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. 

Hemp extracted CBD now available in Woodbury

Cannabidiol (CBD) has received a lot of attention through recent efforts to change our nation’s cannabis laws due to a growing body of evidence suggesting many health benefits. Many people use CBD in treating seizures and other neurological disorders, anxiety, depression, cancer and pain.*

CBD is a naturally-occurring constituent of both the industrial hemp plant and marijuana that engages our endocannabinoid system. CBD extracted from both plants are molecularly identical, but extractions of marijuana can contain illegal amounts of the psychoactive constituent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while industrial hemp extracts do not. The distinction is one reason why imported hemp products (fiber, seed, oil) under importation rules of the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Customs and Border Protections are legal in all 50 states. Additionally, there are no interstate commerce restrictions on the sale and consumption of these imported hemp products in the United States.

When the Agricultural Act of 2014 (U.S. Farm Bill) was enacted into law, it established state pilot programs with strict controls on U.S. hemp growers and producers including the varieties that can be grown, required background checks for growers, and coordination with state and federal authorities. The federal law also allowed states to enact statewide rules on products created from domestic hemp crops, including requirements for prescriptions and state commerce restrictions.

Half Hill Farm was Tennessee’s first organic farm to grow hemp under Tennessee’s hemp pilot program with the intent of creating quality CBD extracts for our customers. After the first year’s crop, our farm left the program because of limits on varieties we could grow at that time. Recent changes to Tennessee’s industrial hemp laws are moving in the right direction. One recent change removes hemp from state marijuana criminal codes by defining all products derived from domestic hemp that contain less than .3% of THC as “industrial hemp.” The new law also provides an exemption for possessing “non-viable” industrial hemp by non-license holders as long as the product is from a licensed source. We do look forward to more changes that will allow us to grow and process varieties so we can compete with imported products.

In order to serve our customers the highest quality hemp extracted CBD now without the restrictions associated with domestic crop production, we are proud to partner with Endoca, a leader in quality imported organic and GMP certified CBD & CBDa hemp extracts.

You can now purchase Endoca CBD oil drops and capsules in our retail store at the Arts Center of Cannon County. Each batch is third party lab-tested for concentration and certified organic compliance. Certificates and lab tests are available for review.

DROPS:
  • (3%) 300mg Hemp Extract (300 drops – 1mg CBD per drop – $31)
  • (3%) 300mg Raw Hemp Extract (300 drops – 1mg CBD + CBDa per drop – $31)
  • (15%) 1500mg Hemp Extract (300 drops – 5mg CBD per drop – $150)
  • (15%) 1500mg Raw Hemp Extract (300 drops – 5mg CBD + CBDa per drop – $150)
CAPSULES:
  • (3%) 300mg Hemp Extract capsules (30 capsules – 10mg CBD per capsule – $31)
  • (3%) 300mg Raw Hemp Extract capsules (30 capsules – 10mg CBD + CBDa per capsule – $31)
MORE CBD PRODUCTS
  • 150mg CBD Chewing Gum (10 pieces / 15 mg CBD per gum – $14)
  • 750mg CBD Hemp Salve (30ml – $59)
  • 500mg CBD Suppositories (10 suppositories / 50mg CBD each – $49)
  • 20mg CBD Hemp Lip Balm ($8)

Here is more information on CBD:

*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 new products. Half Hill Farm Inc does not sell or distribute any products that are in violation of the United States Controlled Substances Act. All of the cannabinoids in products we offer, including CBD, are natural constituents of industrial hemp and hemp oil.

Made in Woodbury: Celebrating one year with expanded hours

It’s hard to believe we opened our retail store one year ago today! What’s even harder to believe is how much we’ve grown with you! Thank you!

Since opening with our kitchen partners, we expanded our mushroom extract offering. We also started our line of natural extracts and tonics and helped our community replace sugary sodas with the goodness of locally fermented kombucha on tap.

To celebrate our growth, we’re starting year two with more hours and more opportunities for better health and well being. Our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County is now open Tuesday – Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-4. While you visit, check out the locally handcrafted items in the White Oak Craft gift shop, get season tickets to shows, or sign your kids up for Summer Youth Conservatory!

