Two weekends ago I went to the 5th annual Chesapeake Herb Gathering held at Fox Haven Farms in Jefferson, MD. The Chesapeake Herb Gathering is an annual event organized by Centro Ashé bringing together inter-generational herbal, land-based, and healing communities to celebrate our stories, our knowledge, our culture and traditions. It was a two-day gathering of herbalist, farmers, activist, spiritual, cultural and plant-based people.
I went with my friend Sonia Keiner and helped her table for her organization Chesapeake Foodshed Network. The Chesapeake Foodshed Network emerged from an acknowledgement that there was a LOT of work being done to improve the food system in many different ways across the Chesapeake region, but not a lot of coordination or communication among the organizations, agencies, companies, and individuals doing that work. Building on models found across the US and around the world, the Chesapeake Foodshed Network is an effort to build connections to coordinate everyone’s efforts where possible to maximize the outcomes.
On Friday night the day before the gathering I spend the night at Sonia’s and then we traveled about an hour to the gathering. We brought along beautiful flowers and herbs from Sonia’s garden to trade and also make flower crowns with the kids.
When we got to Fox Haven Saturday morning Sonia and I set up our table and then we set up our tent for camping with the help of Sonia’s partner Mat. After that we ate a little breakfast and then the opening happened.
Fox Haven is a farm, ecological retreat and learning center, and wildlife sanctuary situated in the rolling piedmont hills of central Maryland. It offers a beautiful farm setting for renewal and revitalization within a one hour drive of Washington DC and Baltimore, with comfortable accommodations in three recently renovated farmhouses and large meeting spaces in the big red barn and dairy parlor.
Before the opening Molly Meehan Brown gave a beautiful introduction to the weekend. Molly is the owner of Centro Ashe and the starter of the Chesapeake Herb Gathering. The opening was Gifts of the Desert: Protecting the Harvesting Heritage of the Tohono O’odham Nation with Staycie Francisco and Tanisha Tucker. This was about sister’s Staycie and Tanisha who are apart of the Tohona O’ odham tribe in Arizona and their herbal practices and how that connects to their culture. They talked about how their grandmother would pick their tribes traditional medicine herbs from a local park area for years. Then in the ’60s the government came along and made that area into a national park. Years later their grandmother had to go to them and tell them this land is sacred to the tribe and that they go get their medicine from there. Once they allowed her to go pick the herbs word got out about it and environmentalist and other folks started wanted to interview her and film her. Staycie and Tanisha said that was a great motivation for the youth to want to learn more about their herbs and rituals with them. They also said as great as that part was they didn’t want to see the environmentalist steeling their tribes traditions and rituals to make money off of them. We also watched a video that showed us their traditional herbs and they had samples for everyone to try of some flower & syrup made out of traditional herbs.
Once the opening was over it was already lunch time. My friend and fellow Ecoheremanas Emmalee and I got some vegan chili they were serving. We then went over to were Caryl Henry Alexander was making medicine bags with people (inspired by yours truly) which was a hot ticket. Once lunch was over the first workshop happened. Sonia went to a workshop but I stated at our table and made flower crowns with the kids. I made one for myself and one for Molly’s niece who looked so cute with flowers in her hair.
Next was the second workshop and then the third. The third workshop I went to was Tales of the Tired and Tenderhearted. A Holistic and Herbal Approach to Adrenal Fatigue and Prioritizing Self-care with Sunny Majeedah. This workshop started off with Sunny doing an interpretive dance on her life and then later she started telling us about how to release our adrenal fatigue and to take better care of ourselves. Basically she said that she could give you all the herbal remedies she knows but if you are not changing your mind and spirit or else you will never change anything else which I resonated with.
Later was dinner which Cryz who is Piscataway and her partner Amanda made pulled turkey, corn bread and with roasted sweet potato salad with corn pudding as desert. I was delicious! After dinner it was chill time with DJ MeRmAlien
On Sunday after a really nice night of camping we all got up and had some breakfast of oatmeal and then we all went to the first workshop of the day.
Southern African American Rootwork: A Tool for Survival with Ikeoma Divine. This workshop was all about spirituality from a black rootworker from South Carolina. She talked about a lot of the things I already knew or personally have experienced before in my life. She talked about being empathic, having ancestor alters, gree gree bags, putting salt in the corners of your house and many other things. I was interesting.
Collective Healing Recipes with Landis Pulido was my next workshop. This was a workshop for kids and adults where we made healing collages of this we find heal us.
Lunch came next which was when I saw fellow Ecohermanas Terican Gross & Aleya Fraser which it was really nice to connect with both of them as I hadn’t seen either in a while. For lunch we had wild rice salad, and turkey soup made by Cryz and Amanda.
The second to last workshop I went to was an edible plant walk done by Hayden Stebbins. I learned about many different plants and herbs around the garden at Fox Haven. I learned that when you pick Poke Weed you pick the leaves and boiling them for 15 mins 3 times to make them edible. I also learned if you go up not down a Stinging Nettle plant you won’t get stung.
The last workshop I went to was Diosa Vulgaris – Urban Herbs of the Goddess with Liana Maria. There I learned about different goddesses and also different herbs that are good for different things. I learned Mugwort is great to have in the raw form in your medicine bag or in your car when you are traveling, Chickweed is a great spell breaker and Violet is great for intuitive/indigo kids.
After that it was time to pack up and go so we did our closing circle and then packed up. We took a Ecohermanas photo and then Sonia and I took down our tent and went home.
This was a nice weekend and a great get away from life and seeing everyone I haven’t seen in a while. Look forward to going again next year.