Where we grow, how we grow
Root Digger Herb Farm is situated near what is now known as Tumwater, Washington on colonized land of the Chehalis, Cowlitz, and Nisqually tribes. The farm was started in 2019 by Ben Ash with the dream of healing people and the land.
We go beyond certified organic requirements to grow vibrant and potent herbs while considering all who stand to benefit from our choices - human and other. Giving back to the land that supports the farm is foundational. Many of the amendments used on the farm are made here and those that are not are approved for use in organic agriculture.
Farming on the small side allows for more attention and observation while reducing our reliance on machines and fossil fuels. By minimizing tillage, applying deep mulch, and planting for diversity we are attempting to mimic nature and store carbon. About one third of the property is maintained as native forest habitat and our homestead is designed to include forage for pollinators and other critters. This makes for happy farmers, plants, microbes, and pollinators. We think this makes better medicine too!
Why buy from small local growers?
Many of us understand the benefit of buying our food locally, the same and more goes for herbs. The quality of botanicals traded on the global market and sold by large distributors is often a far cry from hand-harvested, hand-processed herbs from domestic growers.
From the moment of harvest herbs begin to lose their potency. It is imperative to dry them rapidly and store them properly. Some harvesting practices that lead to lower quality include:
Field drying - Herbs are cut a left to dry in the field under the sun. UV radiation destroys constituents and fades color.
Handling large quantities - Large piles of herbs can begin heat up and begin composting themselves. Heat degrades the quality of herbs and along with moisture, is a breeding ground for bacterial contaminants.
Machine harvesting - Besides being carbon intensive, machines are less adept at harvesting for peak potency. They are also rougher on the crop and soil than human hands. Harvesting at scale means an entire field may be harvested on the same day even if part of the field was immature or overmature.
Once harvested and dried the many herbs will be sent to a processor to be cut and sifted - flowers, leaves and stems are chopped by a machine to a consistent size. This is where you will really notice the difference. Delicate blossoms are often pulverized in this process and thick, pithy stems and heat lower the overall potency.
As the harvest is conglomerated, processed, and shipped across borders it changes hands many times and may be stored in unideal conditions becoming exposed to more heat, humidity and even pests. To reduce the risk of biological contamination due to mishandling, most imported herbs are heat treated or irradiated. By the time they are shipped to you or your local co-op, it may be years since they were harvested.
We don't mean to keep you from buying herbs grown internationally. There are many producers taking care of the planet and their employees while growing vibrant medicine for export. We recommend looking for organic or FairWild certifications or sellers who have direct trade relationships with their producers.
We do hope you will look to connect with producers in your local area. We need your support!