Dana and Michael Eudy have traveled a long way to find home. After hopping first from Texas (where they were born and raised and eventually met in Dallas) and then to Brooklyn, the couple, with their two young children in tow, has thrown down potent roots in Germantown, NY, to try their hand at farming. And not just any farm. The Eudys are devoting their three-acre plot to a heady crop; medicinal herbs. Row upon row of mint, basil, burdock, calendula, and many other fragrant plants fill their back field, along with a small plot off to the side which the couple lovingly refers to as the “half-moon garden.” The vast variety of herbs to cure all ills (even toothaches) far exceeds what any one family would need for a lifetime of common and not-so-common ailments. That's why they plan to share their alchemic wares. The couple has begun to cultivate a decent-sized (30 shares ranging from $175 for a half share to $325 for an "extra full" share) CSA apothecary. Field Apothecary & Herb Farm is one among a sprinkling of herbal CSAs in the country that provides a healing harvest for shareholders wishing to stock their medicine cabinets with teas, tinctures, and tonics for the winter ahead. The end goal of this medicinal mission is for people to build their own home apothecary and to bridge the mysterious gap between herbs and humans.
“There is a grass roots healthcare revolution happening right now,” Dana says, while standing over a stockpot of fragrant oats and Holy basil (a key ingredient to many basic teas). “We want to take this back into the community. Our hope is that people will incorporate the use of herbs into their daily practice. It doesn't take long for the plants to start working their magic. People are craving that knowledge, especially in today's high-octane lifestyle.”
Dana's own path to herbalism began when she was an ad executive living in Brooklyn and working insane hours while trying to raise her children. She says she dabbled at first with homeopathy after her second child was born, but pretty soon she could not deny the healing powers of natural medicine, nor could she quell her desire to learn more. She began attending apothecary workshops up and down the East Coast (including at the famed Goldthread Herbal Apothecary
in Florence, MA), often with her husband and children in tow. “Michael was very supportive, of course,” she says. “He'd just nod his head and show a little interest but not go all out. I could tell he was a little befuddled by the whole thing.”
And then, as if by divine intervention, Michael's mild indifference to his wife's new-found love morphed into stalwart belief during a family vacation to “one of Dana's conferences.”
“I am a skeptic by nature. Yeah, I took the teas and I liked how they tasted but that was about it,” Michael says. “But when we went on vacation, I became incredibly ill. I had serious muscular-skeletal problems and developed almost a flu. I couldn't move my head, it got so bad. Then Dana mentioned my woes to some of the people at the workshops and when she got back to the hotel she would prepare teas and tinctures that they had recommended. All of my symptoms were gone within a week. And that was something that could have easily set me back at least three weeks.”
Now Michael, an artist and set designer who still travels back and forth to Brooklyn twice a week, is devoting most of his time to his new occupation as an herb farmer. As the self-proclaimed “techie” between the two (Dana provides the “spiritual element”), Michael has already faced a few challenges – heavy clay soil, poppy-consuming ants, a dry summer – all of which he has managed to overcome, thanks mostly to the herbs themselves.
“I feel very blessed compared to veggie farmers and cattle farmers,” he says. “Herbs are very forgiving. These plants have outlived us over the centuries and they themselves are mostly immune to so many things. In turn, they give us their immunity.”
Michael's passion for the scientific end of herbalism combined with Dana's philosophical drive have propelled the fledgling farmers to going beyond teas and venturing into tinctures (made with pure grain alcohol from California), tonics (they have their own brand of fire cider), and salves. Michael is also working on perfecting a carminative bitters recipe that includes ginger, lemon balm, cinnamon, and coriander. He hopes to be taking this medicine show on the road to neighboring towns using a utility truck which they plan to convert into a "tea truck" from which to sell their fragrant, alchemical brews. But first, they will distribute their shares of syrups, honey, spices and, of course, herbs, to CSA members (and make regular appearances at the Kingston and Chatham Farmers Markets) and hope that the fragrance and curative properties of hyssop, skullcap, and chocolate mint will help spread the word.
“I know it seems like a new trend, this whole apothecary business,” Dana says, leaning up against the future tea truck. “But when you look back not too long ago, people had whole gardens only for medicinal herbs. And whole rooms devoted to making healing remedies of all kinds. That was their medicine cabinet before medicine as we know it ever existed.” —Nichole Dupont
Field Apothecary & Herb Farm
There is a one-time pickup for shareholders on Sunday, September 29. They are also holding two workshops on the farm; one on Sunday, July 14, "Basics of Creating Your Own Home Apothecary" and the second on Sunday, August 25, with guest lecturer Cynthia King of Pratima Ayurvedic Spa & 5 Element Spa, "Basics of Ayurveda." Each class is $125 per day or both classes for $200. For more information or to purchase a share, call (917)-202-3443.