Abbey Gardens to study medicinal herbs
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | April 3, 2014
John Patterson was having a conversation with his naturopath when he found out that most of the herbal medicines on the market are imported to Canada from other places
After learning this, the founder of Abbey Gardens decided it might be worth trying to change that
"It struck me that we should explore what could be grown by way of herbs in Haliburton County for culinary and medicinal purposes," said Patterson.
Recently, Abbey Gardens was successful in obtaining funding to undertake a $20,000 feasibility study to find out whether or not a new market could emerge in Haliburton County
"We just received word in March that we could move ahead," said Heather Reid, director of operations and strategic initiatives
The local organization received $15,000 through the Agricultural Adaptation Council's Growing Forward 2 program and $5,000 from the Haliburton County Development Corporation's business planning fund
"I think the opportunity is in a couple of places," said Reid. "One is for Abbey Gardens, but it's also for the larger growing community."
Reid said the purpose of the study is to "identify and assess medicinal herb varieties that can be produced" in Haliburton County's climate.
It will also look at the Canadian medicinal herb market and determine what the demand is for the product, as well as the types of medicinal products that could come from those herbs.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, over 4,000 medicinal herbs grow naturally or are under cultivation in Canada. By utilizing a greenhouse, the number could be even higher than that.
Should the project move to the second phase, partners from around the county would take on the task of growing the herbs, said Reid. The Haliburton County Farmers' Association, Hunter Creek Farms, and Bedrock and Brambles have expressed support for the project and recently met with the consultant hired to coordinate the study.
Reid said if all goes according to plan, the study will be completed within the next eight weeks.
"It's really an effort to sort of find that magical place where the market, our climate and herbs all come together.
That work is being done in advance of this year's season so we can potentially have some pilot sites actually growing this season."
The next phase would look at the implementation of the project. Involving other growers and the local growing process would be part of that, explained Reid.
Should it get that far, the plan would be to house a processing facility at Abbey Gardens.
According to Reid's letter of support to local councils, "Abbey Gardens aspires to become a centre of excellence for the production and processing of medicinal herbs in northern Ontario."
Back in October, Reid initially thought of herbs as mainly being "leafy green plants," however there's a possibility that native plants in the area could contain medicinal qualities.
"There may be things that are already growing natively that can be harvested... for the purpose of their medicinal value."
She confirmed that medical marijuana would not be part of this project.
Once the results of the study are ready, the information will be presented at a public event.
"That's to share what we learned and in an ideal world, set up some of the pilot sites and move into the second phase."
Patterson is equally as excited about the direction this project could take.
"I believe that once we get the research done, there will be other growers beyond Abbey Gardens who will also be able to grow herbs on a larger scale," he said
Anyone with knowledge of medicinal herbs and an interest in the project can contact Reid at 705-754-4769.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander and somehow also finds time to volunteer all over the place. You might have heard him on Go With the Flow with Mark and Mo on Canoe Radio (he’s Mark, obviously), and you might have seen him at the local bowling lanes working up a sweat. Mark probably understands technology more than most of us at The Highlander, so be sure to follow him on Twitter for news updates and thoughts as he’s out and about.