Our garden at White Oak Pastures is a little messy. We battle weeds from April through November and are always on the hunt for whatever pest of the week is trying to take out our cabbage crop, or tomato crop, or okra crop. In the world of farming and especially organic farming, the question of value sits behind many of the decisions that are made daily. How many carrots will I lose if I don’t weed this patch in the next couple days? Will mounding dirt around the base of those broccoli plants make a more successful broccoli harvest? Will the radishes split if I wait to harvest them until next week? I don’t always know the definitive answer, although sometimes I’m closer to right than others. Yet, if I did always know the right answers that might make the challenging job of an organic gardener a very boring one.
The question for this year is: Can we add value to White Oak Pastures by growing more herbs? While I’m not positive of the answer to this question, I have a feeling that it is yes.
We have always grown herbs at White Oak Pastures. When I first arrived in the summer of 2017 the garden was teeming with basil, oregano, and garlic chives, among others. We provided fresh herbs to the White Oak Pastures General Store and our On-Farm Restaurant. This past growing season, we planted even more herbs including Thai basil, lemon basil, rosemary, dill, and parsley. We continued to supply the General Store and Restaurant, as well as the pollinating bees and butterflies who stopped by. Coming into this new planting season, the garden team and I talked about things we were excited about growing again, and new things we were interested in growing. Across the board, herbs piqued our interest.
Borage, skullcap, roselle, and many more things I had never even heard of, stuck out in seed magazines. Chamomile, thyme, and lavender were things we wanted to try to grow because of their beauty and beneficial effects to the vegetables that would be planted around them. More than this, however, we were looking for a way to create more products of tangible value that could be of interest to not only the customers of White Oak Pastures but also the other departments of White Oak Pastures. We decided that we were capable of and excited about growing some of the value for White Oak Pastures value-added products.
For 2019, we have three main goals for our herb growth: to grow and dry products that can be used in our tallow department, to grow and dry herbs in bulk for our On-Farm Restaurant, and to grow and dry herbs for tea blends to sell in the White Oak Pastures General Store. For the tallow department, we will be supplying comfrey, rosemary, calendula, chamomile, and hibiscus. For the On-Farm Restaurant, we will be supplying basil, bay leaves, dill, and parsley, among others. Finally, we will be creating several tea blends including a bedtime tea, a relaxation tea, and an energizing tea.
In addition to the benefits that our herbs can add to products for our customers and other White Oak Pastures departments, we are confident that these additional companion plants can only help our plentiful and messy garden.
- Calendula has anti-inflammatory properties for the skin, and it can also repel pests like nematodes.
- Fresh basil is a delicious addition to any pasta sauce or as a pesto, and it is even said to make tomatoes taste better just by being planted near them.
- Fresh dill can be added to summer cucumbers to make some amazing pickles, and in a garden, it attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and butterflies.
We hope that the next time you visit White Oak Pastures you look for our teas in the General Store or ask about the new herb infused tallow products, or ask to tour our messy little garden. We are proud of it and proud of what it produces. The hope is that you, too, find that all those herbs really are adding value to products we care deeply about.