Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Prescription for Social Change: Natural Balance

Chris harvesting Chamomile. A former Herbal Warriorz participant now works with us during the summer.

By Mary Ellen Graybill

Behind the herbal medicine share (CSM) of Lancaster Farmacy on Gypsy Hill Road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there is a founding family: the partnership of Elisabeth Weaver and Casey Spacht and their son. Eli is not easy to find because she moves at top notch speed from getting toys out of the Subaru Outback for Quehanna, and then may be out in the fields weed wacking, planting, packing, harvesting, or cheerfully presenting an herb class or tour.

"You have to have the Zen about everything. It's not about structure," says Eli. "It's about balance."

Lancaster Farmacy has done several workshops since their beginning in 2009 in partnership with Youth Intervention Center and their shelter program to bring young people that are going through the shelter system out to the farm. "Herbs to Chill" was geared to teach about  calming remedies for stress, chamomile, lavender and lemon balm. 

"They are very simple but useful herbs," says Eli simply.

Like the CSM herbs she harvests, Eli naturally knows how to grow seeds of activism with creativity and vision. She is balancing teaching people to appreciate medicine that can be grown in their own backyards while raising her son Quehanna.

People come out once a month from a group she calls "Herbal Warriors." When they come out, they love it, because a lot of them come out here kind of shut down. I love it because by the time they leave they have flowers in their hair, and are tasting herbs." 

Even though Lancaster Farmacy is a for-profit CSA and CSM, there is a lot of giving going on, giving to the community through tour programs, work-trade experiences and publicity. "It's just kind of like a way we have to connect with our community." There is even a vision of some grants down the road.

"Herbal Access Fund" was created to support  work with "Herbal Warriors."
Underlying the work at Lancaster Farmacy is the awareness that people don't know how to plant and harvest a simple homegrown remedy to most minor ailments.  

"I feel it's really important to get this information to people who don't know about it, and teach them about how to help themselves in a very simple way," says Eli.

For example, one visitor was living in the shelter, because of family situation, and after visits to the farm,  he's interested in staying involved and learning how to make products -organic products. Nothing synthetic, or chemical-based is part of this CSM or CSA.

As for getting the crops picked according to proper moon phase, "That would be nice!"
"But, when the call/order comes in," she says, "you have to pick what's fresh at that time."
Winter offers a time to focus on creating more products. 

"I want to do more tea blends," says Eli. "I think many people just buy tea from import and then they blend it," but Lancaster Farmacy is hands on from growing to harvesting ethically. At least that is the goal.

Goals can change from year to year, based on the previous year, looking at wasted time and money.  As Eli says, "A farmer can make plans but there are so many things that can go wrong..."

"It's kind of amazing to me," says Eli, "how many people come and support what we are doing. This is so needed. And, ...we are just trying to bring back the old knowledge. There used to be a generation when you didn't have to go to the doctor right away. You would go see what your grandma would recommend first, and get some herbs from the backyard. I feel that works better."

However people often feel disconnected from nature, and that is why Lancaster Farmacy is offering tours and work-trade classes and Herbal Warrior sessions to the community.
"We are trying to get people to re-connect to nature," she says. It seems an organic herb and food farm is less about making a profit and more about breaking the dependency people have on pharmaceuticals, often which have bad side effects. "I think anywhere you live, people should be growing the food...and herbal medicine," says Eli. That way, every community could be growing towards self-reliance.

Julia is harvesting lavender for our CSM products

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Art of Calendula and Science of Garlic

