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Foreword

People need these plants. They want them live,


dried, and freshfor the medicine they make,
the gardens they grow, and the classes they
teach. As a result there is a growing need for
medicinal herb farms, and there are many ways
herb growers can participate in and become an
integral part of this green movement.
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer
I love books! They can be so informative, practical,
and inspiring. This book contains all three of these
essential qualities. Furthermore, it is exceptionally
well written and lavishly illustrated with gorgeous,
pertinent photographs. Everything a great book
should be, but its the innovative and hopeful message
to farmers about farming that moves me most....
When my daughter, Melanie, and her husband,
Jeff (who, rather than an in-law, I fondly call my
son-of-the-heart), first mentioned that they were
thinking of writing a book about organic herb farming, I was at least as excited about the project as they
were. I had no doubt it would be a practical, comprehensive, and useful resource for other farmersand
farmers to be. I also suspected it would contain the
unique tools and talents that Jeff and Melanie both
brought to their farming practices. In the past twenty
or so years Jeff and Melanie have been in the field
literally, learning through trial, error, and innovation
about herbs and farming; shaping and defining what
being successful farmers means to them. I knew
a book written about herb farming, a subject they
were both deeply invested in, would be exceptionally
well donea cut aboveboth because of their love
of the subject and also because thats just the way
they do things. When they asked me to write the
foreword to their book, I was deeply honored.

Melanie and Jeff shared with me that this book


is an introduction to medicinal herb farming and
a resource for how to grow and process medicinal
herbs for market but it is far more than an introduction. The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer
addresses everything that a person new to farming
and just beginning the farming adventure, as well as
the seasoned farmer seeking detailed information on
growing herbs for the marketplace, would need to
know to get started. The best of agricultural practices, including seed sowing, which herbs to grow,
harvesting, and medicinal plant conservation, are
combined with the less appealingor as Melanie
states, the less sexyaspects of farming, such as
business management, bookkeeping, and marketing,
to give a comprehensive overview of what it takes to
be a successful herb farmer in todays market.
While there are several excellent books on growing herbs, and some very good ones on farming,
there are few books that combine the practical howtos of organic herb farming and the ins and outs of
the herbal industry with common-sense marketing
skillsthat is, how to sell your herbs once theyve
grown. This was the book, Im sure, that Jeff and
Melanie had wished theyd had available when they
first got started. Woven amidst the necessary technical farming data, charts, yield-per-acre averages,
and dry-to-wet herb ratios that make a book like
this useful and practical are the personal tales and
insightsthe ups and downs and personal revelations of farmingwhich give richness and depth to
any story. This farmers tale is the story of their
successes and the stories of the crops that failed and
the challenges theyve met along the way, all powerful teachings to those considering farming. Between
the seeding, weeding, and harvesting of the seasons,

The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer

Jeff and Melanie managed to write this book with


the same spirit and integrity in which they live their
lives. What shines most throughout the pages of this
rather hefty tome is their heartful generosity, sharing
what theyve learned with others.
Since they were youngsters, both Jeff and Melanie
demonstrated an early interest in plants. While still
in high school, Melanie and her twin sister, Jennifer,
started a small herbal business under my guidance
and tutelage. It was ourtheir fathers and my
attempt to teach them good work ethics and financial
responsibility (they put their earnings into savings
for their college fund), and also my personal desire to
engage them in the study and practice of herbalism.
Indeed, it worked! Both Jennifer and Melanie have
an incredible work ethic and are keenly resourceful
at managing money (they had more money saved
up in their bank account when they graduated high
school than I did in the first few years of running
my own herbal business!) and, best of all, they both
developed a lifelong love of herbs.
Jeff comes from a hearty sixth-generation Vermont farming family, which hes always proud to
mention. Ive often heard him say, Farming is in my
blood. And it is; hes a natural at itand like most
farmers, he does love a tractor. Just ask him why he
really chose farming as a career! When Jeff first came
to Sage Mountain, our herbal retreat center, fresh out
of high school, the wild older brother of Melanies
best friend, I recognized immediately the exceptional
person he was and saw in him the potential plant
lover he would become. I was delighted when he
signed up for my herbal apprentice program, and
after the apprenticeship was over, because of his keen
interest, I invited him to stay on the mountain for a
few months longer to continue his study of herbs and
also to help me with the chores. He fell in love with
plants as well as in love with my daughter (though
I think it was in the reverse order!), and those two
love affairs have been a guiding light on his personal
as well as professional path.
I have had the privilege of watching Jeff and Melanie mature not only as individuals and as caring,
loving parents, but also as herbalists and farmers, into

