Let’s “raise an herb shop” together

Dear herbal friends,

It’s that time of year again when hundreds of our local herbs start blooming and we have a very short window of time to wildcraft or harvest before the ideal time has passed. As I drive the roads of our county, I am in constant excitement and awe as I see all the beauty emerging. But then I shift into a mild state of anxiety, realizing the abundance that will go wasted because of lack of time and help to harvest.

For example: yesterday morning as I left my home to take my son to high school at 7:00 am, I thought to myself “I have to harvest the dandelion blooms—TODAY! They have been in their golden glory for two days — yikes!” I planned on making 5–6 delicious dandelion flower and leaf quiches to store in my freezer for Sunday brunches. As I returned home later in the afternoon, the entire field of thousands of blooms had turned bone white and my heart sank with the knowledge that in 8 hours I had missed the annual opportunity. By this morning, the magical plant had transformed into a wondrous sacred geometry puff of seeds that I could spend hours contemplating were it not for its utter fragileness, dropping its seeds at the slightest of breaths.


The next 3–4 months will feel this way for me — and I will only harvest about 1/3 of what I see because life is just so darned full and all that beautiful medicine will go back into the ground for another year. However, after moaning about this to Alanna (our Shoppe manager) and our mutual commiseration, she brought up a point that her teacher, Paul Bergner, taught his students: He didn’t harvest for almost 15 years! Because the need to observe, learn and truly respect the life cycle, terrain and bio-culture around the plants took that long. Long breath…. Yes, I too have so much to learn on this new piece of land we have moved on to and to observe only through one or (gulp) fifteen seasons is a good practice in patience, self-control and respect.

However, I am more than willing to support the efforts of others and this past week, when our newsletter editor Kathy Frey texted me “Is now a good time to harvest Yerba Santa?” I excitedly replied “YES!” mentally crossing off one of the growing list of herbs in my mind. The next day a donation came to HAALo needing drying and then garbling. WOOHOO — Thank you, Sky Mowen and Kathy! In the fall, when the lung issues start arriving in our community, we will have the locally grown medicines to help our friends. (Click here for Yerba Santa harvesting tips — HAALo herbalists taught Kathy and Sky a lot!)


I write this blog as a hopeful request to our community to please learn ethical wildcrafting, be aware of our endangered plants, and, if called, become one of our conscious herb harvesters in alignment with our local ecology. No one person can do this – it truly takes a community to “raise an herb shoppe.” We have so much springing up around us and many of them (poppy, dandelion, hawthorne/blackberry/manzanita blossoms, St. John’s wort etc.) have only a short period of harvesting and then …. They’re gone. Completely. For 11 more months and 3 weeks. To stock an apothecary well, with enough to serve our community through those months, takes pounds of herb. Yes, pounds of fragile, weightless blossoms, leaves and the not so weightless roots.

Thank goodness not only for our herbalists and volunteers, but also our farmers who intentionally plant, nurture, harvest and then process the herbs to be brought in to our shoppe. Some of our most recent bounties of exquisite plant medicine have come from Ashley Votaw of First Rain Farm (shown below), and Jeffrey Wells of Sunrock Farm. Without their deliberate growing efforts, we become dependent and forced to order online, bringing in organic herbs from the outside farming communities and even other countries across the sea. Creating a vibrant and diversified local herb community is one of our goals at HAALo. Our need for a sustainable, organic herb supply and plant medicine sophisticated population is hugely important to our future of alternative healthcare.


To support these efforts, we have created HAALo Hands, a program that works with gardeners and farmers, assigning specific herbs to each to be grown for our county. Using organic growing methods and high standards of integrity, we hope to increase the program by 10–15% yearly and within 5 years, potentially meet 60–70% of our community needs. By setting up the framework for a local supply structure, we not only lower our carbon footprint significantly, but also provide economic support to our farmers. We are also able to supply a higher quality of herbs to our medicine makers and practitioners and help create the infrastructure of grassroots herbal healthcare. Can you say win-win-win for everyone?! If this interests you and you’d like to become a volunteer or participate, please contact our Farm outreach coordinator, JuJu Urcis at [email protected] for more information.

To all of us out there, living on this abundant planet with medicine growing everywhere this season — blessings and happy harvesting!




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