By Alexis Durham
On June 15, Herb Pharm welcomed over 250 people to our farm in southern Oregon for our Planting the Future conference, a benefit for United Plant Savers. The day was filled with informative workshops and plant walks featuring local and regional instructors as well as current and past UpS Board members. A variety of regional vendors sold bulk herbs, seeds, handmade herbal products, and herbal elixirs, and lunch was accompanied by singer-songwriter Jaimee Simundson. 2019 marked a special milestone for both organizations, as United Plant Savers celebrated its 25th anniversary and Herb Pharm its 40th.
Classes appealed to a variety of skill levels and interests, which included bioregional herbs and foods with Herb Pharm’s Lead Educator, Autumn Summers; the herbalist’s path to giving back with UpS Secretary, Bevin Clare; endangered plants in essential oils with UpS board member, Kelly Ablard; the ins and outs of running a production herb farm with the owners of Oshala Farm, Jeff and Elise Higley; and the interconnectedness of all things through story with native storyteller, Thomas Doty.
Other topics included good harvesting methods and quality control practices with Herb Pharm co-founder, Ed Smith; an appreciation of Rose with UpS Advisory Board Chairperson, Mindy Green; the ecology of seaweeds with wildcrafter, James Jungwirth; aloe diversity with former UpS board member, Richo Cech; substitutes for at-risk species in clinical practice with UpS President, Kat Maier; and wildcrafting in a warming world with author and wildcrafter, Scott Kloos. We were thrilled to off er a botanical illustration intensive with Kathleen Harrison, ethnobotanist and cofounder of Botanical Dimensions, who also taught a class on new ways of seeing tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) based on various cultural traditions.
There were a variety of herb walks around our 80-acre Certified Organic farm, including creating an herb garden in the spirit of the elders with UpS board member, Helen Lowe Metzman; uses of wild weeds and culinary plants with former UpS board member, Jane Bothwell; and a tour of the many UpS “At-Risk” and “To-Watch” plants with Herb Pharm’s Farm Supervisor, Mark Disharoon. UpS Treasurer, Steven Yeager, led a walk that celebrated the beauty of botanical language; Farm Manager, Matt Dybala, off ered a hands-on experience with UpS species cultivated at Herb Pharm; and UpS Founding President, Rosemary Gladstar, with Edward Fletcher, owner and COO of Native Botanicals, Inc., led an herb walk through our 500-species Botanical Education Garden.
Herb Pharm and UpS have a long history, and Herb Pharm was among UpS’ earliest supporters. In the 1990s, when wildcrafting was still very common and wildcrafted material was considered the “gold standard” in herbalism, we purchased directly from ethical wildcrafters for many of our extracts. We saw firsthand that roots were getting smaller as prices were getting higher, and concern about the future of herbs like goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) increased. When Rosemary Gladstar called on herbalists to raise awareness of the impending scarcity of traditional American medicinal herbs, it was clear to us that this was a cause worth supporting.
Our co-founder, Sara Katz, joined the UpS Board in 1998 and was board president from 2008 to 2018. Around 15 to 20 years ago, the Herb Pharm farm was designated a UpS Botanical Sanctuary at the inception of that program, and in 2004 we planted rows of poplar trees along the creek that runs through our farm, extending the riparian area and creating more habitat for eastern woodland plants. Since the purchase of the land in 1994, the number of “At-Risk” and “To-Watch” species thriving around the farm has grown to include pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa), trillium (Trillium spp.), echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), lobelia (Lobelia inflata), lomatium (Lomatium dissectum), Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis), cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana), slippery elm (Ulmus fulva), spikenard (Aralia racemosa), and false unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum). We grow the vast majority of these species for conservation and education purposes, and most of them will never be harvested for use in our products.
Herb Pharm is truly thankful for the many opportunities we have been afforded to support United Plant Savers and their mission to protect native medicinal plants of the U.S. and Canada and their native habitats. Twelve years ago, we adopted goldenseal, which we honored on our original logo as part of UpS’ Adopt an At-Risk Plant program. We’ve also made significant contributions towards the construction of the recently-opened Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation on UpS’ Goldenseal Sanctuary in Ohio. We continue to share our appreciation for the plants and this organization with others by supporting UpS’ Partners in Education program, providing each graduate of our Herbaculture Intern Program with a UpS membership.
This Planting the Future conference was the fourth that Herb Pharm has organized and hosted, and we are excited for the future, as we continue to share our love of herbs and herbalism with others. We are profoundly grateful to all of the attendees, teachers, vendors, volunteers, and UpS Board members as well as Herb Pharm’s incredible farm and landscape crews, whose efforts were absolutely critical in preparing for this event. Above all, we give thanks to the plants for bringing us together for this day of education and celebration. While both organizations have grown, Herb Pharm and United Plant Savers still share many core values, and we look forward to future collaborations that highlight our shared beliefs in the importance of conservation, cultivation, education, and research around vulnerable North American species.
Alexis Durham is an Herbalist and Botanical Affairs Supervisor at Herb Pharm. She has a bachelor’s degree in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and a management degree from Clemson University. Alexis has taught at several herb schools, conferences, and community events and continues to be passionate about education in her role at Herb Pharm, where she oversees the Herbaculture Intern Program and coordinated the Planting the Future conference. She loves the dynamic nature of her position and also assists with regulatory review, quality assurance, and new product development and enjoys speaking with customers and leading tours.