As I tour Field Apothecary and Herb Farm with farmers Dana and Michael Eudy and their spirited daughter, Frances, I sip a cold tea of Lemon Verbena, Rosehip and Yarrow, modestly sweetened with the nectar of the bees. Dana and Michael moved their family to this three-acre plot of land in the center of Germantown in July 2011 and opened ground for Field Farm this past October.
Although they have not come from farming backgrounds, they carry with them an affinity for hard work, and a newly established commitment to farming and working with plants. After an eight-month apprenticeship at Goldthread Herb Farm in Conway, Mass., Michael says, “I just fell in love with it—with farming, and with the herbs.”
Less than one year since its inception, Field is alive with a greenhouse and one acre of permanent beds housing mostly perennial herbs and flowers. Transforming overgrown horse pasture into clean beds, the first season offered plenty of heavy lifting. Dana and Michael brought in sand and added compost to help with drainage and build nutrients, while trying to be mindful of dependence on external resources and inputs.
They spent their initial months getting to know the natural contours of the ground, using the highs and lows to create a natural drainage system in heavy clay soil. The silver lining of farming on clay is that the soil holds tight to nutrients and moisture, which served them well in this dry summer. Michael reflects, “You learn to deal with it… now it’s our best friend.”
Field intends to serve a variety of marketing outlets—ultimately, with the hope of growing for herbalist practitioners. For now, Dana and Michael connect with their community through a 30-member herbal CSA they are offering, and they are about to introduce a tea truck, “The Field Wagon,” which will be a traveling apothecary.
The vision for the CSA this year focuses on culinary medicine. The share, offered through a one-time pick-up in October, will include a range of herb-based foods and healing items, from teas, pesto, and tinctures, to mouthwash and salves. The vast majority of the plants used in the products were grown on-farm. Dana says, “This first year, we’d really like to see (the medicines) in people’s homes rather than our kitchen… We keep saying if we win the lottery, we’d give the medicine away.”
The Field Wagon will carry teas and tincture waters (medicinal herbal sodas made with bubble water), as well as other Field products. “We are literally taking it to the streets,” says Michael, noting they plan to spend one day each week in surrounding communities, Red Hook, Hudson, Tivoli, etc. “Where we’re starting is the farm, and then the farm will support the truck,” Dana adds.
Eventually, they hope to expand the tea truck beyond teas and herb-based specialty snack foods (roasted rosemary potatoes, for example), to collaborate with other farmers and offer an extensive menu of farm-to-table dishes. Perhaps more appropriately, Dana thinks of this as Pharm-to-table, accentuating their focus on an herbal menu which will highlight the medicinal properties of food and herbs.
The truck is just about ready to go: “We have everything except the kitchen sink,” Dana says.
Michael and Dana picture the Hudson Valley becoming an herb country—the way Sonoma is wine country. Herbs are diverse and tolerant, Dana says. “I feel like they give so much back: I’d love to see other people doing this and being comfortable using them in this way,” she explains. Their long-term vision entails creating a farm and apothecary learning center to teach others the accessibility of herbal medicine.
At first, Dana felt overwhelmed with the abundance—the amount of herbs ready to be harvested. She then realized that the best thing to do for the plants is to let them establish themselves. “We want to let the earth do the work,” she adds. In response, medicinal plants began to voluntarily pop-up in the beds—dock, plaintain, nettle, motherwort—plants that Dana and Michael did not cultivate, plants that chose their own place in their garden.
“We are stewards of the land,” Dana says, it is the plants that do the “magic.”
To learn more about Field CSA and Wagon, contact Michael and Dana at email@example.com or find them on Facebook.