Sustainability has become a buzzword, something brands claim they’re doing to help protect the planet, preserve natural resources, and lower impact on climate change. It’s great to see big brands taking an interest in being more sustainable, because every positive action counts, but at Gaia Herbs®, we’ve been walking the walk for decades, and it all starts on the Gaia Farm in North Carolina.
If you’re a longtime Gaia fan, you know about the Gaia Farm, a “living laboratory” for many of the herbs we use in our formulations. At the farm, we nurture and observe each plant, allowing it to flourish in the sun until the right moment to harvest. By mirroring the growing conditions of Nature, we ensure the purity, potency, and integrity of each plant — and set standards for health, sustainable agricultural practices.
“When you think about a sustainable system, it’s a closed loop. You’re putting back what you’re taking out,” says Kate Renner, farm manager at Gaia Herbs. “We implement a lot of practices that put more into the land than what we’re taking out … through regenerative organic practices, we are striving to achieve that.”
Typically, the farm team grows between 20 to 25 different kinds of herbs and 100 varieties of vegetables on the farm in a year, but they also harvest seeds. “A big part of keeping the Gaia story and the genetics and things that [impact] purity and potency is the seed saving initiative,” says Renner. Seed saving is exactly what it sounds like; saving seeds from plants to be planted the next year, preserving the genetic makeup and potency.
The farm team listens to Mother Nature when planting and harvesting and can quickly take a plant from the ground to the lab. “We can utilize our lab to back our harvesting processes with science,” explains Renner. “Our Echinacea root, Valerian root, Ginkgo, and Hawthorn are examples of herbs we will send to our lab to be analyzed first for the constituents we need to meet our potency.” According to Renner, there are five different herbs that can go from the field to maceration within in a hour of harvest, if not less.
In the case of MIlky Oats, one of the biggest crops grown on the Gaia Farm, the entire harvest is done by hand. “It’s more of a timely process, but it’s the first touch of quality control of herbs,” says Renner. “We can make sure what ends up in the bottle is what we say it is.”
The farm team looks at the farm as an organism in itself. “Whether that’s increasing the biodiversity of species that we put into our cover crop mix, paying intense attention to always having a living root in the ground, the other piece of regenerative organic is the social fairness pillar,” says Renner. “Organic is amazing in terms of our practices for biodiversity — not just paying attention to what we’re cultivating in our fields, but also our riparian areas [next to the river].” Regenerative organic practices help keep potentially harmful chemicals out of waterways.
The soil in which these plants grow is another big piece of the puzzle; after all, without healthy soil, you can’t grow healthy plants that power healthy people.”A big piece of what we’re farming here is our soil,” says Renner. “We do sampling every single year, sometimes multiple times. Samples are analyzed with scrutiny. That is the foundation to the farm, to the health of our plants, and to the quality of product you enjoy.”