Currently, only a small portion of my herbs are grown in my pesticide-free garden. My goal is to shift towards cultivating native and native-medicinal plants when I can afford land. In the meantime, I am committed to sourcing herbs, herbal products, and other consumable goods as ethically as possible while ensuring a robust apothecary. This is not always black and white however!
I source organic herbs close to home when possible and believe that for many herbs, especially aromatic herbs like peppermint and lemon balm, this is necessary for satisfactory quality (I’m picky!).
Organic Farms I source from:
- Oshala Farms
- Foster Farms
- Zach Woods Farms
In some cases, however, it may be better to source herbs directly from their native range. Some believe that where an herb is grown has a significant effect on its quality. This concept (similar to terroir in wine) is known as “Geo-Authentic” herbs and is especially common among Chinese Medicine practitioners. The unique combination of soil, humidity, sunlight, insects/pests, and so-on, of a plant’s native range are believed to be essential for its optimal chemical profile. This may be true for some herbs but not for others, and there is limited research proving this.
Although Geo-Authentic herb sourcing does not have substantial evidence supporting its validity, I do believe that supporting equitable and fair-trade global market systems is essential to a fair distribution of wealth around the world. Providing a fair income for wildcrafters incentivizes conservation of ecosystems all around the world. In addition, many medicinal herbs can (and have) become noxious weeds when grown outside of their native range and should not be intentionally grown in other parts of the world.
Sourcing herbs from importers who prioritize the rights of workers and sustainability may be more appealing than domestic industrial organic practices that typically rely on exploited labor. Right here in the US, the Florida-based activist group Immokalee Worker’s Coalition has liberated 1,200 farmworkers held against their will in just the past decade. Many of these workers have been displaced from their own farmlands due to predatory trade practices such as NAFTA. Read more about the IWC’s Anti-Slavery Program. While this organization and others have made incredible improvements in farmworker livelihoods, there is much to be done all around the world.
Our spending habits can make a difference, but true change cannot happen from consumer habits alone. With this in mind, I advocate for a fairer farm bill and support the work of Farm Action, equitable trade policies, and regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices.
If you couldn’t tell, I am very passionate about food justice. I’ve compiled some further resourcing if you would like to dig deeper into any topic.