He grows herbs to cure your ills

June 27, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer


Herb farmerHe grows herbs to cure your ills

JONES SPRINGS, W.Va. - In college, Jim Foltz thought about becoming a lawyer or a psychologist, but a trip to a commune led to his career as a gardener.

"I got a job at this commune where all the women worked naked," Foltz said.

For the past 13 years, Foltz, 37, has grown herbs on a nine-acre farm in western Berkeley County called the Peace in the Valley Herb Farm.

"I learned a lot about gardening from them," Foltz said.

Foltz grows more than 700 varieties of herbs, some from the mountains of Jamaica and others from the deserts of New Mexico.


"These shouldn't even be growing here," Foltz said. "But somehow they're thriving in West Virginia."

When he started his farm, the flowering herbs were the big sellers and the medicinal herbs were something he grew for his own interest.

But as more people have turned to herbal medicines such as St. John's wort and feverfew, the medicinal herbs have become more profitable.

"Herbal medicine has joined the mainstream," Foltz said.

St. John's wort is used by some to treat depression and mood swings. Feverfew is used to fight migraine headaches.

As he walked barefoot through the rows of his garden, Foltz spoke of how herbal medicines were used by Native Americans and shamans in other parts of the world to fight illnesses long before they came in vogue in the 1990s.

Foltz said he has developed an exchange program with shamans to trade plants and ideas.

Foltz sells his organically grown medicinal and culinary herbs over the Internet at and at health food stores in the Washington, D.C., area.

He also travels to farmers' markets in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Reston, Va., selling cut flower bouquets, medicinal plants and kitchen herbs.

Foltz also makes herbal medicine extracts from the plants.

Foltz pointed to a purple cone flower, also known as echinacea. "This is one of the biggest medicinal herbs on the market now," he said.

The plant is believed to boost the immune system, preventing colds and other bugs. "Tom Brokaw just did a program on this plant on the (NBC) Nightly News," Foltz said.

"The greatest thing about this crop is it makes money for us," Foltz said. "We can make money from the flowers, the leaves and roots, where most of the potency is."

Foltz said he sells plants and the herbal medicines in capsule form.

Plants are raised in the two greenhouses on the farm and then transplanted to the rows of raised beds in the field.

The farm is a cross between the spiritual and the ramshackle.

"We're really into a natural way of doing things. We grow everything organically. I'm a vegetarian. We plant all our plants by the astrological calendar just like the farmers did thousands of years ago," Foltz said.

Inside his dilapidated farmhouse surrounded by weathered vehicles, Foltz and two workers turn cut flowers into floral bouquets to sell at the farmers' market in Reston.

One wall is lined with nearly 1,500 record albums, 600 compact discs and 1,000 cassette tapes.

"We have different music for different activities," Foltz said. "If we're planting, we listen to bluegrass because it has a fast pace and we need to get the plants in quickly."

"If we're killing weeds, we listen to Judas Priest," said gardener P.D. Gruber, 22, of Middleway, W.Va.

The Herald-Mail Articles