July and IHA Conference Time

This year, the International Herb Association's Annual Meeting and Conference was held in Corning, NY. A mere six hour drive for me - for a change. This year's conference was, as usual, exciting, informative and most of all, fun. The conference started with a tour on Friday, and we began the day at Finger Lakes Distillery. This small distillery produces vodka, gin, grappa and liqueurs - all from grapes. They try to use as many local suppliers as possible, too. The tour of the distillery took us by vats of bubbling mash that gave off the warm, yeasty smell of fermentation. The tasting room was a favored spot, where each visitor was given a choice of three products to try. Not an easy decision, but I tried the Pear Brandy, Cassis Liqueur and the Grappa. All were smooth and delicious.

Conference

In a mellow mood, we then traveled to Apothekara in Ithaca. This small herb and tea shop is an example of new entrepeneurs in the herb business world. Open less than a year, the shop was lovely and a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Next on the agenda was a visit to Cornell Plantations, where we had lunch and a chance to view both the herb gardens and the hortatorium. The gardens there are beautiful and well-labled, and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. From Cornell, we traveled to Andrea and Matthias' farm, Healing Spirits, where the heavens finally opened and blessed us with some much needed rain. Rosemary Gladstar (keynote speaker for the conference) gave a brief walk, and we all settled in for a remarkable barbecue, and some special elderberry wine, We were even treated to entertainment in the form of a barbershop quartet. A great way to begin the conference.

Conference

Two days of sessions followed, with Elderberry - Herb of the Year (TM)  for 2013 prominently featured. Rosemary Gladstar had an amazing slide show of "elders" from the herb world, including Adelma Simmons, Adele Dawson, Juliette deBarclay Levi, Tasha Tudor, and many, many others from around the world. Conrad Richter, of Richters Herbs in Canada, talked about trends and challenges in the herb industry. Susan Belsinger ramped up the Rose, and took us on an olfactory tour of rose oils, waters and more. Chris Marano spoke on honoring the elders, and the Native American path of herbalism. Chuck Voigt presented a power point on herbal trees and shrubs. Those were just a few of the many delightful and insightful sessions that educated and informed.

The silent auction and live auction were lots of fun, with many bargains to be had.  For the second time (the first being my first ever conference in Gettysburg) I walked away with a flat of assorted lavenders - now where am I going to put them? A new bed must be created, and quickly, so I can tuck in the plants so they can grow a little before the fall and shorter days. Such is the happy lot of a plant collector.

The last day - post conference - was a morning and afternoon of intensives. These small workshops give a hands on approach to working with herbs. I did not attend the morning one, which was preserving by Pat Crocker. But I did spend the afternoon with Susan Belsinger learning about bitters, sampling 15 of them, and making my own concoction (lime, cocoa, chile, corinader, angelica and gentian). We'll see what it tastes like in about another week or so. Bitters are very good for digestion, and Susan uses them frequently in cooking. It's a lot like herb vinegars - you make them and then figure out ways to use them.

Conference

All in all, a very successful conference. Lots of time spent with old friends, the chance to meet new herbies, and the pleasure of being immersed in all things herbal. Next year, we will head to Tennessee, and enjoy the delights of the quiet side of the Smokies. Hope to see you there!

Keep on smiling,

Karen