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