Lately I’ve had a yearning to live an earthier, more grounded life. I live in this beautiful place surrounded by mountains and fields and I want to explore it, get to know it. Since I’m always curious about what I can find to eat, foraging for wild edible plants seemed like a good place to start. I began searching for mushroom foraging classes near me and that’s when I found Fox Haven Organic Farm. Unfortunately, their very popular mushroom foraging class was sold out, but I looked through the list of upcoming events and found a whole new world of education to help me connect with nature.
Situated on 730 acres of land along the Catoctin Creek in Jefferson Maryland, Fox Haven Farm, Learning Center, and Ecological Retreat is a non-profit organization offering classes for both adults and children. You can learn about foraging for wild edible plants, herbalism, fermenting beverages like kombucha, and bee keeping. There are also classes in wilderness training, fire making, natural plant dying—all useful skills for homesteading.
I may not be a homesteader, but I do want more of those skills in my life. So I started signing up for one class after another. There are many more classes available than I have mentioned here, including meditation and yoga, so go to the Fox Haven Farm website and see what inspires you.
A great place to start would be one of the monthly Herb Garden Tour and Tea Tastings. Herbalist Ashley Hoffman leads a tour through Fox Haven’s herb garden, giving an overview of a selection of herbs with a description of their medicinal qualities and tips on how to use them. Participants can sample tea made from some of the herbs and you might be surprised by the range of flavors and aromas. Some are very tasty, while others can take some getting used to.
Each month the garden tour explores a different topic. I joined a tour in August that focused on the endocrine system and six herbs that can benefit the endocrine system in various ways. It was a lively and interactive discussion of the unique properties of each plant.
We were each equipped with a mug to sample tea along the way. Passionflower tea, made from the leaves and stems of the vine, may sound exotic and floral but the tea has a mild bean-like flavor. Lemon balm and tulsi were both delicious. Lemon balm tea is calming and uplifting with a bright citrusy flavor. Tulsi, also called holy basil, makes a fragrant, spicy tea that is is high in phenolic compounds and antioxidants.
If this piques your interest in herbalism, Fox Haven’s Herb CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a membership that includes a monthly allotment of seasonal herbs and education on how to utilize them. There are three pickup locations in Maryland: Jefferson, Baltimore, and College Park.
Thanks to what I’ve learned at Fox Haven, I’ve changed the way that I garden. To the possible dismay of my neighbors, I have decided that some weeds get to stay. After all, a weed is just a plant growing where it is unwanted. I now embrace the dandelions, wild violets, plantain, and chickweed. It feels both cavalier and empowering to collect wild violet leaves from my yard and then actually consume them. Someday, I might even work up the courage to enjoy a homegrown dandelion and plantain salad.
How wonderful it has been to discover this world of foraging, herbal medicine, and self-sufficient living. In a time when many things can feel artificial and unauthentic, it is nice to know that a place like this exists. I was surprised and inspired to meet so many people who were already using herbalism and fermentation in their daily lives. What seemed novel and adventurous to me is actually a natural way of living. Clearly not everyone has lost their connection to Mother Earth, and for those of us that had, a place like Fox Haven can help reestablish that connection.
Fox Haven Farm also serves as an ecological retreat center, with event and meeting spaces. The three renovated farm houses are available to rent for group retreats or getaways with friends and family.