Finding the Right Pattern: Medicinal Herbs for Sustainable Appalachian Homesteads

A wide range of medicinal herbs grows well in Appalachia's diverse patches of soil types, slopes, sun exposures, and water supplies. For this and other reasons, cultivation and wild-harvesting of medicinal herbs is a longstanding Appalachian cultural tradition and source of income for rural people in the region. Matching suitable herbs, and a suitable marketing pattern, to a specific family farm's location, human resources, and other characteristics can be a key to both ecological and economic sustainability for the farm, its family, its local community, and its relationship to the wider world beyond Appalachia. We'll look at the role medicinal herbs have played in one North Carolina mountain homestead farm's evolving pattern of sustainability, consider when and why some specific herbs can (or might not) be a good fit for a particular farm, and note other factors to consider when seeking the "right" pattern for any homestead farm and its people.