What a Gorgeous Farm!
Written by Gayle
Have you ever wondered how those herbs get in the extracts, the tinctures, the capsules, the bulk boxes, and the tea bags? We had the amazing opportunity to visit the Gaia Farm in North Carolina recently.
With the morning sun gently shining, we looked out over the ginko trees to survey some of the 350 acre farm. The temperate weather influences and land formations of this area provide a unique habitat--ideal for growing many herbs for their products. The diverse red clay to black loam soils also provide a fertile landscape. Gaia Farms grow about 20% of their herbs right here in this beautiful farm. For the rest of their herbs they scour the world for the best, most ethical, and "clean" producers and gatherers.
This is Ric Scalzo, the owner, CEO, Herbalist, and Naturopath at Gaia Herbs. He took us throughout the farms for two days, explaining the herbs that they are growing. Here he is showing us the Ginko trees. Ginko is great for mental alertness (in fact, Gaia has a formula called "Mental Alertness" which contains Ginko!)
These leaves will be harvested for greatest potency when the edges begin to have a golden edge.
From Seed to Shelf
At Gaia, the herbs are cultivated carefully from seed to harvest.
Here are thousands of Echinaea seedlings in their greenhouse. They beging to plant seeds in February. Once they get bigger and stronger, the seedlings are taken outside to the Hoop Frames where the plants get acclimatized to being outside, and are allowed to grow bigger and stronger.
The plants in the foreground are ready to be planeted in the fields.
Everything grown at Gaia, as well as all of the herbs they get from sources around the world, is certified organic, according to Oregon Tilth standards, and recertified every year. Gaia also does yearly soil analysis as well to be sure the soil has all of the nutrients needed for plant strength. In the winter they grow crops to be tilled back into the soil to increase the nitrogen level in the soil, and it is amended in the spring with fish, kelp, and seaweed amendments, as well as compost, of course. Pests and fungi are managed organically--no chemicals! They use wasps to control the Japanese Beetle.
Here is the group learning about Hawthorn buds and leaves, which were being harvested right behind us. Hawthorn is a great source of flavanoids, which are extracted right at the Gaia plant. Hawthorn is a great heart support.
This was the view we had (perfect photo-op area!) as we walked to the fields.
Ric actually had us taste some of the herbs as he explained their use.
Some of us even planted some Gotu Kola plants from the trays and into the ground. Here are a couple of rows that had just been planted. Ric said that Gotu Kola can "calm an overanxious mind." Some of us who have a hard time turning off our brains at night could use some of that calming!
We tasted some lemon balm herb, one of the ingredients in formulas for gas and bloating.
The fields were so well maintained are beautiful.
I couldn't stop taking pictures of the beautiful herbs!
This is Stinging Nettle. Gaia farm is allowing it to go to seed this year so that they can harvest 500 lbs of seeds. Stinging Nettle is an Anti-inflammatory, among other uses. The seeds, the leaves, and the roots are all used in herbal medicine.
Purity. Integrity. Potency.
Gaia Farms has partnered with several universities, as well as international groups to conduct research on herbs. They recently did some research on Tumeric with Auburn University. One thing that I was very impressed with was Gaia's committment to quality. They test their own products, as well as the herbs they recieve from other sources, to make sure that they have the purest and most potent products possible. On their own herbs, they will take a sample to the lab to make sure the plant has the best potency before they harvest. If it doesn't, they will wait a few days or longer while the plant continues to grow. They test again, and will not harvest until the plant has reached the target potency.
Gaia does the processing of the herbs--they generally receive the herbs as raw material. They test it to make sure that it is not only what the supplier says it is, but that it is the target potency. They make sure there is no pesticide or herbicide residue. Gaia has a beautiful lab and plant where quality is job #1.
Valerian Flowers--the root of the beautiful and sweetly-fragrant plant is a sedative for insomnia, as well as muscle pains and spasms. It is found in the Gaia Sleep formulas.
Gaia has an amazing website, where you can literally "Meet Your Herbs." You can enter the ID number on the box or bottle of product, and the website will give you the history of the herbs in your product. You can also learn about herbs what they are good for, and how your health can be enhanced by using herbal products. There you can see how Gaia supports local and global concerns as well. You can find their website here.
Thank you Gaia, for a great tour!