Farm Fails and How I Learned To Love Weeds


The only surviving blueberry bush at Half Hill Farm

I know it’s silly, but I’ve anguished over how to write this post for about two years.

What it boils down to is a struggle between my vision for our organic farm and what life had in mind. It literally took me a couple years to believe what was really happening.

About a year into farming, a family battle with cancer focused me on the emerging science and healing power of mushrooms that grew without any effort on our farm. It’s what I could do, so I poured myself into cultivating and perfecting a quality product I needed to work for people I loved. It took a heavy toll on the farm. We stopped going to our local farmers’ market. The hops slowly faded into the hillside. Season after season, the deer were having their way in the orchard, and I started growing way more dandelions than anything I actually planted.

Failure and Success: I felt like a total failure even though something amazing was happening at the same time. Customers began calling me from all over the country because they had heard about our mushroom extracts. Our farm’s creation of a natural remedy from our first forage in our woods was changing people’s lives. I got letters and phone calls from people telling me they felt I had saved their life. I cried many times with people on the phone who called to encourage me to keep doing what I was doing. It took a lot of healing customers to convince me it was really happening, and every one was a timely miracle.

It was a life lesson and one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Here I was trying so hard to bring another pound of produce to market when the land had a much bigger purpose in mind with mushrooms and herbaceous weeds if I would just listen to life and let it be. Eager for a purposeful life, that’s exactly what I did..

Half Hill Herbals: As our extract business grew, Vince came on full time and we moved production into an FDA-registered manufacturing kitchen in Woodbury. We expanded our mushroom extracts, partnered with certified organic growers and added new herbal tinctures, extracts and tonics. As I listened and grew with our customers I could see more clearly the path we were always on and how it unfolded in our products and stories of healing. I fell more in love with our weeds, sometimes spending hours identifying and understanding them. I still have a lot to learn and a lot more to share.

      

It literally took mowing down all but one survivor of our 100 blueberry bushes last month to find the language and finally come to terms with the fact that our farm is not what I envisioned. The farm is actually something bigger and more powerful: a beautiful mess of weeds, fungi and a platform for understanding, connecting with, and sharing the healing power of nature.

There were times I sat and cried on the hillside wondering what I was doing selling cucumbers by the pound from two farmable acres. I’ve learned to listen a lot more and trust what the land has been telling me all along. With smarter stewardship and patience, the land will show you its gifts. Weeds and wild herbs that were once in the way of another small crop row have captured my imagination, my heart and my soul.

As I look five years ahead, I see a lot less struggling with mowing and keeping a tidy garden. I see more mushrooms, clover, yellow dock, elderberries, burdock, nettle, mint, yarrow, bee balm, mullein, plantain and yes, dandelion. I see sanctuary. I see more healing. I see life and sharing our future together in the weeds!

Shop Half Hill Farm online or visit our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County.

Fighting your cold and flu with Elderberry Tonic


Half Hill Farm’s Elderberry Tonic

Happy Summer Solstice 2017! To celebrate this longest day of the year, we’d like to introduce you to our new Elderberry Tonic! This is tonic number 2 in a series that started earlier this year with FireRoot. You can now purchase both at our store in Woodbury, TN (click for map) or online.

Elderberries have been used for centuries as a remedy for flu and respiratory infections and is one of the most used medicinal plants worldwide. The reason you can find elderberry formulations among your local drug store’s cold & flu medications is because it’s a natural remedy that works.

Cold & Flu: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in Norway, 60 patients aged 18-54 suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 hours or less were given elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for five days. Flu symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier in those receiving elderberry extract. Elderberries have been shown to be effective against influenza A & B as well as herpes simplex. In another study, the flavonoid-rich elderberry was shown to prevent H1N1 flu infection.

Better Health: Elderberries and elder flowers have many other uses. Extracts of elderberries can reduce blood pressure and may help reduce cholesterol. Many studies also demonstrate reductions in oxidative stress that can lead to many diseases including cancer.

