Biodynamics Now Podcast! Episode 012 Jean Giblette and Peg Shafer on The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

Our collective experience of the past sixty years has revealed long-term damage resulting from the industrialization of three necessities: education, food, and medicine. We are now at an impasse: the food makes us sick, the medicine fails to restore our health, and a fog of propaganda obscures the solutions to our problems.

Jean Giblette

Our interview is with leading Chinese medicine herbalists Jean Giblette and Peg Shafer. Jean, a medicinal plant grower, teacher and investigator, is the founder of High Falls Gardens, Peg Shafer, an accomplished plant worker and teacher, is the author of The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm. With three decades of combined domestic herb-farming experience, Giblette and Schafer believe that sustainable production of East Asian herbs in the U.S. has the potential to benefit both local producers and practitioners.

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The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm is the first cultivation guide of its kind, and presents invaluable information for growers interested in producing high-quality efficacious herbs in all climates of the US, with the historical connectedness of ancient practitioners.

It has become increasingly important—especially as the market for herbal medicine continues to grow—that we transition to local and domestic medicinal cultivation. Increasingly there are concerns in regards to not only the quality but the purity of imported herbs, and wild herbs picked for medicinal purposes are ever more endangered than in past years both at home and abroad.

Peg Schafer, longtime grower and teacher, guides readers with information on propagating, cultivating, and harvesting Chinese herbs, and presents fascinating new scientific data that reveal the age-old wisdom of nature and the traditional systems of Chinese medicine. Through 79 detailed herb profiles—all tested and trialed on Schafer’s certified organic farm—Schafer offers easy-to-follow information, suitable for both growers and practitioners, for growing efficacious wild-simulated herbs. Also included is important information on species conservation, crop integration, and how to avoid the introduction of invasive species. Sidebars on traditional medicinal uses for each herb and delicious recipes are also featured throughout.

Vegetable and CSA farmers will find this book of great interest for adding value-added crops to their repertoire, and beginner growers looking to incorporate medicinals into their gardens will find this an invaluable guide to understanding where herbal medicine comes from, and will make eating-your-medicine more accessible than ever. <Source: Chelsea Green Publishing>

Peg Schafer is recognized as one of the pioneers and leaders in the field of the cultivation of Asian herbs. After more than fifteen years of commercial herb cultivation and research at the Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm in Petaluma, California, Schafer has distilled her findings into a guide for growers and practitioners of Chinese medicine. Schafer has played an influential role in establishing a network of organizations including Fu Tian Herbs, the first company in the United States to solely offer certified organic, domestically grown Chinese herbs (which she-co-founded), The Sonoma County Herb Association, and The Medicinal Herb Consortium. Along with offering seed and field-grown herbs, Schafer’s own Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm operates as an experimental farm to investigate herb cultivation and aid herb conservation. Its internship program gives people hands-on knowledge experience in all aspects of growing and harvesting Chinese herbs.

We need to remember our natural heritage. Anywhere on earth at any time in history, plants have surrounded us. They produce and inhabit the air we breathe, they provide our food including animal products, as bacteria they colonize our entire digestive tract and enable us to assimilate what we have eaten, and populate the pores of our skin to repel disease organisms. We humans evolved along with our food and medicine; sixty or six thousand years cannot change our dependence on plants.

Plants mediate our entire existence on this planet. Only hubris persuades us that human artiface can improve the ability of the plants to nourish or to heal. But the wings of Icarus are melting, our downfall is imminent. Now our best hope for survival is to study the long ancestral record, to re-learn to choose and combine a wide variety of whole foods, and to restore our lands to the biodiversity that gives plants their full complement of nutrients and their potency as agents for our health. – Jean Giblette

Jean Giblette directs High Falls Gardens (HFG), a farm-based, nonprofit enterprise founded in 1993 to advance the practice of traditional medicine in North America through cultivation and study of Asian medicinal plants. HFG’s national Botanical Studies program supports the College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and their efforts to broaden clinical herbal studies with whole-plant access and related subjects. Activities include distribution of seeds and plants, lectures, internships, field workshops, research, publications and teacher training. Jean coordinates the steering committee of the Medicinal Herb Consortium, five growers associations in different states working together to develop domestic production of Asian herbs. A contributing author of Mending the Web of Life: Chinese Medicine and Species Conservation, she has also co-authored papers in the last two New Crops volumes. Since 1994 she has studied Chinese Herbal Medicine with Jeffrey C. Yuen in New York City.

Jean Giblette has grown Asian medicinal botanicals at High Falls Gardens, her mid-Hudson Valley farm, since 1994. She is also president of High Falls Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to research, education and conservation of medicinal plants. The Foundation’s national Botanical Studies program supports the Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the USA and their efforts to broaden clinical herbal studies with live plant access and related topics. Activities include distribution of seeds and plants, lectures, internships, field workshops, research, publications, and teacher training. The farm cooperates with researchers, growers and Oriental Medicine professionals nationwide to develop domestic production of Asian herbs, and maintains a direct-marketing website, LocalHerbs.org. Jean is a contributing author of Mending the Web of Life: Chinese Medicine and Species Conservation, has coauthored papers in the last two New Crops volumes published by Purdue University, is a member of the American Council for Medicinally Active Plants, and was appointed to the Crop Germplasm Committee for Medicinal and Essential Oil Crops of the USDA’s National Plant Germplasm System. Since 1994 she has studied Chinese Herbal Medicine with Jeffrey C. Yuen in New York City.

“Practitioners—and their patients—can benefit from the freshness and quality control that are available when aligning with domestic producers,” explains Schafer. For farmers, “a cooperative production system can avoid herbal fads, overproduction, and boom-and-bust cycles that have plagued medicinal herb growers in the past,” Giblette adds. Distribution networks facilitate by Giblette and Shafer  allow farmers to invest in new herb crops with confidence. Essentially, they want to encourage cooperation among growers, herbal sourcing and quality specialists, practitioners, and consumers of herbal medicine to develop the sustainable production of locally-sourced medicinal herbs. This cooperation is an essential part of protecting the integrity of the field of herbology.

2 thoughts on “Biodynamics Now Podcast! Episode 012 Jean Giblette and Peg Shafer on The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

  1. Allan, another great presentation!
    Bravo to two courageous, amazing herbalists! I especially liked the comments on needing biodiversity especially in the light of climate change and very much appreciate the comments on the need for cooperative efforts.
    (….and I definitely agree….I don’t use a microwave to preserve my herbs either!)
    Thanks!

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