“After years of getting sick, sometimes our medicine helping me and other times not, and watching people in rural villages with a machete cutting bark off a tree to make tea out of it for something important, seeing that enough times or getting sick in remote places, your view of things start to change - my view of things started to change.”
Ten years ago, working abroad in public health, John got sick and began to question western medicine. He was constantly living with doctors and nurses, was in and out of hospitals and health facilities: “When I first got into it, my view of things was, “We know everything in the US (this was when I was in my 20s right out of college), and we need to bring it to people because they aren’t doing it right. We have the solutions.”” So, John continued to work in public health but started to seek out herbalists, because that’s what his idea of natural health was. Then, he started to come across Shamans and other natural healers: “I had exposure to a range of people who were pretty much straight herbalists to people who were more shaman and then I came back to the US and decided to study herbalism here so I could understand better how to be an herbalist in the United States. So my intention was always to help people - that’s kind of why I got into it - and then one thing led to another.”
After living in Boulder, Colorado, working at a mid-sized herbal company making tinctures, it was time for a move. John’s wife, who is from a very hot part of Africa, was ready to live somewhere warmer, but John, who grew up in New York, couldn’t not live in the mountains. So, they compromised and moved among the mountains in Burnsville, NC four years ago, where John began an herbalism course. Likely from his experience in public health abroad, he began asking the community how he would help people and how he could make an herbalism business flourish here, and people kept telling him to go to the farmer’s market: “The environment told me this was a good place to do it, so that’s kinda how we got to where we are 4 years later. This is our 4th season doing markets.”
Clearly, farmer’s market culture has made a large impact on John’s business and the way he interacts with clients: “I think the farmers markets, at least this market and other ones I’ve seen, provide people a way to enter the market more closely to the way they would like to be doing business. I see it as reaction to the extreme largeness of corporate food culture and consumer culture that we have and how everything is dominated by these large companies. This gives people an outlet to set up a business in the way they want to do it and be independent and be close to the consumer. You always hear about the generation before us, maybe two for some other people, complaining about closure of mom and pop businesses where they trusted the person selling them things and had a relationship with them. In many places and many cases, that is becoming obsolete. So, the farmers market kind of allows people to have that kind of relationship with clients. Also, its community building, clients with clients, and clients with the vendors, vendors with vendors, there’s a lot of ideas and information being exchanged. For me, especially this market, one of the reasons I come is just because I like what people are talking about, I like the conversation here and I like being around people who have similar values that I may not find in other places in the area, so that’s probably the biggest reason I come to the West Asheville Tailgate Market.”
John loves hearing feedback from his clients, it’s probably the his most favorite part of being an herbalist. That’s apart of the strong market culture and people using the West Asheville Tailgate Market as a hub and exchange of information: “I love when people come back and tell me that whatever it was that they received from my table was helpful.” He is also very passionate about providing alternative and holistic health options to those who lack access or exposure - that’s really the reason he got into herbalism. John hosts a free herb clinic at the Rec House in Burnsville where he provides boxes of specific herbs plus books and resources for clients. He’ll be setting up a free clinic in January at Warren Wilson College and it looking for more partnerships in providing free holistic health to Asheville area communities.
Browns Creek Herbs has around 200 different products from single herb tinctures, tincture blends, tea blends, salves, and locally grown CBD hemp products. Most of these products are wildcrafted and foraged for, while other ingredients are traded for with local growers. Any products coming from a ways away are certified organic.
Browns Creek Herbs