WE ARE GROWING: We also need your help! We are proud to make these products right here in Woodbury, TN and need more space to grow and keep it here. The Arts Center has no more space they can rent to us. We are turning away wholesale orders due to our limited production space, and it’s time to grow. While we continue to serve customers through the end of 2018 at this location, we are also looking for space to buy, build or rent for manufacturing and future retail. Let us know if you can help us take our business to the next level!

Half Hill Farm’s Ginger Lemonade Kombucha

Slay the potluck with our new seasonal Ginger Lemonade Kombucha – made with all organic cold-pressed ginger and lemon and sweetened with local honey. Available on tap by the cup or growler starting today at our Woodbury store in The Arts Center of Cannon County (open Thurs-Sat 10a-4p)!

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.

Kombucha starter kit – how to make kombucha at home

If you regularly drink kombucha you already know the many health benefits of this fizzy fermented beverage. Did you know you can make it yourself? Our new kombucha starter kits are everything you need to brew your own organic kombucha at home! Our kits include:

  • 1 SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) in 1 cup of kombucha mother
  • 1 cup of organic raw sugar
  • half ounce of organic Assam black tea
  • a 2 gallon glass crock
  • a cover and string
  • a one-page instruction sheet

HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA AT HOME
Order your kombucha starter kit from Half Hill Farm online. Each kit comes with more detailed instructions, but here are some basics for home brewers:

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil, turn off heat and add half ounce of loose black tea. Let steep for 4 minutes, then strain out tea and dissolve a cup of sugar in the tea.
  2. Pour into clean glass crock, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Open SCOBY pack and pour all the contents into the crock, cover and secure with string. (TIP: make sure your pH is 4.0 or lower to prevent bad bacteria and molds. You can lower the pH with more kombucha mother. Cheap pH meters will work for a while as long as you keep them calibrated.)
  4. Allow to sit on the counter out of direct sunlight for 7-14 days. Use a straw to gently push aside SCOBY to pull a sample. When it is sour enough, it is ready for flavoring and bottling. (TIP: If you see defined patches of green, brown, white or black fuzzy spots on the surface of your SCOBY, toss the entire batch and start over. The perfect kombucha fermentation temperature range is 75-85 degrees. Do not stir during fermentation. You will see an explosion of yeast as brown strands followed by them falling to the bottom as a thin new SCOBY forms on the top. It may appear cloudy at first and begin clarifying close to the end. You can use thinner cheese cloth, but risk contaminants slipping through and landing on your SCOBY. Use fabric that does not prevent the air flow needed for your surface fermentation.)
  5. Remove SCOBY and at least 1 cup of mother per gallon of new kombucha you want to make later and set aside in a clean bowl covered with a napkin.
  6. Strain the kobucha to remove large strands of yeast or pieces of SCOBY. Flavor with organic cold pressed juices of your choice starting with a cup of juice per gallon to taste.
  7. Pour into pressurized bottles (do not use glass designed for vacuum such as canning jars). Cap and allow to sit at room temperature for 2-5 days during which time a secondary fermentation will increase carbonation (it will also decrease sweetness, increase alcohol and increase yeast and form a small SCOBY – control this with refrigeration). Place in fridge to stop fermentation and enjoy! (TIP: beer bottles work but can explode if secondary fermentation goes too long. Use flip-tops, or swing-top bottles instead. They are expensive but well worth it.)

Want to keep it going without needing to buy more SCOBYs and mother? Take the SCOBY and mother you set aside in step 5 and repeat the entire process using your new SCOBY and mother! It’s that simple.

Need to replace your SCOBY and mother? We have you covered. You can order Half hill Farm’s SCOBY’s with mother through our online store or our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County.

Health benefits of kombucha: By transforming a Southern staple beverage of many meals (sweet tea) with the natural process of fermentation, you reduce your sugar intake while aiding in digestion with the introduction of organic chemicals that are increasingly missing and eliminated from packaged and processed foods. The primary organic acid in kombucha responsible for helping the body process blood sugars is the acetic acid (vinegar) you smell and taste as “sour.” Another acid that helps the body detoxify by binding to fat soluble toxins in the liver and making them water soluble and easier to flush out in urine is gluconic acid. Look up more benefits these two acids play in your health and well being. Digestion is also aided with a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria used to ferment the alcohol to various organic acids. These good bacteria help bring your gut’s biome in proper balance.

Got any questions? Leave them in comments. We are happy to help spread the culture and appreciation of fermentation, better health and well being!

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.