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Step off beaten path and onto herb farm

By ERIN SULLIVAN
Published April 23, 2007


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At the farm, it's lush and quiet and you're amazed that it's only a few minutes' drive from Interstate 75. It seems so far away from anything hectic.

The farm is small - 7 acres - but it seems bigger when you're walking through the rows and rows of herbs and vegetables, tall, dark trees and narrow leafy paths.

Every few feet you'll see a cat, snoozing at the base of a tree or stretched out, belly to the sun. Rose Kalajian rescues cats and now has 36 of them, which seems like a huge number. But you never see all of them together. Just one here and there.

There are two houses at the farm: One is the home of Rose and her husband, Lou, and the other is the Natural Health Hut and clinic, where Rose Kalajian greets customers.

Her workshop has an old apothecary feel with its mortar and pestles, mixing jars, measuring cups, and brown and blue and clear bottles of various sizes. The tiered shelves are built into all the walls and labeled with names such as Blessed Thistle Seeds, Elderberry Leaves, Wild Yamroot, Goldenseal Root and Magnolia Bark Leaf. On the top shelf are the liquids she mixes into her tinctures: olive oil, grapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar, vodka.

Kalajian is a petite woman with long hair and glasses she wears on the very tip of her nose. She speaks deliberately and with sincerity.

She's the type of person to stop and look into your eyes when she asks, "How are you?" It's not an offhand question, a way to say hello and then keep on walking. She means it.

After spending time with her, you notice how fast you talk or maybe the quirky things you say without being aware of it - like "cool" or "awesome" or "no way."

If you go on a tour of the farm - an herb walk, it's called - you'll leave feeling full, as though you ate half a forest.

Kalajian says, with the air of a professor, that the different plants at the farm have medicinal qualities. Then she'll reach down, grab a handful, and pass it around for everyone to taste.

You'll eat things like aloe vera, nettles, bay leaves, wax myrtle, wood betony. You'll floss with a pine tree needle. You'll start being careful where you step - looking down, amazed that even weeds have medicinal properties.

Afterward, you'll go back inside the house. Maybe drink some homemade chai tea or nibble on the fresh fruit and banana nut bread left over from the morning spread before the tour.

Then you'll go out to your car, shoo a cat off it and drive back out onto the road, the interstate and the harsh light.

Fast Facts:

To learn more

- For information on Natural Health Hut's Organic Produce Club, call 813 991-5177 or send an e-mail to rose@imherbalist.com Her Web site is www.imherbalist.com.

-The farm's address is 26403 Chianina Drive in Wesley Chapel. Call before stopping by.

-For information on organic food - statistics, definitions, trends and other research - go to the National Organic Program of the USDA, or www.ams.usda.gov/NOP/ on the Web.

-Other sources of information include the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, National Agricultural Library, USDA, http://afsic.nal.usda.gov; and the Economic Research Service of the USDA, www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Organic/.

[Last modified April 23, 2007, 07:18:24]


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