Combined with the benefits of apple cider vinegar, local honey, echinacea and the bold flavor of ayurvedic ginger, cardamom and clove, our Elderberry Tonic is the perfect protective remedy.*

How To Use Elderberry Tonic: Before using our tonic for health reasons, please consult your doctor. You can take our tonic by the tablespoon three times a day as needed.

  • You can also create some amazing shrubs by adding 2 teaspoons per 8 oz serving of soda water.
  • Blend two tablespoons with one tablespoon of flax or coconut oil to make a tart vinaigrette for salads.
  • If you have to have a bowl of vanilla ice-cream, drizzling at least a tablespoon on top can help ease your guilt.
  • Add a couple ounces to Bourbon or moonshine for Elderberry Sours

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always consult with your physician before using our products. 

FireRoot Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic – the troll chaser


Half Hill Farm’s FireRoot Apple Cider VInegar Tonic – the troll chaser

Our small organic apple orchard here in Woodbury, TN will never produce enough apples for market, but with a little help it will be enough to make some amazing apple cider vinegar tonics!

A famous example that inspired our farm’s first seasonal apple cider vinegar tonic is Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for Fire Cider. We call our tonic FireRoot, a spicy decoction of certified organic horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, orange, lemon, cayenne and black pepper in organic apple cider vinegar & mother lightly sweetened with local honey.

Half Hill Farm’s FireRoot apple cider vinegar tonic is just one way our farm honors traditional folk remedies. Each ounce of prevention will chase your trolls and light a fire under whatever’s thrown your way. FireRoot is available in both 8 oz and 16 oz bottles online or in our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County starting Thursday February 2.

Better health and well being
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a natural folk remedy for indigestion and a host of ailments. Research shows daily use of 1-2 tbsps naturally lowers morning blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, dramatically lowers mealtime glycemic levels associated with chronic diseases, helps people lose weight and may satiate appetite. There is some evidence showing anti-cancer properties, but the mechanism is not well understood. Less is known about widely reported uses as a cold and flu prevention, but it is suspected that apple cider vinegar’s alkalizing affects in the body helps prevent cold & flu. Using apple cider vinegar to decoct ingredients like garlic, ginger, and turmeric certainly helps increase the tonic’s antimicrobial and antiviral potential.*

To make FireRoot, our farm starts with all organic ingredients and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar that contains the mother, the naturally occurring probiotic yeast and bacteria that ferments the cider into vinegar. This will appear as a light sediment, so shake well to get all the botanical goodness in every serving!

How to use FireRoot Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
If you’re a fan of bold flavor, take a tablespoon of FireRoot every day before or after your biggest meal. By using FireRoot with food, you can also lower your intake of salt and fat. Here are a few suggested uses below. Check back for recipes using FireRoot!

  • Blend FireRoot with flax oil or coconut oil to make an amazing salad dressing!
  • Spice up your chutney recipe by replacing the vinegar with FireRoot.
  • Use FireRoot in place of butter or salt on steamed vegetables or beans or blend into marinades for meats.
  • Blend with Bragg’s, sesame oil, and lemon juice to make a tangy dumpling sauce.

FireRoot is our farm’s first seasonal tonic release this year. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to learn when other tonics will be available.

* Please consult your doctor before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Free fermentation workshop – make your own kombucha


Half Hill Farm’s Christian Grantham demonstrates how to make kombucha at home

THANK YOU to everyone who came out Saturday October 29 for our free fermentation workshop demonstrating how to make your own kombucha from home! The workshop also featured our kitchen partners and fermentation revivalist and New York Times best-selling author Sandor Katz!

The health benefits of Lion’s Mane mushroom extract


Half Hill Farm’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Dual Extract

Over the past couple years we’ve grown a lot by listening and learning from our customers and following the latest research. After expanding into a new inspected kitchen earlier this year, we added Chaga mushroom and propolis extracts. Today, we are proud to add the power of certified organic Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms to our Nature’s Remedy line of mushroom extracts!

Adding this healing edible and medicinal mushroom to our mushroom extracts gives you another natural alternative approach to better health and well being. Our Lion’s Mane extract can be used with our other mushroom extracts or as an adjunct therapy in consultation with your doctor.

