Herbs, Etc. Warehouse and Farm Tour
A door opens and we are inside a bustling warehouse that is the manufacturing facility of Herbs, Etc., located next to Meow Wolf on Rufina Circle in Santa Fe. Two of us from the Co-op, along with many from other natural foods stores across the country, have been invited on a tour of the establishment and on a farm tour, to follow.
Donning hairnets and lab coats for cleanliness, we are led around one warehouse where herbs are received, identified, cleaned, chopped and stored. We are led past distilling containers, where water mixed with alcohol slowly drips through crushed, dried herbs, and finally, past conveyor belts of bottles, being mechanically filled, capped and sealed. While machines do much of the work, there are employees overseeing the accuracy of the machines and ensuring the uniformity of each product. Each product batch is tested to ensure its purity.
The owner of Herbs, Etc., Daniel Gagnon, joins us and hands around pieces of dried Echinacea stems. When placed on our tongues, the stems tingle, as a sign of their immune enhancing properties. We move on with him to the Tesuque Pueblo Farm where at least fifteen of the herbs for the company are grown. There, we have discussions about the science behind the benefits of specific herbs, receive a farm tour, and meet the Tesuque Pueblo Farm manager, Emigdio Ballon.
It is an honor to be shown around the farm, the seed bank, and through the greenhouses and fields. We are shown various crops of oat, St. John’s wort, rosehip, and stinging nettle. A few of us volunteer to be stung with Stinging Nettle and watch the blisters that form on our arms dissipate under the ministration of crushed Plantain leaves that counteract the histamine effects.
On the tour, we talked extensively about Osha, an herb native to the southern Rocky Mountain region. Osha grows best in what is typically regarded as “bad” soil and between 9,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation. Osha is, therefore, one of the herbs sold by Herbs Etc. that is not grown on the Tesuque Pueblo Farm. Recently listed on United Plant Savers as a species at risk for over- harvest, Osha has been the subject of at least one notable and ongoing research study.
The study tracks the residual effects of overharvest on plots of osha growing naturally in National Forests. It is important to note that Daniel Gagnon has been instrumental in helping with this study, along with United Plant Savers, the Forest Service, The University of Kansas, and the American Herbal Products Association. To date, the study has shown that Osha is incredibly resilient to harvest, and even plots harvested of 100% of the root have begun to repopulate within three years,* an encouraging sign for conservation efforts.
Through the research, sale and promotion of native plants, Herbs Etc. is bringing awareness to these important crops, potentially helping to save them while also minimizing the detrimental effects of their harvest on the surrounding environment. As a company that markets herbs as healing therapies, it is good to know that Herbs Etc. is holding human health and the health of our natural resources equally in high regard.