“I believe food is your medicine,” says Elise Higley, who with her husband, Jeff, owns and operates Oshala Farm in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. “Whatever you put in your body has a reaction.”
Since 2013, the Higleys, both California transplants, have been able to combine Elise’s knowledge and interest in Western Herbalism with Jeff’s decades-long background in organic farming to grow a variety of fresh and dried herbs, wellness teas, body products, honeys, vinegars and infused oils. They grow vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts, too. The 113-acre property includes 53 acres of farm fields and 60 acres in mixed woodland. About 25 acres are in production this year.
“We are at the size where we can care, really care for, and nurture our plants,” says Elise. “We want to be a steward of the land. We are really concerned about the health of our soil.” With a turn-of-the-20th-century farmhouse and barn, a greenhouse and other outbuildings,
Oshala Farm also includes a new herb-drying barn that the couple was able to purchase with monies raised in a Kickstarter campaign. “It’s always a humbling experience to ask for help,” Elise says of the successful fundraiser. “It was really amazing to have so many people from the community want to help us.” With about 200 people donating to the cause, the Higleys raised the $26,000 needed to build the barn. “It was in full force pretty quickly,” Elise says.
“When we started farming on a full-time basis we couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find herbs grown in the U.S.,” Elise says, adding that imported herbs are often mislabeled and of poor quality. In addition, herbs and spices are radiated as part of a sterilization process when they pass through customs. Oshala Farm sells their herbs and spices to wholesale companies, including Pacific Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs. The farm also sells its line of nine different tea blends as well as its organic herbs at several Rogue Valley retail locations.
“It feels good to purchase products from people who are value-driven, not just profit-driven,” she says, when asked about the importance of buying produce from a local farm. Elise is currently working on the Rogue Valley Grown Project, a collective of local farmers who want to increase their wholesale sales by making restaurants and markets more aware of the value of buying and selling locally-grown food. The Higleys also enjoy teaching about organic farming, and they host students from the Rogue Farm Corps/Farm Next Program, for nine-month hands-on training programs.
As for goals for Oshala Farm, Elise mentions that she and Jeff are looking to increase their seed production, explaining that it will not only save them money but it will also ensure that they grow plants that are well acclimated to their region and growing conditions. Elise laughs when she adds, “Plus, when you build one herb dryer, you quickly realize you need another one!”
You can connect with Jeff and Elise at Oshala Farm on their Facebook page.
Images: Oshala Farm; The Local Dish