Uses for Lion’s Mane extract: Half Hill Farm’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Dual Extract combines extractions of both water and alcohol soluble compounds using certified organic ingredients in a formulation widely used by ethnobotanists and scientists in lab studies. Recent studies show cyanthane derivative triterpenes hericenones and erinacines from Lion’s Mane are unique classes of Nerve Growth Factors (NGFs) that show significant neuroprotective effects, stimulating nerve regeneration and re-myelination of neurons and helping improve memory and brain function.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have also been used for over 2,000 years in Chinese medicine for digestive diseases. Studies linked below show extracts of Lion’s Mane mushrooms are active against ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Disease, pancreatitis, Crohn’s Disease and gastrointestinal cancers (liver, colon, gastric). Unique compounds of Lion’s Mane mushrooms (palmitic acid, threitol and D-arabinitol) also help reduce blood sugar and regulate lipid levels in blood.

Recent studies on Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms:

Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The health benefits of honey bee propolis extract


Half Hill Farm’s Propolis Extract – available in 1 oz dropper bottles.

A couple years ago, I noticed honey bees actively coming and going from my compost bin. I thought I had unintentionally adopted a swarm. At any given moment there were about 25-50 bees coming and going. When I carefully opened the top, bees were all over the mushrooms we use to make our extracts. I didn’t know what to make of it so I started research that eventually led me to creating a new extract.

After reading about different roles of bees in the hive, I think these bees were tasked with gathering plant and tree resins that are collectively blended with enzymes and wax to form an amazing substance called propolis.

What is propolis: Bees use propolis as a structural glue and as a varnish protecting the hive from fungal, viral, bacterial infection and disease as well as invading small animals or small insects or mites. Propolis is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but propolis also includes polysaccharides that are also present in wood rotting fungi, including Turkey Tail mushrooms. The more I read the more I liked and began formulating a propolis extract for daily use.

Do bees use mushrooms: A few months later, self-taught mycologist Paul Stamets reported noticing bees on the ground sucking mycelium. Stamets believes his patented use of fungus may be a way to save honey bees from mites. But both of our observations might suggest bees are a step ahead of us and already use a broader range of the forest, including mushrooms and fungi, to protect the hive with blends of propolis.

It already happens with other bees. Last year, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation discovered that the Brazilian stingless bee uses fungus in their propolis to protect larvae food stores from spoiling.

He and his team discovered that the fungus is a key part of the hive. It permeates the cerumen, a material made of wax and resin that the bees use as building material. After the bees have deposited regurgitated food for the larvae inside the cells, and laid an egg, the fungus starts growing.

Once the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the fungus, and it turns out this food is absolutely crucial. When the team tried to grow the bees in the lab without the fungus, the survival rate of the larvae dropped dramatically – from 72 per cent to just 8 per cent.

Mindful observation of nature can reveal tested paths toward better health and well-being. Bees and fungi have evolved to withstand thousands of centuries of environmental changes. While they may be no match for the destruction humans can cause to the environment, their survival and centuries of use by humans suggests honey bee propolis is one of those tested paths we must understand and protect.

Purchase propolis extract: Each 1 oz (30 ml) bottle of Half Hill Farm’s Propolis Extract contains roughly a three month supply with daily use and has a dropper for oral or topical application. Take 3-5 drops a day, or apply to minor cuts to create a liquid band-aid.

The health benefits of propolis: There have been many studies of propolis and its known uses dating back to 300 BC. Here is an excellent summary of propolis studies published in 2015 making the case for potential future drug development. Here is another summary of propolis studies from 2013 also pointing to many reasons why we make our propolis extract.