Photo credit Michelle Johnsen Photography

By Mary Ellen Graybill
Garlic and Calendula are the two recent plants harvested by work-traders at Lancaster Farmacy acreage on Gypsy Hill Road- What do these plants have in common, other than they were ready to harvest July 7, 2016  when I showed up for my two hours of field and barn work. Both are ancient, both are edible, both are healing.
Garlic, a tasty flavoring in sauces, delicious when roasted, is famous for keeping parsley in business. That is, to refresh the breath after consuming a lot of garlic, we all need parsley! (And, salt and lemon juice will get the smell of garlic off your hands!) Garlic reportedly can thin the blood, help heart health, bones, brain and the immune system. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal according to sources on the internet and in books. It is most effective for medical conditions when taken raw. But, too high doses can interfere with blood clotting. In some medical conditions, it has actually been known to cause bleeding in the eyes. 
When I arrived for my two hours, Kathe Shadd, Katlyn Doughtery and our tireless and energetic leader/founder Elisabeth Weaver had already picked the garlic from the fields. Elisabeth directed the operation of harvesting the many different types. With wheelbarrow in hand, we worked to keep the various types separate. Then back at the barn, we bunched the garlic in pairs using a cord to hang them up to dry in the barn.
We all remember the culinary uses of garlic and the recipes from grandmother's about garlic and vinegar and other concoctions, for example. 
Calendula, or marigold, on the other hand, was known to the ancient gypsies, has soothing qualities for the skin and eye. Calendula reportedly can soothe itching eyes de to air pollution or allergies. It has antiseptic qualities. It contains essential oils that made our fingers sticky while picking.
Bright golden and orange colors of "Mary's Gold" flowers (calendula)  can make an artist want to paint, drink a cup of the tea, or have a stir fry made from the flower tops, rather than pick! The flowers can be made into tea useful for digestive conditions. They can be tossed into a stir fry and served in a food dish. Fresh is useful in teas and medicine from the marigold/calendula petals. But after picking, this batch would be dried in the drying room  upstairs at the barn.
Later, when we washed our hands, we might have used a calendula cream, salve or gel, calendula to heal wounds, cuts, or scrapes. And, we might have a lip balm made of calendula, the soothing flower.
One thing we all needed was a cooling spray of water, as it was a hot day in the sun.
Sources for this writing have been a "stir-fry" of my own  internet and old book searches in my library. As always, consult your doctor on both garlic and calendula uses, and be aware that this writing does not state that any of these anecdotal comments are scientifically verified, although some may be.
One thing is certain: the art of the calendula flowers are beautiful in colors ranging from yellow to gold to orange.
Calendula, a flower of the gypsies in ancient times, was cheaper coloring than saffron, back then. Now it is at home painting the earth orange and gold in the fields at Lancaster Farmacy's organic farm. 
Garlic, a gangly bulb plant we all love for its burst of flavoring in spaghetti sauce, has edible and healing properties, is now strung up in the barn to dry.
These two  contrasting harvest experiences were yet another educational and interesting time for learning about how this CSM (Community Supported Medicine)  is working from the exciting fields of Lancaster Farmacy.  Here, a "picture is worth a thousand words."  

Photo credit Michelle Johnsen Photography

Photo credit Mary Ellen Graybill

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"(Milky) Oats, peas, beans and barley grow"

by Mary Ellen Graybill

The song goes, "Do you or I or anyone know how oats, peas, beans and barley grow? 

We who have the fortunate opportunity to do the work-trade at Lancaster's only CSM, Community Supported Medicine program located on a five acre farm, we know!

"First, the farmer sows his seed.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

By last week, the milky oat tops of the Milky Oat Seed (Avena sativa) on the farm were ready for harvesting. Work-trader Maria Weaver and I with Katie Landis were in the field diligently harvesting the juicy shells, avoiding picking the grass.  Gathering the shells by stripping them off the stems was fun, and easy. An hour or two hour flew by until the bucket we had around our necks got heavy with the pickings. Although I didn't stamp my foot and clap my hands, I did take a break from stripping the seeds to pick out the grasses in my bucket.

"Don't worry about picking out the grass now," said Katie, "We will do that later."
These seeds were destined for the drying room back at the barn. Back at the table outside, under the pine shade, we sorted out the grasses that got into the buckets. Time was of the essence.

This crop has only about a week window of opportunity to be picked, because after that the milky tops turn into oat grain. The milky tops are the liquid medicine that goes into a tincture to support nerve tissue, called myelin. Myelin is like a coating that protects the nerves of the body as impulses go through them. Strokes, inflammation and other conditions can cause nerve damage. MS is one example of a disease caused when the myelin sheath is damaged and symptoms are profound due to weakness and other problems.

A tincture of milky oats soothes the nervous system and has no side effects, and no contraindications unless you are allergic to oats.

"Next, the farmer hoes the weeds.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

The oat grass grew well at Lancaster Farmacy this year with just enough rain and the bright sun. And weeds were scarce in the dense green grasses. 

"Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow.
Oats, peas, beans and barley grow.
Do you or I or anyone know,
How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?"

Seriously, for addictions, the tincture of the Avena sativa Milky Oat Seed is a tested antidote for smoking cessation, even opium addiction and other addictions. Some clinical tests have been done, but more research is underway.

Combined with skullcap, lavender, and st. john's wort, the milky oats tincture can interact with pharmaceutical drugs, so consumers have to be careful. But by itself, milky oat seed has no known contraindications and is reportedly safe for children and infants. It is good for the heart, helps insomnia, and a natural stress buster with no bad side effects!

"Last, the farmer harvests his seed.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

In case you don't get to harvest the milky oat seeds in that one week period, you can enjoy a drink of oatmeal as a general tonic. Groats, oats, and a bowl of oatmeal in the morning ... these are some of my favorite things!

(This post is for your reading and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being)