the savvy and successful business partners theyve


become over the past twenty years. Theyve had an
impact not only on their local community and their
home state of Vermont with their vision of organic
herb farming but have also joined forces with other
farmers throughout the country to become a strong
voice for the cultivation of sustainable, high-quality
organic herb production in the United States. Like
other young farmers seeding the back-to-the-farm
local food movement and supplying high-quality
organic herbs to the burgeoning herbal renaissance,
they have become rock stars of their communities.
In part because of the pioneering work of farming
entrepreneurs such as Jeff and Melanie and their
mentors Richard Wiswall (Cate Farm, Vermont),
Todd Hardie (Caledonia Spirits, Vermont), and
Andrea and Matthias Reisen (Healing Spirits, New
York), many other farmers are creating successful
herb businesses and are making a go of it financially.
No longer an undesirable career, farming, and herb
and vegetable farming specifically, is becoming a
career of choice for young college graduates and
visionaries seeking to make a difference in the world;
experienced farmers wanting to grow more profitable and sustainable crops than wheat, corn, or soy;
and even those urban dwellers seeking a healthier
lifestyle for themselves and their families.
In an easy to understand, practical, and comprehensive manner, The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer lays
out the tools and step-by-step practices to help others
become successful herb farmers. If you are trying to
decide whether to farm medicinal plants exclusively or
to add one to two herbal crops to your current inventory; or you wish to focus exclusively on common
culinary herbs, or strictly medicinals, or at-risk native
herbs; or you are trying to decide on the advantages
of growing living potted plants versus harvested and
dried herbs; or you wonder if its wise to add a valueadded product, youll find the detailed information
necessary to guide you through the process. This isnt
necessarily information gleaned from other resources
and passed along in a diluted format, but the direct
experience of two farmers who have tried it all and are
sharing the best of what theyve learned with others.

Foreword
However, no farmer farms alone. Farmers learn
from and depend on one another and the community
that supports them. Much like the fungal mycorrhizae
that magically weaves plants together in a complex
underground Internet system, Jeff and Melanie are
part of a network of farmers who have created
a thriving aboveground support system. These
farmers share information and resources freely and
generously with one another, often providing mentoring services and intern programs that help teach
and revitalize the basic skills of farming that have
been lost in this country over the past four decades
because of the demise of the small family farm. This
is cooperation and collaboration at its best, where
each persons success is enhanced by the success of
others. We are all cheering each other along.
Farming communities have traditionally been
close, joined together by the community potluck,
local Granges, churches, marriages, and family. The
reality of today is that herb farmers are spread out
across the country, and the Internet and phone have
become the means of communication, the modern
day Grange and potluck that binds them together.
In the process of writing this book Jeff and Melanie
visited and interviewed many other herbal farmers
across the country. Their wisdom and insights, as
well as practical farming and business advice, pepper the pages of this book, not only enriching it but
also imparting a sense of the diversity of the herbal
farming community.
Farming is a subject near and dear to me and still
strokes tender heartstrings and childhood memories. I grew up on a small family farm in the ideal
farming tillage of Sonoma County, California, in the
1950s and 60s. My father loved farming more than
anything. Heand my entire familyworked from
sunrise to sunset on that farm, milking the cows;
planting and hauling hay; raising the calves, goats,
and chickens; gardening; and canning. In spite of

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the tremendous amount of work required to run the


farm, neither he nor anyone else in the family, for
that matter, would ever have given up the farmers
life or the family farm.
Unfortunately, my father was farming at a time
when agricultural practices were changing, and the
small family farms and farmers were being systematically driven out of business, one by one, in old-time
farming communities across the country, replaced by
government-supported monocropping and factory
farming. There were no options, no alternative crops
or incentives offered to the small farmers to help
them weather the hard times and stay in business.
It was a sad day for my father, and for the other
farmers in our community, when they were forced
to sell their beloved dairy herds and farms and head
off the farm to find work. In truth, it was a sorry day
for this entire nation. For the past several decades
weve witnessed the tragic effects of factory farming
and monocropping on the landscape, in our water
systems, in the food system, in our health care, and
in our communities. I believe the health of a country
is dependent on the health of the farming communities, the health of the soil, the food and medicine we
grow, and the rich diversity of sustainable organic
farming practices.
While Im extremely proud of my two children
of the heart for writing such a vital and important
resource for farmers, its not the primary reason I
appreciate The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer. Its
because it carries a hopeful and pertinent message,
provides detailed information and innovative tools
and suggestions, and offers a roadway to success to
the small family farm. This is the book I wish my
father had had.
Rosemary Gladstar
Herbalist and author
Sage Mountain, Vermont

