Juniper Ridge owner Hall Newbegin is taking over the blog this week to share our Sustainable Harvesting practices to you! Read below to find out about White Sage Harvesting.
I’m so glad people are asking these questions because it gives me an opportunity to explain something I’ve thought about a lot. How can we keep our harvests 100% sustainable, in terms of the individual plants and the ecosystem in general? How will that change as our volume continues to increase?
Sustainable is a flabby, over-used word. I’d like to clarify, in detail, what we mean when we say sustainable. I started Juniper Ridge twenty years ago. We’ve been going back to the exact same wild gardens, all on private land and with permission, every year since the start of the company. I’m going to walk you through the harvest of one of the most delicate plants we work with: White Sage.
For the first ten years, I did this kind of work by myself. The reason we’re able to go back to the same location every year is that White Sage (Salvia apiana) can be harvested sustainably indefinitely. It responds to proper pruning with vigorous growth. All mint family (laminaceae) plants have adapted to grazing animals (they’re pretty tasty) and respond to pruning with lots of lush new growth. If you clip a White Sage cluster in the fuzzy, apical meristem tip of the clusters, two or three new clusters will be there the following Spring. A White Sage wild garden can be harvested this way forever.
As White Sage gains popularity, we have seen new crews harvesting near the fields we work in. They’re doing it the cheapo way, chopping the entire plant off at the base. This is certainly a more efficient method of harvesting, but it’s awful because it’s mining. It’s not sustainable. It kills the plant and alters the ecosystem.
Our pruning method of harvesting the tips doesn’t kill the plant, it actually encourages aggressive regrowth. Plants harvested this way grow to be much larger and robust than the ones that have never been harvested and are yanked from the ground in a free-for-all.
Whenever I see these crews, I try to explain the impact they’re making on the plants, but they don’t care. They should; this is an important conversation. I know their bosses are driving them to do it because they want cheap sage. I’ve brought it up with them in the fields. It’s grody, and it needs to stop. It has become clear that more monitoring of the open-land fields is necessary. These fields are getting totally hammered, all for a marketplace that’s hungry for $7 smudge sticks.
I’d be a liar if I didn’t own up to partially being in business to make money. That’s true of anyone who runs a business. I also do what I do because I’m a wilderness freak. I love making things that connect people to that deep, quiet experience of being out on the trail – it’s like a religion to me. I often take the Juniper Ridge crew out to do trail work with me. I have way more habitat restoration and weeding projects going than I can do alone. I’m also in business to put the money we make back to work, protecting the wildlands that have given us so much.
Skepticism is important, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit for thinking I’m full of shit. That why I like to open to important conversation and be transparent about our practices.