  • Composition: Raw propolis is 50% resins, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% organic compounds. Propolis contains calcium, iodine, potassium, sodium, manganese, magnesium, iron copper and zinc as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, D and E.
  • Antioxident: High concentrations of flavinoids and phenolic acids in propolis reduce oxidative stress to proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other biomolecules in the body. Oxidative stresses cause cells to die leading to a variety of diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.
  • Anti-inflammatory: When reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) are not flushed from cells, inflammation occurs. Unresolved chronic inflammation can lead to many diseases like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, asthma and cancer. Many studies show the flavinoids and cinnamic acid derivatives in propolis reduce inflammatory responses.
  • Antiviral: Studies show flavinoid rich propolis interferes with the RNA synthesis of herpes simplex 1 and 2, influenza, H1N1, HIV and other viruses.
  • Antibacterial, Antimicrobial: Propolis is effective against Gram-positive bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth decay and heart disease, Lactobacilli, and Staphylococcus.
  • Antifungal: Propolis is active against dermatophytes and yeasts, including several Candida strains – some resistant to known antifungal agents.
  • Antiprotozoal: Propolis shows activity against parasites that cause many diseases in humans. Studies show propolis is active against trichomoniasis, toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, Toxoplasma gondii, Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma cruzi, and malaria.
  • Antitumor: Propolis acts against cancer cells by blocking oncogene signalling pathways, decreasing cancer proliferation by decreasing cancer stem cell populations and increasing cancer apoptosis. Propolis is active against colorectal, human breast, human tongue squamous cell carcinoma, and human prostate cancer cells. Studies show flavonoids from propolis could play a protective role against the toxicity of the chemotherapeutic agents or radiation therapy.
Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

‘You saved my daughter’s life!’ – the healing power of mushrooms


A ‘cloud’ of Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor) on logs at Half Hill Farm

A few months ago, I got a call from a customer who was looking for what I thought was an adjunct therapy for his daughter in treatment for brain cancer. His own research made him hopeful that our Turkey Tail extract could help. It wasn’t until a couple months later that I discovered on a second call the full extent of what was going on.

“I want you to know you saved my daughter’s life,” the customer told me. It’s something I hear often from customers, from ecstatic calls of people now in remission to those experiencing little to no side effects to chemo or radiation (most common) and positive changes in blood tests, but when he told me his daughter had been in hospice, I was shocked.

It is certainly not a common experience for patients to go from hospice back to treatment options, but it’s stories like this that give what we do meaning and purpose. It’s stories like this that are why we have grown into an FDA-registered manufacturing space and why we continue to expand our product offerings to include nature’s very best organically grown and wildcrafted mushroom extracts.

We are humbled every day with your phone calls and emails. While the body of research on mushrooms is growing, we know we cannot market our extracts or products as a treatment, cure or prevention of any disease, but that doesn’t stop our customers from sharing their stories. It has presented a unique challenge over the past two years as to how we present those stories to you in a responsible way.

Mushroom Dual Extracts available in 100 ml (3.38 oz) or 200 ml (6.76 oz) bottles from Half Hill Farm:

If you are one of the hundreds of customers across the country who take our extracts, we would love to hear why you take them and what you are experiencing. Your experience could help someone follow you on a path toward better health and well-being. You can leave your comment here, or leave a review on the product pages of our online store.

Nature’s Remedy: Chaga mushroom dual extract


Half Hill Farm’s Chaga Mushroom Dual Extract is available in 100 and 200 ml bottles.

Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) have been used as folk medicine for immune support and gastrointestinal health in Russia for centuries, more recently in treating cancer and the side effects of cancer treatments. Chaga is not an edible mushroom and must be extracted to be consumed. Extracts are made from the sclerotium, a fungal mycelium outgrowth that occurs mostly on Birch trees prior to a rarely seen fruiting body. As the Birch tree mounts a decades long defense against the advancing fungus, the Chaga mycelium creates a host of compounds to fight for its survival, and this is why many call Chaga the “King of the Herbs.”

Uses: Studies show extracts of Chaga mycelium reduce oxidative stresses that lead to many diseases. It has one of the highest antioxident values of any herb and high concentrations of melanin (visible on the sclerotium’s crusted outer surface), ergosterol (vitamin D2) and anti-aging enzymes Superoxide Dismutase (SOD).

