Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Gaia Herb farm is a botanical treasure. I have wanted to visit and explore the farm at Gaia Herbs for so many years, and finally got the chance to spend a day touring the entire facility last week! From the laboratory to the greenhouses to the stunning farm fields – this was like a dream come true. I’m so thrilled to be working in partnership with Gaia Herbs this year, and as an herbal brand I’ve admired and used personally and professionally for several years, the opportunity to visit their facility and get an in depth look into their process was incredibly inspiring.
After spending three days in Black Mountain, NC attending the Medicines from the Earth conference with my friend Renee, we took an extra day to visit Gaia Herbs headquarters in Brevard, NC. Greeted with the warmest of welcomes, we were ushered into their greenhouses and cozy offices and given a chance to view some amazing video’s and presentations about all of the changes, advances, and new happenings for this innovative brand. Not only are they rolling out a beautiful educational website, they’re curating new formulas with some of the highest quality herbs grown in the US including their nootropic line, and their full spectrum hemp extract. With a 350 acre farm, multiple greenhouses and a state of the art laboratory, Gaia Herbs is truly leading the way in plant innovation and sustainability, and creating some of the absolute best herbal products on the market today.
The Gaia Herbs Organic Farm
Over 45 different species of herbs are grown on the farm every year, totaling over 5 million individual plants on this 350 acre space. Growing in harmony with the land and fed by nearby clear mountain waters, the farm is absolutely stunning. The land is blanketed in rich alluvial soil, tended through organic methods and time honored traditions. The farm has been certified organic since 1997 by the Oregon Tilth, and enriched with biodynamic compost. Almost all of the herbs are harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality, every season. And if you’ve ever tended a garden, you’ll know the connection hand harvesting infuses into soul. American skullcap, ashwagandha, astragalus, california poppy, chinese skullcap, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, feverfew, gotu kola, grindelia, holy basil, lemon balm, nettle oats, parsley, passionflower, valerian, and vervain…all make a home here at Gaia Herb farm, and find their way into your homes and medicine cabinets through what I can only describe as botanical manufacturing/transformation perfection.
I entered the farm down a long path lined with hawthorn and ginkgo trees, intentionally planted to represent the importance of the heart and the mind. Not only are these beautiful trees symbolic of the vision that went into the very roots of the farm, they provide beautiful medicine every year, harvested at the peak of their medicinal potency. The folks at Gaia herbs pay meticulous attention to detail, and when the hawthorn leaves and berries are just about to reach their peak, they are tested every day until they are at the ideal peak of medicinal potency (and the farmers and herbalists there can tell just by looking at them when it’s the perfect time to harvest). They’ll wait until it’s reached perfection, and hand harvest to avoid the thorns on the delicate branches. This attention to detail is one of the many reasons I admire Gaia Herbs. We may feel a little disconnected from our plant allies when we’re taking a pill or a tincture every day – but I know for sure that every single plant harvested here is tenderly observed with that human + plant connection before it ever goes into the bottle. And in a time of mass production and disconnect from our source, that’s a pretty powerful practice.
Hawthorn has always been one of my favorite herbal allies. Growing tall and beautiful, when you get too close you’ll notice a slew of large, sharp thorns protecting the branches, covered in beautiful gentle leaves. This is reflective in hawthorn’s powerful energetic medicine, too. An ally for the heart, it’s a cardiovascular tonic as well as an energetic heart support, while offering permission to set up boundaries and protect your space (and your heart). Hawthorn is a perfect example of a growing, living pant medicine that supports our own species in a similar way of it’s own growth. Every herb has a personality and characteristics that are present in the medicine. I love how the herbalists and farmers at Gaia herbs speak to that, and admire the subtleties in each and every plant they grow.
Strolling further down the gravel drive, we stop at the greenhouses that line the road before we enter the growing fields. Filled with tomatoes, borage and burdock, this is the kind of space that makes my summer heart sing. Teeming with life. Abundant with fragrance and little pollenating bees. It’s impossible to keep my hands off of them.
Crossing the creek, we enter the expanse of the growing fields, and it takes my breath away to see the raw beauty of the soil, the mountains, the lush fields, and those old, old tractors. I feel immediately like things are done slower here. There’s an intentional, and expert energy that surrounds the space. Some fields have been freshly harvested, and we can all smell the aroma of lemon balm wafting through the farm, as this was just recently harvested and is in their drying chambers. The rows and rows of echinacea are lush and green, about to be in a full, glorious, purple bloom in a matter of weeks. As I wander through the rows, the soil underneath my feet is soft and aerated, teeming with little bugs and worms. I spent so much extra time in the blooming fields of valerian, taking it all in, and overwhelmed with a sense of calm and pure gratitude for what Gaia Herbs is doing in the world. The entire expanse of the farm is invigorating with energy and life. It’s a palpable energy, and is a living extension of their laboratory, right up the hill. Everything grown here is quality control tested from start to finish, while still maintaining the purity, potency and integrity of the original plant.
The Gaia Herbs Greenhouse
This is where it all begins. Hundreds of thousands of little seeds are planted in starter trays every winter, and sprout into life in this beautiful glass space (it’s no wonder these places are called a “nursery”). In the spring, they’re taken out in to the farm and planted in their beds. The greenhouses are also an experimental space for Gaia’s scientist and farmers to try new things. These rows are all alive with bacopa, which is super amazing! Bacopa monnieri is tricky to grow, and often comes from not so great growing conditions with a lot of environmental pollution, or ditches. When Gaia Herbs decided they wanted to include bacopa in their Nootropic formulas, they figured out a way to grow it organically, off the ground, and in a thriving, healthy environment. Another testament to their dedication to using the highest quality ingredients in every single formula, no matter how much extra effort the process may be.
Since the beginning of the farm twenty years ago, the folks at Gaia have maintained a commitment to sustainability, regenerative farming practices, and pollinator prosperity. Why is this important? Because as collective stewards of the planet, and providers of botanical medicines internationally, it’s our responsibility to leave the land in better condition than we found it, and provide an environmental prosperity to future generations. Every year, they publish a sustainability report that documents their practices and commitments to encourage biodiversity, agroforestry, watershed health, recycling and waste reduction, and even their purposeful attention to employee wellbeing. They are also a certified B-Corporation, a for-profit company that meets the highest level of third party verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Every decision made at Gaia Herbs is purposeful, and it’s abundantly clear in every seed that’s planted, and every product they create.
I’m so grateful to be working with Gaia Herbs this year, and visiting the farm this week was absolutely amazing. I’m so inspired by all that they’re doing, and will always use and recommend with confidence every product created by the Gaia herbs team. Transparency is so important to me as an herbalist and a nutritionist. I want to see and be assured that what I’m using and recommending is as pure and sustainably made as possible. And there’s no doubts about that with Gaia Herbs’ products. If you haven’t experienced trying the formulas and single herbal extracts or phytocaps from Gaia herbs, hop on over to their website and explore their expansive collection of expertly created herbal products. You’ll feel a special connection right away.
Portrait photos of Lindsay by Renee Byrd