Dana Eudy: Field Apothecary and Herb Farm

Staci Strauss

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Editor’s Note: I discovered a wonderful new resource last summer, field Apothecary & Herb Farm. They use locally grown plants to make products with medicinal properties. They offer teas and tinctures, as well as other healing potions. We reached out to the Dana Eudy, co-founder, and what she had to say was very interesting. You can read our conversation below.

We just received your spring 2014 herbal CSA. What a great idea! How did you decide to start making herbal remedies? I love to read about the many levels of healing provided by plant medicine and the spirit energy plants emanate. Can you talk about the spiritual or intuitive side of working with plants?

Dana Eudy: I came to growing herbs through homeopathy which is a healing system based on minimum dosing and the principle of treating “like with like”. I wanted to learn the herbs in a more energetic way and have a place to experience them through observation. A good example is where herbs move throughout our gardens, and what those movements tell us.

Last season, I noticed that elecampane and motherwort kept coming up in different parts of our gardens close to one another although we hadn’t planted them in this way. This was Mother Nature’s way of telling me that there was a relationship between these plants and that there might be a synergy between them in how they work in the body. I have found that intuition is developed through awareness and observation. I also enjoy bearing witness to what I call divine signs. At the end of last season, we harvested a lot of herbs that we weren’t clear on how we would use them. When we were planning for the remedies in our 4 Seasons Herbal CSA, many of the herbs that we needed for the spring season were readily available,and thanks to these divine signals I know that I am on the right path. I feel more like a conduit allowing the work to pass through me intuitively. 

The intention with our CSA is to help others overhaul their medicine chests like they have overhauled their food pantries.

The land you farm now in Germantown, New York must be very different from the land you came from. Are there things that you used to grow that just can’t grow here? What is your favorite thing that you can grow here that didn’t thrive in Texas? Assuming you were growing  things in Texas, of course.

DE: We didn’t cultivate herbs when we lived in Texas (we lived in New York city for 13 years prior to moving to the Hudson Valley), but we did grow in Brooklyn, coincidentally. We were lucky enough to have a backyard space in Gowanus that was 20′ wide x 30′ deep. It was a tiny space where we managed to put in raised beds (bringing in all new dirt since we were so close to the canal which is a toxic site) and as many container gardens that we could fit into the space. It was here in this location that I started growing herbs and making herbal teas on a daily basis for our family. I noticed that we stayed healthier through the seasons by drinking teas and preparing foods made with the herbs that we were growing. We quickly outgrew our space and I knew I wanted to make them available to others. One of the favorite herbs that we grew in Brooklyn that we actually transplanted to our farm in Germantown is Valerian. We use the root part of the plant and it is harvested in its 2nd year. We use Valerian along with a few other herbs in our Deep Sleep Tincture which is very popular remedy for us. I always say, if you can’t sleep, healing is difficult. When we sleep, the body heals itself, so sleep is vital for health & well-being.

Tell us about your field wagon–another great idea! Are you doing food truck festivals this season? What shows are you doing this summer?

DE: The Field Wagon was the initial idea for us for distributing remedies to our community and it is has actually evolved. Much of the work that we do requires us to be on the land. As of now, we are focused on the farming of the herbs and making herbal remedies, and at this point we are doing all the work ourselves. Our goal for this season is to invite a local chef to come and utilize the wagon on our farm and create a “pharm to table” supper club several nights throughout the season which will help create deeper level of community around the farm. This is how we can to bring people to witness these plants directly. So often people who use herbs get them in a plastic bag in a dried herb form. You don’t get the full experience of the plant this way. The gardens themselves provide a space for healing which is equally important.

Are your remedies available in stores? What’s it like finding those retail relationships with like-minded shopkeepers? Is it hard to find people who roll with the small batch philosophy?

DE: We are working with a few online retailers such as Whisper Editions, Hudson Made and a new one that will be launching later this summer called Purible.  We also work with several acupuncturists and a Naturopath which is also an area of interest for us. This year we intend to focus on four to five core products that we will make in large batches (thanks to Hudson Valley Agribusiness we received a grant to help us write a business plan) so that we can work with more retail outlets. We are very excited about our third growing season. Our philosophy is to produce as much as we can on our farm from seed to bottle. It is important to us that these remedies are grown, harvested, processed, and made by our hands.

What kind of products are you making? What are your favorite plant friends right now, and what is the best way to benefit from them?

DE: In our second year, we spread ourselves in several directions to help us determine what avenue (or avenues) would be most sustainable for our farm. Our 4 Seasons Herbal CSA is one of the “products” that we will focus on this year. We deliver a herbal bundle from our farm containing nine or so different seasonally appropriate remedies in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter seasons. We wholeheartedly believe in the CSA model originally developed by biodynamic farmers influenced by the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. It helps build supported communities. The intention with our CSA is to help others overhaul their medicine chests like they have overhauled their food pantries. I might add, medicine chests aren’t just found in the bathroom, in our home we have remedies in the kitchen, in our bedroom and in the bathroom. We store them in rooms where we use them most so they become part of our daily practice. I find that herbs work best when used to nourish and support. They are the ingredients that keep us well and work best from a preventive standpoint. We have several remedies that we have made since we were in Brooklyn–our A to Z All Purpose Salve, Healing Mouthwash, Fire Cider Tonic, Digestive Bitters Tulsi Tincture and Tulsi Tea.

You invite people to the farm to commune with the process on the land. How is your community developing? Have you learned anything from the folks that visit you?

DE: Herbalism takes a village. In my long-term vision, I would like to see the Hudson Valley region develop into ‘Herb Country’ like Sonoma and Napa are seen as ‘Wine Country’. The more herb farmers the more we have to offer. Society needs access to locally grown herbs that are part of their healing matrix. We are collaborating with a few other farms and herbalists. We continually learn from others. I was drawn to herbalism with it deep roots in sharing of information and wisdom versus ownership of knowledge. There is a sense of abundance that comes from working with the plants. I will always be a student especially to the plants. There is so much to learn from them.

I am enjoying a cup of your Chocolate Mint Tea as I craft this interview. What are its therapeutic values? It’s delicious, by the way!

DE: Chocolate Mint tea is a special variety of peppermint. Kids often ask how we got chocolate in to the plant! I am so happy to see my two children growing up knowing that so many common backyard plants (many called “weeds” until you get to know them better and become aware of all that they have to offer) such as nettles, dandelion, plantain, red clover, cleavers, yellow dock, burdock–I could really go on and on. These amazing plant aren’t mere weeds but actually valuable healing medicine. Chocolate Mint is one of those gateway herbs–it attracts others to herbalism just because it tastes so good. And then you get the medicinal benefits–those include support for digestion and upset stomach, help to increase mental alertness, and can be beneficial for providing relief for respiratory disorders.

Thank you, Dana. I’ve enjoyed this and have learned a lot. I’m looking forward to visiting the Field Apothecary soon.

DE: Well, we look forward to seeing you. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Field Apothecary.

Are you planting an herb garden this year? Do you use the healing power of plants?

Photo credit: Staci Strauss