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September 21, 2017

Local, Organic, Chinese Herbs!

How often do you see those words together? Some of us equate them with one person in particular: Peg Schafer. Peg Schafer runs the Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm out in Petaluma. Since 1997 her desire has been to grow “the highest quality and most efficacious Chinese herbs possible”. As future practitioners, what more could we ask?

On July 29th, a beautiful summer’s morn, a group of AIMC students, including two student council members, made our first field trip to Petaluma* to visit and see what the future of Chinese herbs could be…

Students are familiar with Chinese herbs in the form of plant parts that appear in our herbal pharmacy, generally from China. However, the plants themselves are seldom encountered. Some appear in the school’s herb garden, more still in the UC Botanical Garden’s Chinese Herbal Garden which most of us have visited at least once. Peg’s farm is special in that it is primarily an experimental farm with several hundred different varieties of Asian botanicals under cultivation.

During the tour, Peg emphasized that growing our own medicinal plants in this country is especially important as they are not/will not always be available from China. Plants may be over harvested during times of need and even become endangered. One example is Jin yin hua which is used extensively for avian influenza. During the SARS epidemic it could not be exported from China and immediately thereafter was available in limited quantities. Other medicinal herb concerns include sourcing and quality control…

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Students remarked on what an extensive knowledge she has and about how wonderful it is to see the actual plants from which we derive our medicinal herbs. Plants were for sale and many of us returned home with a new way to incorporate Chinese herbs into our lives!

If you haven’t already seen it, check out her beautiful 2011 book, The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm A Cultivator’s Guide to Small-Scale Organic Herb Production where she has monographs for 79 of the 260 plus different herbs she has grown. She sells her herbs to practitioners, pharmacies, product manufacturers, researchers, retailers and the general public. She is often found teaching classes on growing Chinese herbs organically. We are trying to get her to come and lecture at AIMC. Stay tuned!

About Peg:

Peg’s farm, which has been in existence for 20 years (since 1997), functions partly as an experimental operation trialing Asian herbs. She compiles the results in her extensive database on the cultivation of herbs of medicinal and economic interest. She has lectured at colleges of Oriental medicine, conferences and farming events. She is extremely knowledgeable about herb quality, cultivation and conservation, and issues affecting Chinese herbs.

Additionally, locally grown herbs are available through the Sonoma County Herb Exchange.

*This project was made possible through a fund administered by AIMC’s Student Council. Every trimester students contribute $5 to this fund. Projects are solicited and considered on a term by term basis.

Other projects have included the complimentary teas in the break room, standing desks and gravity chairs found in classrooms as well as salt lamps in the clinic, Decompression week misc. and Carleen Cotter’s class on how to make an herbal salve. Submit your ideas using the form on the Community Board outside the break room. This is yet another example of your fees at work.

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