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Heartwood Forest Farm

Heartwood Forest Farm hasn't always looked like this. When we bought the property this area was an old, 40-50 year old, dead and dying, Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris planting. It was planted by the original owner for Christmas trees, which are not a popular species anymore, so they grew and grew and grew. Many died and were toppled over others, we couldn't even walk through it. Walking up the driveway was a very dark, dismal experience. You would have never known it was the same as the Maple/Beech forest that spread across the rest of the land. After much consultation with the Conservation District, a local forester, and plant biologists, we knew that they needed to be removed. We found a local company to cut all of the trees. They sold them to the local biomass company, and that afforded us enough to hire our neighbor to remove the stumps. This doesn't sound very friendly, but if you would have seen them, you too would have agreed that something should be done. A huge fire hazard. I was told that if someone tossed a cigarette out their window they could go up just like that. I didn't want to be responsible for NW Michigan's largest forest fire knowing we could have prevented it. I also learned about how these pines are now considered an invasive species. Once it was all over, it felt very destructive. The soil pH was about 5.0 on 2.5 acres. We could see what looked similar to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, better known as Kalkaska soil which is sand left by the glaciers that covered Michigan. It was hot and dry, and there were no living plants. This was about 8 years before this picture was taken. It has been a beautiful thing watching it come back to life.

I try to imagine the land before people settled here. Cedar is known for being an area where there were many Polish settlers. The town is known for the Polka Festival. I am a blend of English, German, and Irish but find myself estranged from any of my ancestors. What I try to think about is the indigenous people of the area. The Anishinaabe people. Here in Leelanau County, you will find the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The land here is wooded and rolling, and as I mentioned, a Beech/Maple forest. I imagine an untouched land that was used for hunting and maple syrup. Full of wildlife and medicine plants you would typically find in this type of forest. Hunters and gatherers would visit from all around to the area where the legends of the sleeping bear were told through stories over the generations. I honor, respect, and appreciate all of those who came to this land before me. I don't think of myself as an "owner" of this land, more of a caretaker. I have always been taught to leave things better than when you found them. Well I don't really think that I can leave any land better than when it was undisturbed like many years before my time, but I will do my best to tend this land. Community, Preservation, and Regeneration are three of our core values. If you come by, lets talk about them.

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

So, who am I and what is Heartwood Forest farm all about? It's really a long story, since I'm getting to the point in my life where I have a lot to share. I'll give you the brief intro of my journey.

I am a lifelong Michigander, growing up in Southeast Michigan, and raising my children in Goodrich. I went to college to study horticulture after years of working in the mental health field. At that time I was a single mom, and with a lot of help from family and friends, was able to do this and graduated in 2000 from MSU with a BS in Horticulture. I started my first USDA Organic Certified farm in Genesee County. Well, that was in 2001, things in the world happened and we sold the farm (not that we wanted to, but needed to). I began working at Central Michigan University in the biology department managing the greenhouse, was the botany laboratory manager, and was hired to manage the development and maintenance of the new botanical garden in the center of campus. That job was an amazing opportunity. After the botanic garden was completed and botany classes canceled, I joined my husband at our home in Cedar to continue developing my next USDA Organic Certified farm, Heartwood Forest Farm. We came up with the name due to the love of the woods and a play on the words used to represent permaculture. You could also say I use regenerative farming practices. What small organic farm doesn't? It's all words, but the farming practices I use has been proven effective over and over each year as I can see the results in the land. Not to mention also proving this by all of the inspections and visits that my farm has. The farm officially began May 1, 2014.

I have always felt connected to plants. I didn't realize this until I was working more and more with plants and people. I just thought that all humans were connected to nature just as I have always been. I am most comfortable outside and moving around. I don't hear plant voices, but I do notice things about plants that is difficult for me to verbalize. I need to touch plants every day. My family will go on and on about how I always talk about plants, and hang out with plants, or that I am late for dinner because I have plant things to do. If you are reading this, you may also be the same way! If not, I highly recommend it as communing with nature is medicine for our soul. I am grateful that my work is what it is now. I spend my days outside, playing with plants. I am interested in learning more and more about growing plants that I have never grown, inside, outside, under lights, in a hoophouse or greenhouse. It doesn't matter. It's a lifelong experiment. I do however, at the farm, focus on growing culinary and medicinal plants as well as offering education and mentoring opportunities. Physically, my body cannot keep up with the needs of the farm and have developed ways to get the jobs done anyway.

The Apothecary Farmer does not mean that I am a licensed pharmacist, or that I sell drugs. I do however grow and sell plant medicines. I won't make any claims, but as a home herbalist, I do use a lot of plants in my life so I can live a healthy lifestyle. How? By eating and drinking sensibly, mostly plants (yes, somewhat of a quote by another), and spending a lot of time in nature. I try to do the best I can. In my day to day, I grow plants, eat plants, drink plants, touch plants, smell plants. You get the idea. Apothecary by definition is also a boutique. I like that. Maybe I should call myself a boutique farmer.

Was this brief? Maybe not, maybe you want to know more. I will also be including some blog posts from a time when I was a towny, living in Mt. Pleasant and had a small city lot to grow in. That was long before hashtags and Instagram. I'll be editing and using more of those since it seems to be the language of today. The purpose of this blog will be to share stories about plants, and what is going on here at the farm. I wrote for a magazine, that went out of business, so now I feel like I need another outlet for writing. Not hashtagging all of the time like on social media, but you will see some of that! My brain is full of internal conversations about plants, so if you want to hear about them, you will be able to read about them here. You may also see some pretty pictures.

Welcome to my farm! Patti

#heartwoodforestfarm #apothecaryfarmer #herbfarmer #organicherbfarm #organicherbs

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