Farm Stories

Sustainably Harvesting Oregon Grape

­ Alternative wellness philosophies often ask “what is the root cause?” By assessing the root cause, one can take proactive measures towards health and well-being. In the case of Oregon grape, the root of this plant has been used by traditional healers to stimulate the digestive tract. Oregon grape root is classified as an Alterative and a Bitter in the tradition of neo-eclectic herbalism popularized by Michael Moore, Howie Brounstein, and many others. From State Flower to Home Remedy In the Northwest where Oregon grape grows in abundance, the plant’s root is a go-to tonic for both the fledging and well-seasoned herbalist. However, the root is not only used as an internal tonic. Traditional and modern herbalists may also incorporate Oregon grape root into external preparations. One such example is the usage of Oregon grape root powder within topical creams. It’s easy to see why this plant has earned the […]

  • Organic Spearmint Farm - Mountain Rose Herbs

Cultivating Botanical Diversity through Organic Agriculture

Earlier this fall, we visited our farm that straddles both Oregon and Washington, interrupted by the blue Columbia River running down its middle. The farm's verdant green fields shone brightly against brown, parched hillsides that stretched as far as the eye could see. The irrigated fields provided relief to the eyes, a soft green that promised healthy harvests yet to come. This is where our Organic Peppermint and Organic Spearmint are grown – where the heat stress increases the volatile oils of the plants, producing highly flavorful, aromatic herbs. Agriculture happens on a large scale out here, with circular fields up to 200 acres. Farmers typically grow wheat, onions, potatoes, alfalfa, and silage corn. These large fields are broken up by fields of mint, and farmers are transitioning not only to organic production, but also diversifying into traditional and culinary herbs as well. As they witness the positive impacts of certified organic inputs, there are some conventional growers […]

Precious Barks: Developing a Sustainable Tree Harvest

Increasing demand of spices acquired from tree barks such as our beloved cassia (a.k.a. cinnamon) is putting many tree species in peril worldwide. At Mountain Rose Herbs, we are passionate about supporting sustainable harvesting that preserves the life and integrity of the tree, rather than killing it. Our Fair for Life Project farmers in India use methods that are unconventional, harvesting only small sections of the tree bark and then allowing the tree to heal completely before taking more. I was able to observe this practice firsthand on my recent trip to India when I visited some of our Fair for Life Project farms and saw their regeneration trials in action. We have been working for many years to get cassia established on these farms in order to increase diversity in the bioregion. Our involvement also allows us to oversee this spice’s sustainable harvest and to secure the desired flavor […]

  • Ensuring a Fair Trade Future - Mountain Rose Herbs

Helping Ensure A Fair Trade Future

The smiles on the faces of the farmers as I handed them their organic cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and clove saplings were ear-to-ear grins. Today, I had the pleasure of hand-delivering the saplings to one of the 60 farms we collaborate with as part of our innovative Fair for Life Project. It was the winter of 2016, and over the course of two weeks, I visited about 25 of these organic farming projects in India. These are the farms and farmers that Mountain Rose Herbs is working with as part of its Fair for Life Project. Each bioregion in India is known for growing its own unique crop types, so our farms are spread out across hundreds of miles and dozens of climate regions. The hot, arid region where bird’s eye chilis grow is hundreds of miles from the humid, tropical land where we source our smoked black pepper. […]

The Journey of our Turmeric

From the fields of India to your kitchen I recently visited the remote agricultural Indian village of Kollegala, based at the foothills of the Western Ghats. It’s a fertile farming land with a dry growing season and heavy summer rains. The community in this area makes its living primarily off of the sales of turmeric (Curcuma longa). The turmeric growers here represent the largest farming group in our innovative Fair for Life Project, and grow turmeric exclusively for Mountain Rose Herbs. Read more about the project in my recent blog post. I was there to check up on some new construction projects that our Fair for Life premiums funded. This year, Mountain Rose Herbs helped rebuild several of the resident farming families’ homes that were literally crumbling from age, using funds from the sales of our organic, fair trade turmeric. The farmers could have used the premiums for a new […]

Innovating Fair Trade in India

As I stepped back onto the fertile red soil of India, memories of my last trip came rushing back, filling me with excitement. Memories of long hot days, endless miles journeyed on backcountry roads, and walking the fields with proud farmers who happily welcomed me. Being there again brought it all back. How it was such an honor to be invited to take chai breaks with the joyful workers and join them in their homes for a spicy snack and to meet their children. Standing there on my first day back in India, I was flooded with joy to be around these welcoming communities again, in the rich, humid spice fields with the lush tropical backdrop that only India can provide. As the Executive Director of Operations for Mountain Rose Herbs, I recently visited our Institute of Marketecology (IMO) Fair For Life project in South India, where I traveled to […]

