of them flit about throughout the fields, happily working the day away. Wouldn't you like to have their job?

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One last photo, from my own garden. It's not a field of blooms, but I just love this dark variety. <3

I'm currently knee-deep working with lavender spikes and with some of these beautiful dreamland locations to bring you some extra special Lavender surprises very soon, so stay tuned! If you love Lavender too, make sure you're on our email list so you'll be amongst the first to know when we're ready to share more info. <3

Much love and wishes for Lavender-filled days,
Erin

Medicinal Properties of 12 Culinary Herbs (that You Can Grow Yourself!)

As you saw last week, I'm currently in the midst of planning out my garden spaces for the year and getting everything planted up. Realistically, this also means that I've been trying to keep my wish-list down to a manageable selection of plants and refrain from purchasing every pretty little bulb and seedling I see when shopping around town. (Our local garden centers are full of fragrant hyacinths and lilacs at the moment. They're practically irresistible!) Quite a task for a plant lover! I've been looking forward to being able to grow more of my own herbs this year.

As I narrowed down my seed selections, I realized that I had a few herbs on my "must have" list. These plants are so easy to grow and so versatile that I think every herbal enthusiast ought to give them a try.

[Edited to add: My top 7 herbs to grow yourself or purchase from a local farm for best quality are Calendula, Yarrow, Chamomile, Tulsi, Peppermint, Red Clover, & Astragalus. The difference between herb purchased from even the most reputable suppliers vs. homegrown for these herbs in particular is incredible.]

HERBS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER GROWING THIS YEAR
+ A FEW WAYS TO USE THEM

Note: I could obviously add more to this list, but I think that these 12 herbs encompass plants that can be put to use by almost everyone, so they're the ones I'm choosing to feature today. Which herb(s) would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments section at the end of this post.

  1. Calendula
    Calendula is a beautiful, sunny, flowering, skin healing herb. It's often infused into Aloe or carrier oils and used in salves, lotions and creams meant to help support the skin as it deals with irritation, inflammation, injuries, or other skin issues. It's an ingredient well suited to skin care products for all skin types. It's also excellent for the lymphatic and digestive systems and can be taken as a tea. It's easy to grow in the garden and the freshly harvested and dried blossoms look lovely in the apothecary.
     
  2. Peppermint
    Reputed for its affinity for the digestive system, Peppermint is one of those delightful perennial herbs that is very easy to grow. It's best to propagate via cuttings and is one of those "leave it and it'll spread" type plants. If you don't want it to take over your garden, plant it in a container where it has a little bit of extra room to grow. Harvest leaves as needed for fresh Peppermint tea and for use in fresh salads and dishes that need a little something extra. Chewing on a leaf of Peppermint mid-afternoon when you're longing for a nap might be just the thing you need to feel refreshed and energized once again.
     
  3. Rosemary
    Another plant easily grown from cuttings, Rosemary is a hardy perennial herb in many parts of the US. It's obviously perfectly suited to cooking, but it's also valuable for memory and concentration, improving circulation, and is known for its ability to tone the nervous system. It's strengthening to the heart muscle and is also used in skin care products and hair products. Reputed to stimulate hair growth, it's often employed in herbal hair rinses its essential oil is included as an ingredient in natural shampoos. I love it because it tastes wonderful, smells amazing, and is so willing to be included in formulas. The smell of fresh Rosemary with fresh Lavender is probably my most favorite aroma.
     
  4. Lavender
    Who wouldn't want to grow Lavender? The plant is absolutely beautiful (even my German Shepherd adores it) and the flowers can be used in so many different ways. Lavender honeys, lemonades, cookies, teas, and other dishes often include this herb. I like to dry the fresh flowering stalks and use them to make wreaths. The dried buds are perfect for herbal pillows - I make them for our family to use in the bedrooms and keep one for use in the car for my pup. She is an intelligent, high energy dog and the pillow helps her to stay calm when we need to drive for a longer period of time. An uplifting nervine, Lavender can be employed for relaxation and supporting sleep. I like to use it in eye pillows and foot baths when I have a headache and I include it almost every skin care formula I make.
     
  5. Dill
    A pretty culinary herb, I like to include Dill in potato salads and homemade sauerkraut recipes, as well as in herbal digestive aid formulas (it's a great carminative). I also think the plant itself is quite lovely, with its delicate fronds and cheery little yellow flowers. I like to rub its leaves to release its essential oils when I pass it in the garden - its smell is so refreshing.
     
  6. Thyme
    Thyme is another culinary favorite of mine. It pairs well with Rosemary in many dishes and has an affinity for the respiratory system. Refreshing and uplifting, thyme stimulates the thymus gland, a significant part of our immune system, and is also well suited for coughs, sore throats, and related complaints. I like to infuse it in olive oil or honey with garlic and a few other culinary herbs and take it when I've been around people who are sick to boost my immune system and help me stay healthy. The freshly made tea, tincture, and essential oil are all employed in various cleaning formulas.
     
  7. Basil
    Pesto, pizza, caprese salad... Basil has so many uses in the kitchen that it's almost silly not to grow it. It's a beautiful plant and the more you use, the bushier it seems to grow. It's uplifting and antispasmodic. I've seen it included in formulas for the digestive system and for supporting restful sleep. The essential oil is well suited in blends for focus and concentration. It's sometimes included in herbal hair rinses to promote hair growth and bring balance to oily scalps.
     
  8. Oregano
    I love to include antioxidant-packed Oregano in Mexican food dishes and things like quinoa or rice. It's sometimes included in skin care formulas and is also known for its value in remedies for the digestive system. A potent antimicrobial, it's used in natural 'antibiotic' type preparations and is also employed for its anti-inflammatory properties in formulas used to address painful and inflammatory conditions. The herbal infused oil is said to be effective at keeping creepy crawlies away (among many other things), though I haven't personally tested this yet.
     
  9. Hawthorn
    Ah, Hawthorn. If I had to choose an herbal best friend, it would probably be this plant. The berries, flowers, leaves, and twigs are used in herbal medicine as a heart tonic, bringing balance and strength to even the healthy heart, but especially to the heart with some sort of ailment. If I could only use one herb for the rest of my life, it would probably be this one (but oh, how I would miss the flavorful others!). It works excellently on both physical and energetic planes and, because it is considered a tonic herb, should be used consistently over time for best results. It grows as a shrub or tree and can be employed in herbal teas (and other herbal medicine forms) and in culinary preparations (the berries are perfect for jams). I like to combine it with Hibiscus and Milky Oats for tea.
     
  10. Aloe vera
    If you're not in a sunny, warm growing zone, Aloe vera can be grown indoors, potted up on a sunny windowsill. The fresh juice/gel are used internally for all sorts of digestive complaints and externally for all manner of skin issues. A highly versatile first aid plant, I think everyone ought to be growing it. (Though it should be avoided by nursing mommas and women who are pregnant.) Freshly harvested leaves are squeezed into morning smoothies and green drinks, slathered onto acneic skin, and used in skin-healing creams. Its rare flowers (usually produced once per year after the plant reaches maturity) are a delight as well.
     
  11. Plantain
    Chances are you won't need to actually cultivate this plant. It's probably trying to spring up in your garden pathways and through cracks in the pavement right now. Well known for its skin healing abilities, it's also employed for a variety of digestive and lymphatic complaints. It's a drawing herb that can be used to draw out splinters and is also valuable for irritated, inflamed skin. I've written about it in more detail here.
     
  12. Dandelion
    Another tenacious herb that won't need to be cultivated if you allow it to grow when it appears, Dandelion is an herb supreme for for the liver and kidneys. The entire plant is used medicinally and its leaves are high in vitamins and minerals. It's used as a food herb as well, often included in dishes where a bitter green would be suitable: stir-fries, soups, salads, etc.

Other favorites to consider: Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Pepper (the trees are so beautiful), Rose, Hibiscus, Feverfew, Red Clover, St. John's Wort

WHICH HERBS ARE YOU GROWING IN YOUR GARDEN THIS YEAR?

Let me know in the comments section below this post. If you're interested in purchasing organic herb seeds (or veggie seeds) for your garden, click here to read about some of my favorite seed sources.

Much love,
Erin

Planning Your Herb & Food Garden for This Year

It's that time of year! Spring is officially here and the garden sections at our local co-ops and hardware stores are bursting with bright annual colors and fragrant spring bulbs. I've been spending some extra time planning out my garden for this year and getting seeds started. Adjusting to four distinct seasons (instead of my southern California-ingrained "almost everything grows year-round here" mindset) is new for me, so I've been devoting a lot of time to the study of local planting calendars. As I've been mapping out my own little plots and sketching beds and boxes for my talented husband to build, I've come across some really excellent gardening resources that I thought I'd share with you. I'd also love to hear about your favorite tools and resources - share them with me in the comments section at the end of this post!

