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.

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.

Local farm makes medicinal extracts from native mushrooms


Farmers turn to cancer-fighting – Cannon Courier – April 9, 2014

(WOODBURY, TN) Mushrooms are revered in ancient herbal medicine as a cure-all for everything from colds and flu to cancer. With recent research validating some of this ancient wisdom, a local organic farm is turning native Turkey Tail mushrooms into medicinal extracts.

Half Hill Farm is a small seven acre USDA Certified Organic farm in Woodbury, TN specializing in apples, blueberries, hops and mushrooms. But a recent cancer diagnosis for one of the owner’s 72 year old mother made mushrooms a priority.

“Cancer has a way of making you change your priorities and rethink your life routines,” said farm co-owner Vince Oropesa. Last year his mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Working with her doctors in Murfreesboro, he began providing her with extracts from a native Turkey Tail mushroom as an adjunct therapy to chemo treatments.

“She was at a stage in her health and age where the doctors left it to her whether to go through chemo,” Oropesa said. “We take it a day at a time, but she has surprised us and the doctors through every turn. She’s a real fighter.”

Months before the cancer diagnosis, Oropesa and his husband Christian Grantham began building farm infrastructure to cultivate edible mushrooms for local markets.

“When we got the news of Sandy’s diagnosis, our priorities shifted as well to research on medicinal mushrooms growing in our own back yard,” Grantham said.

What the farmers found opened their eyes to an opportunity to not only help Vince’s mother, but also many people dealing with cancer and other illnesses.

“It was a real wake up call to pay attention to what was literally growing right under our noses,” Grantham added. “Life has a way of doing that, and it’s up to us how we respond to that opportunity.”

Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) grows wild throughout Tennessee and the world. The anti-cancer properties of extracted polysaccharides (PSK) and polypeptides (PSP) from Turkey Tail mushrooms are approved cancer drugs in Japan. Private research in America has been limited because pharmaceutical companies cannot patent the results. That has prompted the U.S. government to start funding research.

In late 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a $5.4 million grant to study 4-6 gram daily doses of Turkey Tail mushroom extract on stage IV colon and lung cancer. This comes on the heels of promising National Institute of Health (NIH) research on breast cancer. The funding also follows a University of Pennsylvania study showing Turkey Tail mushroom extracts dramatically increases life expectancy for pets with cancer.

“The NIH studies alone showing enhanced Natural Killer (NK) cells and reduced tumor growth in breast cancer patients was enough for us to immediately start Vince’s mother on Turkey Tails,” Grantham said.

Since creating their mushroom extracts, Oropesa and Grantham find interest mostly from people whose illness has them searching for natural alternatives and adjunct therapies. The two say the extracts they are creating on their farm are just as effective as preventative treatment.

“We take our extracts everyday,” Grantham said. “We do Turkey Tail in our morning coffee and Reishi in our evening tea. We’re not doctors, so we try not to talk about how we feel because we don’t want to sound crazy, but it is turning into a life-long routine for us.”

The dual extraction process subjects dried mushrooms to a lengthy hot water and alcohol extraction process that takes a month to complete. The result is a 1:1 concentrated dual extract you can mix into foods or drink.

Most of the farm’s customers for extracts are people whose priorities have changed due to illness. To bring their medicinal extracts to a larger market, the two farmers are taking a page from the medicinal marijuana industry and are infusing their product in food.


Red Reishi Mushroom 1:1 dual extract – available as gifts and soon as infused chocolates from our farm’s online store.

“Most people who aren’t sick don’t quiet understand what to do with our extracts, and that’s OK,” Oropesa said. “But everybody understands chocolate, and most eat them before we have a chance to tell them how good it is for them.”

Half Hill Farm offers Spring and Fall workshops on growing your own edible and medicinal mushrooms on oak logs as well as how to make your own extracts. Their mushroom extracts and infused chocolates will be available online soon.

PURCHASE NOW: Buy our Turkey Tail or Red Reishi extracts online.

Learn more:

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. 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. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. These food products were made in a private home not licensed or inspected.

Red Reishi mushroom dual extract tincture

Here’s a look at our label for 100 and 200 ml bottles of Half Hill Farm’s Red Reishi mushroom 1:1 dual extract, a blend of hot water and alcohol extractions of organic Ganoderma lucidum in premium Miron ultraviolet glass.

Our first 29 of our first 100 ml bottles are now available as gifts to those who give $50 or more to our outhouse & workshop shelter project. Your generous gift will also reconnect people to a rural farm experience while changing the way people think about their food and health!