Studies of Chaga also show antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Chaga’s adaptagenic effects help balance overactive auto-immune responses while naturally triggering needed immune responses. Chaga is often used to treat eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis and to normalize cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Compounds from both hot water and alcohol extractions, including polysaccharides and terpenes (betulinic acids, phytosterols), have anti-tumor growth properties making Chaga a candidate as an adjunct therapy. Betulinic acid has been shown to help break down LDL cholesterol.

How to Purchase: Half Hill Farm is pleased to add the healing power of Chaga mushrooms to our Nature’s Remedy line of mushroom dual extracts that include Red Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) and Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushrooms. Our Chaga extract processes responsibly wildcrafted sclerotia (fungal mycelium) of the Chaga mushroom through a lengthy hot water (distilled water) and alcohol (USDA Certified Organic pharmaceutical grade USP) extraction process. Our full spectrum dual extract is manufactured in our FDA registered manufacturing kitchen for our USDA Certified Organic farm and bottled in premium Miron ultra-violet glass for superior preservation (shelf life of 1 year).

Take Chaga daily in morning coffee or evening tea or in combination with any of our mushroom dual extracts. There are no known contraindicators. Below are a few studies of Chaga mushrooms for deeper understanding of this powerful mushroom.

Research on Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) mushrooms

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes.

Organic farm starts kombucha brewery in Woodbury

(Woodbury, TN)  -  Half Hill Farm is opening a kombucha brewery in the Arts Center of Cannon County. The USDA certified organic farm will sell 16 oz. bottles and fill half gallon growlers of the carbonated beverage on site with both sizes available in local stores and restaurants.

The organic mushroom extract maker will team up with tempeh maker Short Mountain Cultures to work collectively as The Kitchen @ the Arts Center starting January 1. The collaboration will bring locally handcrafted fermented food & beverages to Middle Tennessee.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to share our handcrafted organic kombucha and everything we make together. It’s awesome,” said Half Hill Farm co-owner Vince Oropesa. “And it’s completely solar powered. How cool is that!” Oropesa added pointing to the Arts Center’s 30 KW solar panel system.

Half Hill Farm will also make live kombucha culture food products and barrel-aged kombucha vinegar. The farm will also expand its mushroom extracts to include Chaga, Lion’s Mane and other certified organic mushrooms.

Kombucha is sweet tea fermented with special yeast and probiotics into a carbonated beverage often flavored with fruits, vegetables, roots, or herbs. The craft of brewing and fermenting kombucha with a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is thousands of years old.

“Making these craft products at The Kitchen with like-minded partners feels right,” Half Hill Farm co-owner Christian Grantham said. “It’s the right people, the right place and the right time to revive a sustainable food culture that has lasted centuries.”


Apple Ginger Kombucha samples don’t last long on the farm.

Follow us for more information: A grand opening date for The Kitchen has not yet been announced. You can follow Half Hill Farm on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more information.

Photo (left to right): Vince Oropesa, Christian Grantham, Simmer Tidman, John Parker

Kombucha fermentation tanks arrive for farm brewery

Kombucha fermentation tanks

The delivery guy knew the exact location of the only loading dock I could borrow in town, even though it really has no address. It’s a small town, but the driver had been here before delivering freight to Short Mountain Distillery. When he saw the tanks, he knew what was up. 

“Someone’s about to do some serious brewing in Woodbury,” he said with a smile. It’s certainly a first big step in starting our farm’s brewery and churning out some organic fermented goodness!

These 58 gallon (220 Liter) stainless steel fermentation tanks ought to help us brew a lot more kombucha, vinegars and other things to come, but we’re definitely going to need some bigger space to do it right.

Blueberry Ginger Kombucha Apple Ginger Kombucha

The kitchen is full of bottles. The living room is full of bottles, and the quiet is broken by the low hum of a small fridge full of more fizzy booch! There is a home somewhere underneath it all. This year we made a lot of kombucha and shared some with neighbors. We love what it does for our health, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

kombucha bottling day kombucha brewing

Follow us on Facebook to watch our brewery grow and to learn when, where and how you can enjoy our kombucha products!