A Letter to herb farmers

December 26, 2015

You are hereby invited to get together with a bunch of other herb farmers to talk story and seek common cause at the Medicinal Herb Growing & Marketing Conference

So far, I have managed to find the names of about 50 herb farms (of all sizes) in the Northwest and another 60 in other parts of the US. (see list below). We are inviting all the ones we can find contact information for. Over the ensuing months the number of herb farms on our invite list will grow.

I’ve been growing medicinals for 20 years in a row now (at many locations in 3 states) and worked with a lot of species. The most area I have had under production at any one time was 2 acres. As a small-scale herb farmer, I am tailoring this conference to the needs of other herb farmers. I love talking to other herb farmers. We both end up learning new stuff.  We can commiserate. We can talk about solutions to common problems.

Knowing how strong the pull of farm-work is, I thought it would be good to have a strong sales aspect to the conference. As a result the conference is turning into a trade show for farmers and the Northwest herbal trade. Medicinal herbs are used in all manner of products and niche markets. All manners of herb product manufacturers, stores, wholesalers, practitioners, distillers and beverage-makers are invited to show their wares and meet growers.

Herb farmers do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in an interconnected web of buyers, manufacturers, wholesale trade, retail trade, consumers, herbalists, herb schools, backyard growers and so on. The MHG&MC will attract a wide range of actors in this herbal web but the focus is farmers and growing good-quality medicinals. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest herb farmers are few and far between, but worldwide herb farmers number in the millions.  It probably isn’t easy being an herb farmer anywhere in the world.  Climate changes, government regulators and exploitative economic systems make farming challenging. But yet, Northwest herb farmers continue to carry on, in most cases inspired by a love for producing good-quality herbs as our service to society.  Right livelihood we call it.

I expect a lot of people will show up who are interested in herb growing as a possible source of income and who want to learn from us current growers.  They should walk away with a better sense of what is possible and realistic. There will be a track on small-scale growing and a track on radical herbology with an emphasis on DIY. 

 What would you like to see happen at the conference? This will be a co-creative event.  We will do lots of planning and scheduling ahead of time and we’d love your help with pre-planning. What workshops, panels, round-table discussions and meetings would you like to see happen?  What would you like to teach or help focalize? I would like to see our current list of 20 presenters doubled or tripled over the next month or so. The conference will also have space for impromptu meetings and workshops that appear spontaneously. 

The dates available at Fort Worden were February 26-28 or April 15-17.  I was leery of February as we can still be getting winter blasts so I picked the April date.  I would have preferred late March as most Pacific Northwest growers can’t get into their ground yet as it is too soggy.  The ground being dry enough to work varies depending on location and soil type. April is when the growing season gets in full swing.

If you are an herb farmer I hope you will block out the dates of April 15-17 on your calendar and plan your farm-work around joining your peer group at the Medicinal Herb Growing & Marketing Conference

This will be a historic event. Seldom are the farmers the center of an herb event.

Wishing all of you a good 2016 growing season,

Michael Pilarski, Friends of the Trees Botanicals, Event Coordinator

PS. We are looking for farmers to give workshops, be on panels and round-tables, sponsor the conference, and be in the Trade Show.

PPS. If any of you herb farmers can’t afford the $170 early-bird price, talk to me about a reduction.