PURCHASE NOW: Buy our Turkey Tail or Red Reishi mushroom 1:1 dual extracts online. Here are links to research of benefits to using dual extracts of Reishi and Turkey Tail.

Here’s our Red Reishi 1:1 dual extract without the label: chocolate, pestled Red Pepper flakes, cinnamon and a daily dose of extract in every bite.

They barely lasted a day. Chocolate from the heart, for the heart! We can’t wait for you to try it.

Turkey Tail mushrooms and our personal fight against cancer

Trametes Versicolor growing on a down tree at Half Hill Farm.

Just before Thanksgiving, Vince’s mother Sandy went to the hospital with what was believed to be pneumonia. It was determined after a few restless days of testing that she had stage IV non-small cell lung cancer and was quickly put on chemotherapy.

The diagnosis was abrupt and shocking. At 71 years of age, the prognosis is also very uncertain. Despite this, Sandy takes one day at a time with lots of family support, focused treatment and hopefully a little extra help from our own backyard.

Sandy’s primary treatment is carboplatin with thoracentesis as needed to remove a build up of fluid outside her lungs caused by the cancer. After speaking with her oncologist about our research into mushrooms, Vince convinced his mom to take a twice daily dose of Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes or Coriolus Versicolor) starting with her first treatment.

Turkey Tails are a common mushroom that grows throughout the woods of Tennessee and all over the world. Our interest in the science behind the anti-viral and anti-cancer properties of Turkey Tails began shortly after seeing preliminary clinical trial results and an anecdotal story in a TED lecture last year by mycologist Paul Stamets. In the last two minutes of the speech, Stamets described his 84 year old mother’s successful fight against stage IV breast cancer that included taking Turkey Tail mushrooms. She was a deeply religious person who hadn’t been to the doctor since 1968. According to Stamets, it was the second worst case of stage IV breast cancer her doctor had ever seen, and she was given three months to live. She’s now cancer free.

The early clinical trial data and Paul’s hopeful story resonated, and Vince didn’t hesitate to start his mother on Turkey Tails. At the same time, we began cultivating this amazing mushroom on our farm with a deeper sense of purpose.

We realize mushrooms aren’t a cure for cancer. Less is known about effects of Turkey Tails on stage IV cancers, but we know it will be the very best way we can help her body heal naturally with virtually no side effects or interference with her primary treatment. Below is some of the science behind how Turkey Tails (used with chemo or radiation) significantly enhance the body’s natural defense against cancer cells and extend disease free survival.

Research: New studies of Turkey Tails here in the U.S. are focused on the mushroom’s high percentage of protein bound polysaccharide (PSK) concentrations and how they help the body fight cancer cells.

Given these results, why aren’t Turkey Tail mushrooms a common adjunct therapy in the United States? What we discovered is using Turkey Tails is still viewed as an alternative medicine by most professional health care providers in the U.S.. Due to its widely known medicinal properties, its use in medicine cannot be patented which limits its commercial appeal for major drug companies. That often leaves finding and researching this treatment option up to patients. That may soon change thanks to new government-funded clinical trial research from the National Institute of Health’s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

How to take Turkey Tail mushrooms: The most popular way to take Turkey Tail mushrooms is in a capsule, but the body has a hard time digesting the mushroom’s tough chitinous cellular structure (which is why you don’t see recipes for eating it). Capsules are easy to manufacture using ground mycelium grown on rice or grain. The best way to realize the full spectrum of benefits is by taking a decoction (a lengthy hot water extraction to concentrate water soluble polysaccharides and other beneficial compounds). Tinctures are alcohol extractions of adaptogenic triterpenoids. The better quality extract blends both the decoction and tincture in a dual extraction. This is also the preferred method of botanical extraction by ethnobotanists and scientists conducting tests and trials. Capsules that simply grind this mushroom into powder are not extracts and can contain ground up rice used to grow the mycelium. Because we could not find a quality product we trusted with our own mother, we created a Turkey Tail mushroom dual extract using USDA certified organic mushrooms grown on our farm, USDA certified organic USP alcohol (pharmaceutical grade) and distilled water just like the standardized method outlined in studies. You can now buy our Turkey Tail, Red Reishi, Chaga, or Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts online and expect the exact same level of quality and care.

Read more on Half Hill Farm’s mushroom dual extracts:

See more of our products we’ve developed and that have been used successfully by customers since this post:

DISCLAIMER: 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. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.