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)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chamomile Capers

By Mary Ellen Graybill
Herbs, like people, function best when the group has a common ground. Chamomile is a good example. Each tiny flower can easily be disregarded as a flowering stem of a weed. In a group, it becomes a bed of white dots with yellow centers sprinkled atop a soft green bed of feathery ferns. It responsibly waves in a breeze on any hot day, sending its mildly aromatic scent up to the witness, or harvester. And, its flowers pop off by a handy rake device, and give up their sap of life. 

You don't have to know all the scientific names of the German Chamomile such as "matricaria chamomilla" to enjoy a cup of the tea. The flowers are used in tea for stomach ulcers, fevers, stress, insomnia and even arthritis.  Having such good credentials in the healing cupboard, there are people that might find that this member of the ragweed family brings out the allergies, and should be avoided. In addition, the teabags sold in most stores are reportedly not effective medicine, and have a softer, less strong flavor. For medicine, you will want local, wild, organic, fresher Chamomile, which is the kind that Lancaster Farmacy is growing and packaging for their customers of CSM (Community Supported Medicine). The internet has several sources that indicate that chamomile from Egypt may be than 10% organically grown and harvested under poor conditions. 

Herbs like chamomile often flourish in forgotten beds, Each tiny flower sits on a fernlike stem like a weed. In a bed, the yellow and white flowers create a beautiful wave of color. Its flowers easily pop off by a handy rake device. (See picture)

It is a pungent and bitter taste which, in Ayurveda ("Science of Life" from ancient India) means it pacifies the Vata dosha, or the nervous, creative nature of a person. Chamomile tea can help you get to sleep. German Chamomile, the most researched chamomile,  is called a nervine, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory herb. 
George Weigel, a garden columnist for the Patriot News and author of several books on horticulture and edible plants for the landscape, says, "It makes a great cup of tea, and it's a beautiful border plant."

Any advice given about herbs as medicine has to be preceded with a disclaimer, due to FDA laws. There have been studies about the healing effects of the German Chamomile, and fewer about Roman Chamomile.  The flowers of the German Chamomile are useful in concoctions for healing eczema, reportedly.
The flowers have a flavor of apple and the scent while picking will be mildly soothing. Just don't do what I did on my first day out in the field picking chamomile. I fell asleep after lying down for a minute.

"Are you all right?" said Katie, the hard-working and inspiring supervisor of us work-trade workers.

I decided to try talking to the plants after my snooze, as well as get the job done. I would bond with the flowers. Maybe it would get easier. Before picking off the flower tops, I said to the plants, "Thank You for your healing." 

"If you cooperate and pop off your flowers easily, I will see that you will be part of a bigger purpose- making medicine that will help people. And then people will respect and keep you in their yards!" Think of it- acceptance as a medicine, going into the best homes as a tea!" Just then, the stubborn little individual flowers seemed to jump off their stems, dancing at the chance to join their neighbors in a bucket destined for making history!

Destined for the drying room, the four pounds I picked today were spread out on flat screened drawers to dry. They are all going to be packaged as a delicious, soothing cup of Chamomile tea or as a soothing skin salve as part of the CSM (Community Supported Medicine) that is pioneering its wares right here in Lancaster, on a 5 acre farm called Lancasterfarmacy!

*Please check with your medical doctor and verify that this herb is safe for your consumption, and compatible with any pharmaceutical medications. This article is not meant to give medical advice for any medical condition.

Mary Ellen raking in the chamomile bed

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weekly News from Farmacy: "Harmony in Nettles"

We are happy to welcome Mary Ellen Graybill, a local journalist I met after giving a presentation on Spring Tonic Herbs at the Partners In Thyme herb group based in York Co. She expressed her passion in herbalism and wanted to get involved with our farm. She is now one of our work trade students part of our Herbal Immersion Course and will be writing about the farm this season. Stayed tuned for fresh posts on what is happening at Lancaster Farmacy! 

