Lorri Bura and Rich Steinhoff graduated from OGS’s Farm Beginnings®, our year-long farmer business training program, in 2016. They are th
e co-owners of GreenHeart Gardens, a medicinal herb farm and business in Candler, NC. During the class, they were interested in learning how to make their medicinal herb growing a more viable business that provides them with some income and serves the public through education. “My gardens have gradually gotten bigger and bigger, and then two years ago I began selling some of my harvest. We have a meadow of about six acres, five of which are farmable; I would really like to expand. I need help with planning and getting help,” Lorri shared with us when they applied to the program.
During the first part of class, we ask each participant to investigate why they want to farm. This process of understanding your values and expected outcomes is written as a Holistic Goal that will drive decision making on the farm. One of Lorri and Rich’s Holistic Goals stated, “We will continue to enhance our relationship while expanding the use of our land to generate income and offer refuge and healing to our community in a manner that supports us physically, spiritually, and emotionally.”
Lorri and Rich are on the path to profitability by expanding their farm’s growing capacity, but they also want to incorporate public service as a component of their farm dream. In early 2017, they formed Vets Farmacy, a 501(c)3 organization.
Vets Farmacy creates a place for veterans to come and work in the gardens, learn trade skills, and connect with land and plants in a way that is regenerative. The Farmacy’s mission states: “To train Veterans to be Profitable, Sustainable, Organic Farmers.” Veterans are paid while they learn how to become independent farmers of medicinal herbs. According to Lorri, “I had a vision of people coming here to help and learn about the plants and the medicine they make.” In 2015, she went to the Veterans Restoration Headquarters and started working with a group of homeless vets that live there. “I would pick them up, feed them, teach them about the weeds we were picking and pay them. We hand weeded and dug the beds which equal about an acre,” explained Lorri.
Lorri has also been cultivating buyer relationships since she participated in Farm Beginnings and has been committed to continuing her education. She has been studying with Margaret Bloomquist and Craig Mauney of NC Extension Service at the Mills River Research Station, focusing on wildcrafted herbs from the woodlands as part of the Woodland Stewards Group. Her contract with King Bio has added new items, and her herbs will be in the new Fifth Season store in the Asheville Market shopping center on South Tunnel Road. Fifth Season will hopefully put them in all five stores next year. She is also working with local tea company Asheville Tea, Red Moon Herbs, the French Broad Food Coop, and several local herbalists. Her farm also received Organic Certification last year on all 20 acres with 45 specific crops listed as cultivated or wild crafted. She will being adding another 30 or so this year.
According to Lorri, “I learned more of the business end and how to plan for profit [with Farm Beginnings]. The Organic Growers School and their Farm Beginnings Program has helped me become a profitable, sustainable, organic farmer. I learned information from soil management to spreadsheets. Instruction was in the classroom along with visiting various farms. Training was very cost effective.”
Lorri has a deep passion for plants and gardening that was inspired by her recovery from a childhood illness and her Grandma Rosie. This underlies her commitment to sustainable, organic agriculture with a healing and educational focus. “It is important to be respectful of nature, and I firmly believe that these practices increase the strength of the plants which in turn increases the amount of ‘medicine’ the plant is willing to share. I sit with the seeds before planting to infuse them with my energies and let them know what I expect to use them for. I sing to them as they pop up and grow and thank them when I harvest. I believe they have a consciousness and understand my intentions. I get lost in the gardens and what I think is two hours turns into five or six. I think about the plants when I sleep and can’t wait for the morning frost to evaporate so I can go and harvest.”
We commend Lorri and Rich on GreenHeart Gardens growth over this past year and look forward to more success, stories, and herbs!
Article written by Nicole Delcogliano, Farmer Programs Director at Organic Growers School