Grant Award: $6,000 — Medicinal Herb Processing Equipment
Gabriel purchased an herb grinder and sorting machine that separates and sorts aerial parts of medicinal herbs. The project enables Gabriel to process large harvests in significantly less time so that he can grow a supply that lasts throughout the year. The equipment cuts his processing time from multiple hours to as low as 20 minutes, depending on the type of herb.
With the machines, Gabriel is now supplying buyers with the same grind that they are expecting each time, ensuring continued access to current and wider markets. This aspect is important for clients such as Whole Foods that have multiple store locations.
The tricky part of selling herbs is that various types have different processing requirements. “Specific and specialized equipment unique to the herb industry is needed to refine herbs properly,” Gabriel said. “Some herbs can be ground whole, while others need the stem or leaf or flower separated, requiring different machines and attachments. This lack of custom grinding equipment is one main reason why there are not large herb farmers in Western North Carolina.”
In the past, Gabriel has repeatedly turned away customers because he lacks equipment to bring the farm up to full-scale production.
Pangaea Plants is a 24-acre diversified farm in Lake Lure. In 2015, it became the first and only farm in Western North Carolina to earn Biodynamic Certification from Demeter International, a certifying agency in 50 countries. It is also certified as Organic and was certified Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and meets Good Manufacturing Practices, a part of the national Food Safety Modernization Act. Since 2010, Gabriel has grown four to seven acres of mixed herbs and veggies, although now concentrates solely on herbs.
In 2016, Gabriel received a WNC AgOptions grant to build an herb dryer, and he said the project was a huge success. “I have begun to learn the science involved in drying different herbs,” Gabriel said. “For example, creating a vacuum, by having larger exhausts than intake vents, lessens the air pressure on the leaf’s surface and results in quicker drying time and uses less heat.” He is studying airflow and temperature requirements for each herb and keeping records.
Gabriel is targeting buyers across the Southeast, including natural food stores, herbal practitioners and herbalism schools. Companies have begun to reach out to him, including Mountain Rose, one of the nation’s larges suppliers of herbs, Herb Pharm, another large supplier of herbal products, as well as Avena Botanicals and Urban Moonshine. Local clients include Gaia Herbs, Red Moon Herbs, King Bio, Chestnut School of Holistic Medicine, and several local stores.