It was a rainy day at Lunar Whale Herbs. We gathered under shelter for welcome and introductions. Noel, our farmer host, was excited and enthusiastic about sharing her farm journey despite the weather.
Lunar Whale Herbs is one of the farms at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) Incubator Program. The SAHC Farmer Incubator Program provides land to initiate or expand agricultural businesses. Participants can spend up to five years in the program. Noel is in her second year at SAHC. Land access is one of the most difficult challenges for new and beginning farmers. Noel was helpful in answering questions from the group regarding the application process for the SAHC Incubator Program, as well as sharing her experiences so far. For more information, check out the SAHC Incubator Program website (Farm Incubator Program – Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy).
As the rain continued, Noel taught us a bit about her farm. If you’re wondering about the name “Lunar Whale Herbs,” you are not alone! Noel explained that she loves whales and draws whales in her free time. She also enjoys the relationship between the moon and the sea, the moon and herbs, and lunar cycles. Her farm is named after her favorite things, and she really enjoys sharing her farm name inspiration with others. She likes the uniqueness and hopes it will attract people to her farm. Aside from how she decided on a name for her farm, Noel shared some of her marketing strategies and the struggles small farm start-ups face when wearing all the hats. She prefers in-person communication over social media and finds that in-person events do better than social media as a marketing tool for her farm.
She has participated in two Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) CSA Fairs and attends the Asheville City Market every other week. Noel uses mail chimp and her website to send out newsletters to subscribers, which has been more effective than Instagram and Facebook. She sells a curated fresh herb CSA to 20 members and includes cards with information about the herbs, recipes, and medicinal properties in each box. She also sells a curated apothecary box to 10 members with tinctures, teas, and other value-added items. In addition to her boxes, Noel brings fresh and dried herbs to market and is working with some wholesale accounts. She also participated in the Asheville Herb Festival and successfully sold herb starts this year.
Noel’s passion is herbalism. She studied at Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. We got to experience her passion for herbs during the walking tour of her farm as she took us through a few of her plots. She explained the medicinal properties and growing practices of her herbs. She provided paper bags for harvesting and collecting ingredients for tea.
Herbs we met and their uses:
Hops – rhizomes, sedative, bitter tasting = good for sleep, grown vertically.
Yarrow – perennial, bitter tasting, traditionally used topically for wound healing and as a styptic to stop bleeding.
Calendula – used for teas and body care products for its skin and gut healing properties.
Tulsi Basil – great for tea, traditionally adaptogen for stress, smells, and tastes great.
Mullen – respiratory herb and expectorant for coughs, great as a tea or tincture.
Chamomile – calming to the nervous system and digestive system. A labor-intensive plant when harvested by hand.
Shiso – great tasting culinary herb, used in Japanese cuisine.
Anise Hyssop – sweet herb used for coughs, great in tea or infused in honey.
Tobacco and Hopi Tobacco- used for drying and smoking.
Toothache Plant (Spilanthes) – numbing effect, induces salivation, an antimicrobial used for gum health.
Skullcap – calming, induces sleep. Susceptible to powdery mildew in this climate.
Ashwagandha – adaptogen for stress and energy, root crop, interplanted with nasturtium to decrease insect pressure.
Marshmallow – nourish mucus membranes, root crop.
Elecampane – respiratory and digestive health for excess mucus.
Mugwort and WormWood for burning bundles.
Echinacea – most effective when flowers and roots are used; keep separate from Calendula.
Harvest all root crops after the first frost for the best potency.
We wrapped up the tour under the shelter where we started. Most of us were pretty wet from the rain, but we enjoyed each other’s company and shared a potluck meal. Noel provided hot water and cups for making farm-fresh herbal tea. I continue to be impressed by the resilience of farmers. Each tour has been a unique and valuable learning experience. Many of the farmers on this particular tour are interested in growing more herbs. We thank Noel for her generosity and for sharing her knowledge with us!
Our next CRAFT tour is on July 24th at Clem’s Organic Gardens. Please join us if you are interested in learning more about wholesale organic vegetable production.
AUTHOR: Stephanie Vinat
PHOTOS: Julie Douglas
Author: Julie Douglas
Julie is the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is the owner and Clinical herbalist at Wildkrafted Kitchen, a holistic healthcare company in Asheville, NC. Julie is a medicinal herb grower, ethical wildcrafter, educator, and formulator of internal and external medicines. After graduating with an AA focusing on Photography and Ceramic art, Julie went on to pursue their passion for sustainable small-scale agriculture in Washington state where she apprenticed on various organic farms. After discovering their affinity for medicinal herbs, they moved to Asheville to study Holistic Herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. Julie’s main goals are to make alternative healthcare accessible to marginalized communities, decolonizing herbal medicine, and be part of mutual aid networks which strengthen and empower the community.