Amy and I visited Shining Mountain Herbs last June on our trip to Colorado. This article was written for assignment for the Matador writing course I’m taking. Thought I’d pull away from Alaska for a bit for you. Don’t want anyone bored here!
My photographer Amy and I drove the county dirt road around the base of the San Juan Mountains in Ridgway Colorado. We were early for a tour of Shining Mountain Herbs, so we stopped along the road for photos. A wet El Nino spring had turned the hills and valleys to lush green.
Shining Mountain Herbs is a 100% Certified Organic farm making and distributing products for health and well-being. This region of Colorado averages seven thousand feet above sea level, and many people – and I – suffer the effects of altitude sickness. Two years ago, I had discovered a product called High Altitude Help in a coffee shop in Ridgway. The product worked so well that I asked for a tour of Shining Mountain Herbs.
Amy and I pulled up to the farm. Owner Sheila Manzagol and her farm dog Bella greeted us. Sheila walked us through the buildings on-site and explained the purpose of each. In the greenhouses, she showed us the various stages of growth of a plant that looked like feathery carrot tops. “This is Osha,” Sheila said, “Osha grows very well here at our altitude. We’re working on ways to develop it, so that growers at other altitudes, where it is virtually impossible to cultivate, can have better success.”
WebMD, Global Healing Center, Natural Well-Being, and Mountain Rose Herbs websites agree that indigenous peoples used Osha Root for respiratory ailments. Because of Osha’s limited growing area, and over-harvesting by wildcrafters, it has been added to United Plant Savers “at risk list.”
Sheila next took us to the office and production building. “Here is where we make and ship out our products,” Sheila said, “We infuse everything here with unconditional love. Did you know that we lose the life force of water once it is captured, filtered, and stored? We can return the energy and the healthy value we need using a process called enliven. We stir the water until a vortex begins or what looks like a mini whirlpool. Once the vortex is swirling, the direction of stirring reverses until another vortex appears. The process repeats, switching the circular motion back and forth. After twenty minutes, the water has returned to its’ original state full of healthy energy.”
“Along with Organic Certification,” (which farms obtain by passing federal inspections adhering to specific standards of soil, water, storage, and handling of all parts of products) “we do as much Biodynamic farming as we can too. My husband drew the line at keeping animals on the property, though, for the biodynamic cycle to be complete, we would need animals to fertilize the land.”
Sheila sat us down on the porch of the employee lounge and classroom. I looked out over the lower property at grown fields, and mowed meadows. A dirt track curved around a marshy area to a yurt that the farm helpers use for shelter. Sheila told us about the farm’s recent approval to cultivate cannabis in Ouray County. “Medical marijuana has proved in study after study, not only to calm patients with Autism, but to slow the brain activity that is so high, thereby reducing the risks of seizures.”
Colorado has legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. The recreational use gets all the publicity, but the medical reasons are far reaching. I am a co-parent of a young man diagnosed with Autism. He is nineteen years old and on medication for seizures. We’ve been able to reduce his dosage, but not remove the medication completely.
As Sheila got into the medical studies, I lost my focus on the conversation because I keep thinking about our son. The thought of him being able to come off chemically produced pills made by the money driven pharmaceutical industry, merely by taking a plant-based compound, excited me.
Sheila talked about how the medical dispensaries are doing a dis-service to marijuana. “They’re putting out junk. How can you take a plant and cover it with pesticides, and give it unhealthy water and expect it to be much better than a chemically based compound? We cannot get Certified USDA Organic status on marijuana because it is not legal in all states, but we will have the first “Green Clean” status in the state of Colorado. Green Clean follows the letter of the federal law for organic certification.”
Sheila led us on a walk along the track through the lower property, where we came across a pair of Great Horned Owls sitting on a log. “We have two pairs here year round. We see Bald and Golden Eagles all the time as they hunt along the base of the mountains there and swoop in here for a mouse or two.” A Great Blue Heron landed in the marshy area, and Sheila pointed out a beaver. “The Beaver re-routed the water feed along this part of the farm. Saved us some work by putting the stream right where we needed it. We are blessed with this little piece of earth.” She pointed to a peak in the range to the south of the farm; “Many of the peaks in this region have not been “officially” named. I would love to apply to have the Ute name for Shining Mountains given to that peak. The sacredness of the land and those shining mountains are the reasons for the location and name of our place.”
I felt so at peace, walking back to the car after the tour of the property. I saw first-hand the love of the land and everything on it that Shining Mountain Herbs alleged. When Sheila said, “Everyone has the right to optimal health. I like that I can help someone towards healing, even though I may never meet them face to face,” I knew she meant every word. A hug from a newfound friend and we were on our way.
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