Photo of Elisabeth talking about how to harvest stinging nettles. 

by Mary Ellen Graybill

"In farming, you can make plans, but there are so many things that can go, potentially, the wrong way," said Elisabeth Weaver, one of two founders of Lancaster Farmacy, on May 12, near the beginning of the 2016 spring growing season. Asparagus and rhubarb already has been picked, the watermelon crop is struggling, and wild nettles are in their glory.
Lancaster Farmacy, has as its goal connecting people to the healing power of herbs, as well as providing  organic vegetables and fresh picked flowers, both for Community Supported Agriculture and to the wholesale trade. Business is growing!

The infusion of herbs into tea is a big draw for consumers and right now through October at the 5-acre rented farmland, volunteers and work-trade participants are getting to the work of planting, harvesting and packaging medicinal herbs. Learning about farming from seed to seedlings to cultivation and production, medicinal salves, earth skills and more is offered in a summer program by Casey Spacht and Elisabeth "Eli" Weaver.

These two experienced herbalists want to share their knowledge of organic medicinal herbs, flowers and produce and thus restore the native healing traditions. A member farm of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and founders of Community Supported Medicine, they have been teaching workshops and helping other farmers to grow healthy alternatives to sprayed, and genetically modified produce since 2009.

"I was kind of self- taught," said Eli, who got her green thumb from her mother and her DNA for herbalism from a paternal great grandmother.

"It's really about what' s fresh," said Eli picking the best leaves for an order for nettle to be picked up at the farm on a cool May 12 afternoon. Eli, the found and volunteer Sheryl Alvarez and Kathlynn Doughtery, work-trader, and Katie Landis who oversees work-trade operations---all worked side by side to gather nettles for the pickup at 3:30pm. They located the best, cut and shook out the bugs, bunched the best of the nettle growing wild by a meandering stream through Jim Weaver's 16 acres, where Eli grew up.
According to famous herbalist, former USDA compiler of the world's largest data base of medicinal plants, Dr. James Duke, (85 and still growing at his farm in Maryland), nettle helps against hay fever and allergies when ingested in capsules  better than a pharmaceutical. Dr. James Duke's "Sniffler's Soup" is made from Evening primrose leaves,  stinging nettle, and diced onion added to any soup recipe. according to Dr. Duke's "ESSENTIAL HERBS, Page 104)

"There you go, I've wakened up all my circulation," said Eli, about the stinging that happens when the leaves touch your skin. But it only lasts a little while, maybe five minutes. Wearing long sleeves and gloves when picking is the best prevention if you are foraging in your back yard!

In times past, people picked wild herbs that grew around them, but foraging for these plants is getting less and less possible, as there are less wild places that grow them. However, with renewed interest in medicine with no bad side effects, people may start cultivating these "weeds" for their medicinal uses. Stinging nettle, for example, is a known diuretic, astringent, treatment for anemia, gout, poor circulation, enlarged spleen, lungs discharge, internal bleeding diarrhea, dysentery and, in Germany has been used to treat prostate cancer. In Russia people are known to keep potted nettle on the kitchen window sill with an aloe plant next to it in the belief that an occasional sting is good for arthritis. 

It is important to note that the fresh plants sting, but the tea which uses the dried (and "Garbeled", sifted) leaves does not sting. (Peterson Feld Guide, Eastern/central MEDICINAL PLANTS by Stephen Foster/James Duke)

Eli's favorite herbs for spring detox are nettle, chickweed, dandelion, burdock root, red clover. Crops may change, fields will look different seasonally, and business needs will dictate some of the changes.

Eli said, "Obviously it changes from year to year. We ask ourselves if we like growing it, was it worth our time? Then, we either cut back on it, or grow more. Right now, it's the watermelons. We put a lot of time into them and we might not get anything out of them."
Eli has come a long way from the talented artist without a care in the world as she once sat by the stream hearing the ripple of water and hearing the birds, watching for insects and an occasional rabbit. She learned from a library book she opened from the public library in Lancaster that it was dedicated by her paternal grandmother to her great-grandmother. Now Eli and Casey, and son Quehanna,4,  are a family working towards making Lancaster Farmacy a success learning as they go.

