Forest farm provides herbs for medicine, cooking

May 4—CEDAR — Patti Travioli has operated Heartwood Forest Farm in Leelanau County for about 10 years.

Travioli received a horticulture degree from Michigan State University and ran an organic farm in southeast Michigan. About 15 years ago, she moved to northern Michigan. After job searching and coming up empty, she decided to start the farm in Cedar.

"I focus on growing culinary and medicinal herbs, not cannabis," Travioli said. "Medicinal herbs are used for tea."

These include chamomile, lavender, elderberry, nettles, hyssop (a shrub in the mint family) and more.

"I always have basil, rosemary and thyme," she said. "I have French tarragon now."

She offers five different kinds of basil and is trying to grow larger amounts of astragalus (a shrub in the legume family), she said. She distills many varieties to make essential oils. Other herbs get harvested while fresh, dried and then sold.

In addition to herbs, Travioli grows some vegetables, has honeybees and makes soap out of the plants she grows.

"It's been a labor of love and something that I'm passionate about," she said.

Mikeala Purvis, of Traverse City, first saw Travioli during a class at the Botanic Garden.

"I was really into the naturopathic use of herbs," Purvis said. "I wanted to learn how to grow them. I got into the MSU Master Gardener program."

Later, she met Travioli at her booth at the Grand Traverse Commons farmers market. Purvis asked Travioli if she needed help at the farm and soon began working a few days a week.

Her roles included starting seeds in the greenhouse in April and transplanting seeds. Purvis said this involves moving growing seeds to a different container and eventually to the ground.

She also planted lavender and in July, cut, harvested and dried them. These were made into bundles, she said.

Besides lavender, Purvis has harvested lemongrass, chamomile and hops for tea. She added that clovers and ghost pipe mushrooms have also been found on the farm, though they did not plant them.

"Every day it was so different," Purvis said. "It's a farm in the middle of the forest. There's a lot of natural elements."

Currently, Purvis is working from home for a nonprofit, but said she would like to work at the farm in the near future.

Heartwood Forest Farm is hosting its Herb Fest today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1805 E. Kasson Road in Cedar. Travioli is leading free classes every hour. She teaches herb harvesting and drying, dyeing with natural pigments and more. Farm tours are also included.

For those who cannot attend, classes and events are offered throughout the season, and a roadside stand is stocked from May through October. Online ordering is available at heartwoodforestfarm.com.