How To Ethically Harvest Wild Ingredients
By Adriaan Zimmerman
Written by Annie Miller, Ned's wild harvest spirit guide and botanist. Mother to Luca and steward to nature.
In Ned's new Hemp Infused Lip Balm, you'll find a couple of key ingredients that came straight from the great outdoors. Back in June, Ret and I took to the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains with Annie, our wildcrafting spirit guide, to ethically harvest wild rose and wild calendula for our lip balms. I emphasize ethically because along with the ingredients we collected, we received a crash course in the human/nature connection, what it really means to respectfully use what nature has to offer, and how to hold up our end of the symbiotic relationship we have with wild plants. It was a profound day, so much so that we asked Annie to share with you what she shared with us. So while she won't be giving away her secret harvesting spots, she has offered to share these amazing bits of wisdom.
Whether through summer camps or visits to national parks, most of us learned Leave No Trace principles at some point in our lives. We’re taught that when we go outdoors, it’s very important to stay on the trail, to have zero impact on the places we visit, and to not disturb nature. This, in theory, is a good thing. It’s important to prevent humans from leaving a negative or harmful footprint on our natural environments and the beauty that surrounds us when in nature.
The problem is that the derivative effect prevents us from creating true relationships with our natural surroundings. We end up being onlookers or outside observers of the natural world. We see nature as something separate from ourselves instead of something that we are an innate part of as living inhabitants of this earth.
Mammals and plants co-evolved on this planet. Humans have always harvested plants including hemp for food, medicine, and shelter. In this way, both plant and animal are fulfilling their purpose. This is a beautiful thing and is the very definition of symbiosis.
This relationship has always existed. It has only been in recent human history as human advancements have created an indoor existence that nature and “the wild” has become this untouchable other. It has become something to observe, study, and use for recreation. It has become something to rediscover rather than an abundant part of each of our lives.
Our personal relationships with nature - touching, tasting, talking to, being in relationship with - are in danger of breaking. Evolution has equipped humans with tools designed for natural existence. We’re built to spend time with, to harvest and to make use of what nature provides. For millennia, wild plants like hemp have provided us with medicine, food, and healing.
So how can we reconnect to our evolutionary existence while also respecting our natural world? Follow these simple principles.
1. Asking permission - this involves making sure that it’s ok to harvest the plant-healthy population, etc.
2. Giving thanks and making an offering - there are many different ways people do this, but try returning something back to the earth.
3. Taking only what you need and will use.
4. Treading lightly and with gratitude.
When we step off the trail and when we harvest, ethically and responsibly, we are building relationships while reintegrating ourselves as humans back into nature. We are learning about the world we are a part of, using all our senses in a way we never would if we didn’t step off the trail. It requires us to slow down and to realize where we are, what is our part.