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  • Writer's pictureHeidi

Converging Paths

Was there ever a person in your life that your friends insisted you had to meet? Ten years ago it seemed that every person in my life was asking, "Do you know Eli?" And "Oh you two HAVE to meet." So many of my friends were saying this over the course of a year that I just knew our paths were meant to cross.

One night Ben and I had our granddaughter walking around downtown and we stumbled across this amazing 8 piece band, complete with a female banjo player and an Amish man on the fiddle; just playing on the sidewalk. They were so bad ass, I took a photo and posted it on Facebook. A few of my friends commented, "You finally met Eli!" I had no clue at the time that the sassy lady on the banjo was Eli.

Fast forward to 2013 when my roller derby sister, Katie, posted that the farm she worked for was looking to hire interns for the season. I applied to the medicinal herb farm, and went to interview. I was surprised to learn that ELI owned and operated the Lancaster Farmacy, creating herbal remedies from seed to shelf; I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I spent the next 5 years making the Farmacy's products and learned not only how to create remedies in bulk, but also discovered how to navigate the messier back end of the herbal business world. With Eli's blessing, I went on to create My Herbal Apothecary in 2019.

Lancaster Farmacy crew at the end of 2014

I started creating herbal remedies for my family when my daughter, Mareena, was just a baby. It was back in the 90's when I did not have access to the internet. I read books and discovered a little herb shop about 1/2 hour from our house where I sourced my ingredients. When we bought our house in 2009 I knew I wanted to start growing my own herbs, so I planted 650 perennials in 2010. Most of my first plantings were for root medicine, like Echinacea and Joe Pye, and these take about three years of growth before you should have your first harvest.

I had been gardening my own food since 1996, but for some reason there were feelings of inadequacy surrounding my understanding of growing medicinal plants. I figured three years was enough time to get past my fear of "not knowing enough" to do it on my own. I was still struggling to overcome these emotions when the Farmacy came into my life. Having the opportunity to just do the work, planting, harvesting and creating products was the gentle nudge I needed to empower me to do it on my own.

In 2020 it seemed a lot of people in my life kept asking, "Do you know Hawa?" and "You have to meet Hawa." I started having flashbacks and I knew our paths would eventually cross. A few months back a mutual friend brought Hawa into the restaurant where I work. Once introduced I said, "I know your name for some reason." The next day I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of Hawa! She is the amazing leader of the grassroots organization Discerning Eye Community Agricultrure (DECA). I messaged her and said, "I know why your name was familiar, we were supposed to meet." This amazing woman is doing so much to provide education surrounding building resilient communities by "empowering gardeners and connecting neighbors."

Three weeks ago Hawa contacted me and asked if I would like to speak at her Wellness Conference via zoom. I curbed all my nervous jitters and pushed back those "what do I have to offer" feelings and jumped in. I was given 20 minutes to speak to winter wellness and reclaiming our health. I wanted to inspire people to create their own cold combating recipes with ingredients they may already have in their kitchen. I created a PDF with eight recipes and demonstrated how to make four of them on the zoom call. The call included eight speakers and an edited version of the video will make its way onto their YouTube channnel I cannot wait to see the four speakers that I had to miss, as everyone was bringing something else to the table.

In keeping with DECA's mission, my intention was to empower people to feel capable of creating health boosting herbal remedies on their own. I wanted to inspire and demonstrate, but I may have come across as the "Billy Mays" of the herbal world. Trying to cram my enthusiasm and fast working hands into my allotted time, showing just how easy it can be to support your health, especially during the winter months. Granting people permission to put the knife to the cutting board and give them the gentle nudge I was gifting so many years ago.

I am grateful for these amazing women that come into my life and excited to see where it all leads. Have you ever met a person that so deeply effected your life, altering your path?

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Jaclyn Downs
Jaclyn Downs
Dec 18, 2021

I love all the recipes you provided in the pdf! I'm going to make the rosemary simple syrup as a gift for a few people (with a handout on the benefits of rosemarinic acid!) Thanks for sharing your passion and knowledge! Love you!

Dec 19, 2021
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Woo Hoo! I tried to make them easy peasy so it felt more accessible, enjoy!

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