It began in a Palmerston North linen cupboard – the place where Lynn Kirkland stored her handmade herbal remedies until they were next needed to help an ailing child, sick neighbour or wounded animal.
Today Lynn and her daughter Sarah share 35 years of herbal wisdom with a business that is bringing distributors from Japan, China and Australia knocking on their Palmerston North door
Listening to Lynn relate the stories of what she’s seen herbs help people with over the years is compelling. The local farmer seriously injured after being crushed by a tractor returning to vigour with regular comfrey baths; children with eczema and psoriasis healed with herbs when steroid medication failed; constant migraines remedied; natural sleep restored after years on drugs.
A down-to-earth country woman and former teacher, Lynn is one of New Zealand’s foremost herbalists. “I’ve just never lost that passion for what herbs can do,” says Lynn. “I’ve seen them do the most incredible things.”
Her story began when looking for something to help her own ailing children.
“My son Craig kept getting sick with bronchitis. By the third visit to the doctor and yet another prescription for antibiotics I just felt there had to be a better way, but when I asked the doctor what that might be, he struggled to give me an answer. It felt like a black hole of knowledge and I had to learn more.”
Lynn began reading, exploring and became so taken with the potential of herbs she enrolled in a formal course of study. Soon Craig’s respiratory problems disappeared as Lynn dosed him on things like garlic and echinacea. Next she helped rid daughter Sarah of once regular migraines.
“Craig would take anything I’d give him, but Sarah refused to take anything internally so I was forced to learn about compresses, aromatherapy and herbal infusions,” says Lynn. Soon neighbours began asking Lynn to make them up a healing cream or remedy – and came back asking for more to give to their family and friends.
“I kept my herbal supplies in the linen cupboard,” says Lynn. “ … I’ve always said that The Herb Farm began in that cupboard.”
The leap from part time passion to full time business began after Lynn walked through a local shopping mall and saw a sign for the local business development agency. “They said the concept was interesting and to go and develop a business plan and then come back and talk to them.”
Lynn did. It was the early 1990s and she decided to take a huge life punt – forgo teaching for a new career in herbal healing. Husband Bill was in full support.
The couple began with a half-acre of land where Lynn could grow and sell herbs and teach people about the healing power of nature. She was inspired by overseas ventures like Findhorn (in Scotland), Perelandra (in the US) and the Pennyroyal Herb Farm in Bundaberg, Australia.
Lynn decided to simply call her business `The Herb Farm’ www.herbfarm.co.nz.
In the beginning, when she became overwhelmed about how to start, a wise older herbal friend said: “….just take a spade dear and go and start to dig”. Bill helped tremendously as did Lynn’s own parents, Bob and Edna Rogers.
Eventually the herbs grew, the products sold, word got out, people came, then groups, then tour buses. “I entered a business award in Manawatu and won and that was quite overwhelming,” says Lynn. “It gave us publicity and created amazing interest.”
Over the years The Herb Farm continued to grow. More land was added (today it has over five acres), and then buildings to house a manufacturing room to hand make the 100% natural skin, body and beauty products. Later came a café, beauty room and conference/wedding centre.
When Sarah was done with international modelling in 2006 she returned home and bought into the strong business foundations that Lynn had built. Today Sarah is The Herb Farm’s general manager, while Lynn retains her role formulating and developing beauty and healing products.
Lynn describes how she uses an intuitive understanding of plant suitability, coupled by decades of herbal knowledge, when creating new remedies. One of her earliest products, Rose Face Cream, remains one of the most popular, legendary in its fragrance and moisturising qualities.
`Freedom from chemical nasties’ is an ethos that runs so deep with Lynn it could almost be tattooed across her heart.
“When I first began The Herb Farm I used to talk about Gaia and the planet healing itself, but gradually came to the conclusion that people were not ready for this way of thinking … but times have changed!” laughs Lynn.
“We’ve been pioneers in this market, dedicated producers of natural products for more than 20 years. It’s fantastic and very heartening to see the world now moving this way.
“Herbs are packed with potency and magic. We make our products ourselves so we can retain as much of that magic and whole quality of the plant as possible. And we always work with intention; imbue every remedy with love … so no matter where in the world it ends up, it’s carrying the best of us, of New Zealand and of mother earth with it.”