Northwest Farm Stories: Growing Hops

I recently attended a harvest party at our favorite local hops farm. Driving the back roads in the golden light of late summer, I followed the heady scent of fresh hops to their fields, located hear our headquarters in Eugene. A few days into harvesting, the farmers were enthusiastic – the dry conditions prime for hop harvesting and processing. Using extension pruners, the farmers cut the hop vines at the top of the trellis system, approximately 15 feet off the ground. Then they’d drag and pull until the vine released onto the tarp below. Wrapped in the tarp, the cut hop vines were hauled to the stripper, chopped into five foot lengths, and handed up a ladder to the top platform where Farmer Don fed the vines through a large rotating brush (kind of like the brushes you’d see at an automatic car wash). The hops, along with some leaves […]

  • Organic Farms in Oregon - Mountain Rose Herbs

Our Organic Farms in Oregon

It's Organically Grown in Oregon Week! Mountain Rose Herbs carries many certified organic herbs, and we’re proud to be a part of Oregon's thriving organic industry! Help us celebrate the 28th Annual Organically Grown in Oregon Week (September 11-17, 2016), a tradition that began in 1988 as a means for acknowledging Oregon's organic industry and leaders of the organic movement.   We are proud to offer local, organic products from our home state.     A few products brought to you from our organic farmers in Oregon… Blessed Thistle Nettle Root Oatstraw  Peppermint Plantain Leaf Spearmint We also offer certified organic herb garden seeds from Horizon Herbs based in Oregon!     This is a call to action both for Oregonians and anyone who sees the value of supporting organic farms and producers.   What you can do: Shop organic at your local farmers market Buy locally-produced organic products from your co-op […]

  • Northwest Farm Stories: Growing Goldenseal & Ginseng

Northwest Farm Stories: Growing Goldenseal & Ginseng

A few weeks ago, I visited one of our Northwest growers to check in on a new project we began last year. He has been supplying us with sustainably grown and harvested organic goldenseal root for years, and we both felt it was time to get some ginseng in the ground. Both goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are slow-growing, shade-loving plants. Due to their popularity, they have been over-harvested in their native habitat and are now considered “at risk” of endangerment. To maintain the wild stands and still supply potent plants without the use of pesticides, we continue to initiate cultivation projects for these and other plant populations that are under pressure.     Walking toward the fields, I could see the dark green of goldenseal bursting out of the raised beds with shade cloth protecting them from the intense heat of the sun. As we came up to the ginseng beds, I was happy to […]

  • Spring Recipes: Stinging Nettle Harvest

Spring Recipes: Stinging Nettle Harvest

Nettle (Urtica spp.) is one of my all-time favorite herbs. Yep, that weedy plant that stings! This nutritious botanical can be cooked, steamed, baked, pickled, brewed into tea or beer, and it can even be made into hemp-like rope, woven into fabric, and used as a natural dye. Stinging nettle grows wild throughout North America. They usually grow in the same places every year, so once you find a good stand, you can return to it every year or grow it in your garden.  Look for nettles in rich soil and partially shaded areas, often in moist forests, along rivers, and in disturbed areas. It’s important to harvest the plants from clean and unpolluted areas, not in industrial or agricultural areas, roadsides, or where pesticides have been sprayed. The plants will absorb heavy metals and other impurities, so harvesting them in an uncontaminated area is of utmost importance.      Spring is […]

  • Forest Grown Verification

Saving Our Roots: Connecting with Forest Farmers

Traveling to the heart of the herb growing region of the Appalachian mountain range during harvest season, Jennifer Gerrity, our Executive Director of Operations, and Jacob Lauch, one of our Procurement Officers, had the incredible opportunity to meet with prospective herb growers interested in native plant conservation. This gathering of forest farmers was part of a growing movement toward the cultivation of woodland botanicals through the new Forest Grown Verification Program. The PCO Forest Grown Verification program provides a third party audit system for native medicinal plants grown in their natural habitat. These herbs are skillfully tended by stewards who propagate and care for the plants in a sustainable and ethical manner. Additionally, the program also audits wildcrafted stands to ensure proper collection practices are being used and long term natural expansion of these stands can take root.     Professor Eric Burkhart from Penn State University is the visionary force behind the Forest Grown Verification Program. Eric is intimately involved with the ginseng trade in […]

  • Update: Maca Market

Update: Maca Market Report

The old adage “what goes up must come down” was proven ever truer when looking at the maca root market this year. We gave our blog readers this analysis in a previous blog post and thought it would be necessary to provide an update on maca, as well as a glimpse behind the scenes of international botanical markets. With dramatic fluctuations in supply and demand, the culprit could be a range of issues from drought in Europe, Dr. Oz’s newest remedy, an earthquake in Chile, or a craze in Asia over the latest herbal trend. Market conditions can normalize in a matter of months as new harvests become available, or take a few years to recover. Fads come and go, but factors of climate change, geopolitical instability, or low consumer confidence due to a range of concerns can be difficult to gauge.     Our model at Mountain Rose Herbs has always been to […]