Preface
This book was conceived primarily as a result of
hearing our family, friends, colleagues, students,
and customers encouraging us for years to write a
practical guide that seemed to be surprisingly absent
from the vast library of agricultural books. Although
many excellent books on growing herbs existed
previously, few that we knew of seemed to fill the
role of providing a comprehensive, common-sense
how-to guide based on direct experience from both
sides of the industry, the herbal product side and the
organic herb farming side. Melanie and I had owned
a successful herbal product company for years before
selling it to buy the farm. That experience, coupled
with fifteen years of commercially growing over fifty
species of medicinal herbs on a small certified-organic
herb farm has provided us with a good foundation
of knowledge with which to share methods gleaned
through our successes and challenges.
One of the biggest challenges we faced in the
formative years of herb farming was a lack of good
information about growing and processing medicinal herbs commercially in a region where growing
seasons are short and conditions are often less than
ideal. There were a few books on commercial herb
production out there, but what we found was that
the information contained in these books rarely
applied to what we were trying to do, which was
focusing on quality rather than quantity and keeping
our costs down by innovating with the equipment
and resources we could build, borrow, or afford to
purchase rather than buying expensive equipment
and planting large acreage. There are some great
books on home-scale herb gardening, which were
helpful with propagation and growing techniques for
the plants we were focusing on. However, as far as
production knowledge, we found ourselves stranded

somewhere in the middle between the bigger, faster,


more machinery-centric approach and the small
cottage herb garden hobby approach. We basically
learned most of what we know now through innovation, trial, and error, making plenty of mistakes along
the way, balanced by intermittent revelations on how
to make do with what we had, what we could build,
or what we could afford to buy.
People often ask us how and why we got into
medicinal herb farming, as opposed to another more
traditional crop. Melanies stepmother, Rosemary
Gladstar, is an esteemed author and herbalist and is
often referred to as The Fairy Godmother of Western
Herbalism. During Melanies childhood Rosemary
helped her cultivate the foundational knowledge and
deep reverence for the plants that are at the core of
Melanies work today as a farmer, healer, and plant
conservationist. I had the good fortune of being
introduced to Melanie through my sister Janna, who
explained to me that Melanie and her family were
into herbs and stuff. At the time I thought perhaps
they liked to sprinkle lots of oregano on their pizza
or something like that. That was what I thought until
I made my first trip to Sage Mountain (Rosemarys
home and herbal education center in Orange, Vermont) and had my first exposure to Rosemary and
the magical world of medicinal plants and herbalism.
That fateful day was the beginning of a relationship
that would blossom into a marriage, both literally
and figuratively.
Farming is in my blood. My paternal grandparents
were both sixth-generation Vermont farmers. When I
was young we often visited the dairy farm my grandmother grew up on in Randolph, Vermont, which is
now owned by her nephew. I was completely enamored by the farmers who remained in the family, and

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The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer

when we visited the farms I wanted to be a part of


that action. The tractors, the hay fields, the cows, the
salt-of-the-earth farmers. As a child the agricultural
landscape and lifestyle appealed to me in a way that
was accessible, yet I had always felt a certain degree
of separation.
Both my father and my grandfather moved away
from the farms, chose careers in business, and seemed
to view the remaining farmers in their family with a
sense of pity because of the amount of work they
had to perform and the sacrifices they had to make
to survive economically. Their viewpoint was shared
by many in their generation who had left their family farms for greener pastures. The feeling that I got
from some members of my family, as well as others
in the community, left me with a sense that although
farms were cool to visit, there were certainly better
career choices to be made.
Fortunately, after being lost for years I finally followed my heart and found my way back to the farm.
Things certainly seem to have changed for the better
in the last decade or so regarding peoples attitudes
about farmers and farming and the important role
they play in our society and on our landscape. Right
now, at least here in our region, where local, sustainable, organic agriculture is experiencing a kind of
revolution, farmers are the rock stars of our communities, and in many cases, we are actually making
a go of it financially. Gone seem to be the days when
the poor, hardscrabble dirt farmer was not only
often pitied for his or her meager existence but also
often viewed as uneducated and unable to fill the
mold of the economic ideal. Farmers have been and
are becoming increasingly well educated, though not
always in the traditional sense of education provided
by colleges and universities. We are being educated
by our experiences working with the plants and natural environment around us on an almost daily basis
and through the knowledge shared by others doing
similar work.
It is in the spirit of sharing knowledge that we
have written this book. Melanie and I have always
viewed our role in the medicinal herb industry in a
cooperative sense rather than a competitive sense.

That may sound naive or idealistic according to


the traditional business model, but the fact is we
wouldnt be here without the collaboration and
support of our colleagues and community, and we
havent yet come close to being able to meet the
demand for high-quality, locally sourced organic
medicinal herbs on our small farm. There are others
like us doing similar work, but we need many more
growers to join us in our efforts to help make the
domestic bulk medicinal herb market become more
viable. The United States currently imports a vast
majority of the medicinal herbs used in the herbal
products industry from foreign countries, and we feel
that there is something really wrong with that fact.
(We are currently forming a medicinal herb growers cooperative here in Vermont, and we encourage
others to pool their talents and resources and follow
suit.) Healing people, animals, and even plants themselves by utilizing plant medicine is returning to its
former status as mainstream rather than alternative
medicine, and we encourage others to enter into the
field of medicinal herb farming.
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farm was coauthored by Melanie and me and was written primarily
through the lens of our individual areas of expertise
and responsibilities with the day-to-day farming
operations. I wrote the majority of the chapters that
focus on plant ecology, the herb industry, and the
mechanical and agricultural aspect of our operation,
and Melanie wrote the majority of the chapters that
focus on business management, bookkeeping, marketing, harvesting, and plant conservation. We both
contributed a great deal to each others work as well.
This book is divided into two parts. Part one is
a how to technical manual based primarily on
our experiences in the medicinal herb industry and
contains lots of experiential references discussing
our trials, tribulations, and successes along the way.
Interwoven within this narrative is knowledge we
have gleaned from experts in the industry that we
have spent time with or interviewed via phone or
e-mail. Part two is composed of individual plant
profiles detailing fifty species of medicinal herbs we
have grown, processed, and marketed.

Preface
This book contains some terminology that may
not be familiar to everyone. Some of the terminology
is used interchangeably with other relatively obscure
terminology, so here is a brief preemptive glossary to
give you the reader some advance idea of what we
are talking about when we use the following terms.
We refer to the crops that we produce as medicinal herbs, medicinals, herbs, plants, species, and
botanicals. These terms are all used interchangeably.
When we speak of the medicinal properties of plants,
we use the terms bioactive compounds, medicinal constituents, and medicinal properties interchangeably.
We refer to the plants that we grow and market in
several different forms. Dried herbs refers to plants
that were harvested and dehydrated before sale.
Fresh herbs refers to plants that were harvested and
sold or used in their freshly harvested form without
being dehydrated. Live plants refers to live, potted
nursery plants that we grow and sell. Tea refers to
herbal tea blends that we produce and market but
does not refer to the tea plant (Camilla sinensis),
which does not grow in our region.
Cultivate means to grow something, as in we
cultivate medicinal herbs. It also means to work the
soil as well as to remove weeds. Till means to work
the soil in preparation for planting yet does not
exclusively refer to working the soil with a rototiller,
which is only one of many tools used to till soil.
Phyto- means plant based, as in phytochemical,
phytomedicinal, or phytogeographical.
Wildcraft and wild-harvest are used interchangeably and refer to harvesting plants from the wild that
were not purposely grown there.
The term native when referring to plants and
their habitats is a fairly subjective term and can
carry with it a certain degree of controversy. Since
plants have been dispersed far and wide both naturally and anthropogenically since the dawn of
humans, it can be challenging to determine exactly
which species qualify as native and which ones

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were introduced. We have chosen to use the term


native when referring to plants on the North
American continent that appear to have preexisted
before European colonization. For plants on other
continents we have chosen to use the term native
to denote plants that have no recorded history of
anthropogenic dispersal into the habitats that we
refer to as their native habitats.
Lastly, at the time of this writing, the herbal
products industry is experiencing a great deal of
flux regarding the FDAs regulation of dietary supplements (which herbal products qualify as) through
the Dietary Supplement, Health, and Education
Act (DSHEA) of 1994. Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMPs) are being mandated by the FDA in
an attempt to regulate the production and sale of
dietary supplements. In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was also enacted by the FDA
as part of a sweeping reform of our food safety laws.
As producers of medicinal herbs that may be categorized not only as herbal supplements under the
DSHEA but may also be categorized as produce
under the FSMA, we anticipate increased scrutiny
and regulation in order to maintain FDA compliance. Since these laws are in their relative infancy,
at this point, we still dont know for sure exactly
what we will need to do (if anything) to become
and/or remain compliant in the eyes of the FDA.
Therefore, there are many procedures described in
this book that we have utilized for years to produce
our products ethically and legally that may need to
be adapted in order to maintain compliance. We
highly recommend that growers remain aware of
FDA regulations concerning the manufacture and
sale of bulk medicinal herbs and adapt their methods
accordingly in order to maintain compliance in an
affordable and manageable way.
Jeff Carpenter
Hyde Park, Vermont