Lancaster Farmacy: The nourishing traditions of folk medicine
Katie Carpenter | 10.08.13
Elisabeth Weaver, farmer and co-founder of Lancaster Farmacy, showing a cluster of elder berries at the farm.
Looking out across fields of plants and flowers abuzz and alive with bees and butterflies, farmer Elisabeth Weaver says, “I feel so lucky that this is my workplace. Being able to come to a farm and feel the dew and have a butterfly land on my shoulder… it makes me want to share it with more people."
Weaver is co-founder of Lancaster Farmacy, a four-acre medicinal herb farm in Lancaster County that provides a Community Supported Medicine program to people across the East Coast via the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.
Like a Community Supported Agriculture program, members of their Community Supported Medicine (CSM) receive products like skin salves, herbal tea blends, and tinctures that not only alleviate common symptoms, but connect them back to the nourishing traditions of folk medicine. Weaver says, “We’re using folk remedies, recipes people have been using for 1,000’s of years. I feel proud to be bringing back the traditions and folk medicines of the past- because they worked!”
Watch the video:
The farm is lush with life- blue hyssop, Echinacea, lavender, stinging nettle, holy basil, sunflowers and asparagus. Goldfinches fly overhead, bees buzz around the lemon balm, and the farm cat, Jewel, slinks by the cat nip patch. Some herbs on the farm, like the licorice-flavored anise hyssop, have even drawn the attention of local chefs in Lancaster, looking to experiment with flavor in their dishes. "Food is medicine and medicine is food," Weaver says with a smile.
Drying herbs and flowers like Echinacea preserve the plants for later use in products like teas and tinctures.
The products that they create from their seasonal harvests align with seasonal ailments. CSM members may receive healing salves made of comfrey for sunburn in the summer, teas made from dried blue hyssop flowers for congestion in the fall, and a soothing syrup made from elder berries for colds in the winter.
Stinging nettle is viewed as a weed to many, but is a favorite on the farm. It's nick-named "Nature's Pharmacy" by herbalists because of the many ways that is sustains the body- from it's high calcium content to it's energy-boosting properties. Nettle leaves can be made into a tea or sauteed with garlic and olive oil. Weaver says that when nettles are in season, she eats as many as she can and can actually feel the difference: "I feel green and vital."
Along with products, CSM members may receive bundles of fresh herbs with instructions about how to use them. Weaver sent me home with a bundle of blue hyssop and instructions to make a tea for my late-summer cold. It worked!
Blue hyssop made into a tea to help soothe symptoms of a cold.
She explains that they are not trying to take the place of allopathic medicine, but are trying to integrate into people’s health regiments. “A lot of our products have a several-year shelf-life, so we are building up people’s natural medicine cabinet," she says.
Weaver and her team believe that there's something healing about working with the plants themselves. "Being able to touch, feel, and smell the plants daily is part of what life's about," says Weaver.
She says that sharing knowledge is a key mission of Farmacy:
“We felt very strongly about connecting people back to the nourishing traditions of folk medicine."
"And, we want people to feel empowered by learning about how those plants can help heal… and heal naturally.” That's why Farmacy offers an internship program which is a work-exchange focused on teaching people the growing process- from seed to harvest. And, they offer a variety of herbalism classes for the public as well. Weaver says, “You know, it’s really about healing ourselves, then healing one another.”
The Farmacy team also pays attention to how they are treating the earth and the pollinators while harvesting and they make every effort to keep the integrity of plants all along the way. Weaver says that it’s a special feeling to be connected to the entire growing process and that it is very rewarding to see the results of hard work.
Learn about how you can sign up for the CSM at the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative website.
Stay tuned for additional web videos on a variety of plants on the farm and their healing qualities.
Check out some photos from the farm in the slideshow below: