Husband and wife duo Joanna and Trevor Mann never set out to start an herbal medicine business. But over the past two years, Walden FARMacy has grown beyond their wildest dreams.
“It grew organically out of a combination of mine and Trevor’s passions. We were always really passionate about herbal medicine for ourselves and for our family, but we never saw it as a career.”Joanna Mann, Walden FARMacy
What is Walden FARMacy?
Bessemer-based Walden FARMacy is a thriving family-run herbal medicine business. They do two main things from their home base:
1) Grow as many herbs as they can on their little permaculture farm
Trevor is all about permaculture. Joanna loves herbs. So, together, they’re a good team.
What they can’t grow, they order from a Southern herbalist and a couple of companies they like and trust.
2) Create herbal tinctures to cure what ails you
When I asked Joanna how they make sure that what they’re creating and selling is safe, here’s what she said:
“This is definitely stuff we use for ourselves. We also do a lot of research on contraindications. With a few exceptions, herbs are safe. When people are on other medications, we tell them to check with their doctor. Usually, if there’s a problem, it’s that an herb does something to make a particular medicine not work. Most herbs are beneficial to the body. There’s not much you can take that will harm you if you know what you are harvesting.”
How did Walden FARMacy begin?
Joanna started working with herbs 12 years ago. When she was in massage school, she was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and discovered that the medicines the doctor prescribed made her feel worse.
Determined to feel better, she began researching what she could do. She made changes in her diet and learned about herbs. From here, she began to take classes, workshops, and retreats.
She also did a lot of reading. Once she began making herbal medicines as a career, she began more formal study. Her mentor is Phyllis Light, who’s an herbalist with the Appalachian Center for Natural Health, based in Arab, Alabama.
When Joanna met Trevor, now her husband, he was into gardening and permaculture. For a year, he tried market gardening, but they soon discovered that the work involved is intense. It’s especially difficult when you’re trying to watch kids from home.
Joanna explained, “when the tomatoes are ready, you have to pick them that day and you have to sell them within a couple of days. It’s a lot of pressure.”
One day, Joanna “happened to find a large mushroom, and felt led to harvest and make medicine out of it.” (Remember, she was already an experienced herbal medicine practitioner at this point).
Once the medicine was ready, she posted it on Facebook, and people wanted it. She began to post other herbs they already had tinctured, and people wanted those, too.
She and Trevor began seeing this as a “much better option for our family, without the pressure to harvest and sell immediately.”
Now she reflects “We always loved doing this for ourselves. I’m not sure why it took so long for us to see it as a career path. Once we began to flow in that direction, it took off.”
Where can you find Walden FARMacy?
Getting their wares into the hands of customers is a huge part of the business. They also love educating others who are as excited about herbal medicine as they are.
1) Selling their goods all over the Birmingham area
Look for Walden FARMacy’s products in the following locations:
- Golden Temple on Southside
- Crestwood Pharmacy
- Homewood Pharmacy
- Several farmers’ markets, including Pepper Place and Lee Branch
- Arts and crafts shows, including Homestead Hollow and the Woodlawn Street Market
- Soon you’ll be able to find them at Beacon Yoga in Avondale and an as-yet-to-be-determined new location for Forest Bear Bakery
2) Sharing what they know at regional herbal conferences
Both Joanna and Trevor love to share what they know, and hope to do more workshops in the future. Here are some recent and upcoming events:
- ASAN Food and Farm Forum—hosted by Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (tincture making class)
- Deep South Herbal Conference—at Mt. Cheaha March 22-24 (intro to permaculture)
- Midsouth Women’s Herbal Conference—April 12-14 at Camp Skyline in Mentone (energy healing: chakras and herbs)