We will look forward to learning more about planting, growing and harvesting and marketing the organic herbs as medicine!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Community Planting Days at Lancaster Farmacy! Come get dirty with us 5/14 and 5/21

Come get dirty with us! We invite you, your family and friends for our planting party days! This time of year we have thousands of seedlings coming out of the greenhouse. We need your help planting their roots into their new home at Lancaster Farmacy! Your help will directly support small scale local organic agriculture. Imagine the connections we make from our farm growing nutritious produce, medicinal herbs and flowers that end up on kitchen tables, school cafeterias, and in herbal medicine products! 

Please invite any of your people to come be a part of this exciting homecoming. Children are welcome. We will have herbal tea, snacks, and other surprise goodies to take home. 

Saturday Planting Party Day Dates:
Saturday May 14 , 9-3
Saturday May 21, 9-3

Bring a bottle for water and any sun gear you might need
1075 Gypsy Hill Rd
Lancaster PA 17603

Look out for the stone retaining wall, enter the lane up the hill and continue until you see our farm sign and follow arrows to parking. Carpooling encouraged and an easy bike ride from Lancaster city.

Questions? contact 717-799-7420

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sign up for 6 months of our handcrafted herbal goodness!

Community Supported Medicine Shares!
Fill your home with medicines made from the earth!
If you become a member, we will provide you with the finest, freshest, small batch hand crafted products relating to each month and season along with an informative newsletter.
Sign up while there is still space!

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Few New Things

Wow! It is hard to believe that we are in our 7th growing season and that we have come this far. Thank you for everyone who supported us, recommended us to your friends, been a CSM member, worked at our farm, or just liked what we were doing on facebook and this blog! As many of you know, we have been offering internships at our farm for the past 6 years as a way for people to get hands on learning about what we grow and do. We are so thankful for all the incredible people we have met through this experience. This year we decided to do something new which is offer our 6 month course. It will be a way for people to go deep with us one day a month and carry things they learn with them daily. We realized that everyone is hungry to learn more and that is how Connecting to the Healing Power of Herbs came about! Check out the post below which includes all the details. We have limited space so sign up soon if you want to save your spot. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Upcoming 6 Month Immersion Course! May - October 2016

Lancaster Farmacy is proud to present: Connecting to the Healing Power of Herbs Immersion Course! This course will be a hands on immersion covering topics on everyday uses of over 30 medicinal herbs, seed to product cultivation and production, medicine making, botany and plant identification, cultural healing practices, earth skills and more. Our classroom will take place outdoors on our certified organic herb farm, in diverse wild habitats along with some kitchen and classroom time. Students will keep a notebook of handouts, plant profiles, journal and will have a collection of medicines made through the course. Our teachers will be Lancaster Farmacy’s very own founders, farmers and herbalists Casey Spacht and Elisabeth Weaver and other guest speakers. When: May-October 2016 1 Saturday or Thursday evening / month Curriculum: Botany Plant Identification Cultivating, Harvesting and Wildcrafting practices Herbal First Aid Deep Nature Connection Earth Skills Medicine Wheel cultural healing Everyday uses of over 30 plants Seed to product Medicine making - Decoctions/Infusions, tinctures, syrups, salves, poultices, infused oils, flower essences, hydrosols. Community Supported Medicine movement models Class project/presentations Lancaster Farmacy is a 5 acre certified organic medicinal herb, flower and produce farm located in Lancaster County. Our mission is to reclaim our health by growing our own medicine and restoring the knowledge of natural healing traditions. We are a member farm of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and are part of the Community Supported Medicine movement. We have been teaching workshops and offering community programs since 2009. Your Teachers: Elisabeth Weaver has been connecting with herbs since she was young exploring the land she grew up on. She has studied Western and Native Herbalism for over 15 years with teachers in New England, South America and Pennsylvania. Her passion of growing plants led her to herb farming at Goldthread Herb Apothecary Farm in MA, and she has been sharing her experience with others since. Casey spent most of his childhood living in the woods and came to know plants out of survival and interest. His background as a naturalist and forager inspired him to learn more about medicinal plants. He has been a student of David Winston’s since 2011 and is continuing his masters in Herbal Studies. Casey shares his love for primitive earth skills everywhere he goes. Cost: $725 Payment plans accepted Work trade positions available Limited class size so register to secure your spot Email to register: lancasterfarmacy@gmail.com Deadline: Sign up by April 1