GARDENING RESOURCES

  1. Kitchen Garden Planner - This website has the best online garden planning tool that I have ever come across. It is so easy to work with. You start by designing a single raised bed, planter box, or garden space. Drag and drop the plants you want to include in the space and the program will automatically plug in the correct amount of seeds you need (based on square foot gardening methods). Save the bed when you are finished and then work on the next one. After you've saved each individual garden bed/box/space, you can drag and drop the finished beds into your "site plan" and place them where they'll be in your yard. If you scroll down after finishing each bed, you'll find growing guides specific to each plant you've placed in the space. It's such a handy tool and you can save your plans and access them later as well! If you don't want to start from scratch, the site also offers pre-planned raised bed and planter box charts available. It's an insanely handy tool! It doesn't include drag-and-drop medicinal herbs, but it does include many culinary herbs, along with a host of veggies.
     
  2. This book. I've been reading through it as I plan out my space and am finding it useful, especially for calculating yields and determining how much I need to plant. I'm also reading this book and I have some vintage favorites like this one that I plan to review next.
     
  3. Master Gardeners Groups - Back in southern California, we frequently visited a demonstration garden that was kept by our local branch of Master Gardeners. There was always a Master Gardener available there during the daytime to help with answering gardening questions. Each one was knowledgeable in our local growing conditions and common local pests and diseases and was able to help gardeners identify the issues they were experiencing in their garden so they could determine how to target the problem in an effective way that wouldn't harm the ecosystem. I've just recently located the local MG branch in our new hometown and am looking forward to visiting them soon. It seems like many areas have a Master Gardeners group, so I'd highly recommend checking to see if there is one near you. They often host gardening classes as well.
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MY FAVORITE SEED COMPANIES

  1. Renee's Garden - She has a lovely selection of florals, including butterfly and pollinator blends, as well as a wide variety of organic edibles and herbs. I've had great germination rates with their seed.
     
  2. Botanical Interests - I've had good success with this brand as well. The organic selection is excellent. In southern California, we had a garden chain called Armstrong Garden Center that would clearance out their seeds at the end of each year right around Christmastime and we would always stock up on this brand. We've had great germination rates with these too.
     
  3. Strictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs) - If you're wanting to grow organic medicinal herbs in your garden, beware - their vast array of seeds will pull you in until you look down at your shopping cart and realize that you need to drastically pare down your selection. ;) I've ordered live plants from them in the past (my baby Hawthorn tree made the move to the PNW with us and is just starting to show signs of spring growth) and have also just purchased a selection of medicinal herb seeds from them. I've got them in sprouting trays right now and will keep you updated on my success with them.
     
  4. Siskiyou Seeds - This is a local seed company in the PNW. I came across it at our local co-op and picked up a few packets of seed to test. I highly recommend purchasing seeds from local companies whenever you can. If they are growing their mother plants locally, your seeds will already be well adapted to your area.
     
  5. Baker Creek - This company boasts a large selection of unique heirloom seeds. I haven't purchased from them since they updated their name, but their available varieties look as lovely as ever.

MY FAVORITE TOOLS AND SUPPLIES

Compost

I prefer homemade compost fresh from the vermiculture bin, but when I don't have enough of it available and need to supplement, I like to use this brand. Whatever you have available locally that is organic or OMRI listed will do. Sometimes the local compost available in your area is the best option. Talk to other gardeners in your area to see what they recommend and watch out for companies that include plastics and glass in their mixes.

Organic Amendments

If you care for your soil properly, you'll have healthier, more nutrient-dense plants that are far more resistant to pests and diseases than conventional plants or plants grown in depleted soil. I like to use lots of organic worm castings in my soil, along with organic or OMRI-listed amendments. I've heard great things about including rock dust as well, and will be experimenting with that this year.

OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS

Trade with locals

If you're attending classes or meetups with other gardeners or taking time to get to know your gardening neighbors, chances are you're making friends who you'll be able to trade seeds, cuttings, and plant starts with!

Check out the local digs

Trader Joe's stores often stock organic starts of the harder-to-germinate herbs. Local natural foods stores often do the same.

Some herbs can be planted via organic starts from the produce department of your natural foods store or farmer's market. I've had good success with growing Ginger and Turmeric that I purchased from a local store and have heard many stories of folks successfully growing garlic,  potatoes, green onions, and even some other herbs sourced this way.

Local farmer's markets can be a great place to find organic seedlings. Look for certified local farmer's markets - they're the ones that are full of local farmers selling their locally-grown plants and produce. Our local farmer's markets include a couple of local organic farms that are selling in-season organic seedlings.

WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO GROW THIS YEAR?

Let us know down in the comments below!

Much love,
Erin

OTHER BLOG POSTS

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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