Growing an herbalist

When you visit Lisa Rose Starner’s home, it’s almost certain you’ll eat something out of her yard. She may casually pick a part of a plant while walking along and hand it to you.

“Try this,” she’ll say.

You agree and take a bite, not really knowing what to expect. And you do it only because you know you can trust Starner’s in-depth knowledge of all plants growing anywhere near her West side home.

Starner and her husband Seth, their two children, Jacob and Emma, and a friendly Golden Retriever rescue dog named Rosie live on just under an acre in a house that was once owned by Seth’s grandparents.

Shortly after moving into the house in 2002, Starner tore up the front yard and planted what she calls a “gypsy garden.” This urban garden is abundant with herbs, vegetables and fruits that go right from the yard to the dinner table or into a cup of tea.

“This land is an experiment I’m watching,” Starner says.

For many years, Starner has been a local food advocate, or “locavore,” eating food grown locally by others as well as growing food for her own family on her urban farm.

“I would rather buy locally and conventionally than organically and commercially,” she says. “The land around us means a lot to me.”

Starner is also an herbalist, practicing what she’s learned about Western Herbalism through various classes and teachers. She shares this knowledge by hosting classes that teach others how to forage, garden, cook with whole foods and use local plants and herbs for natural remedies. In addition, Starner runs an herbal Community Supported Agriculture program and offers individual consultations to those seeking to improve their health.

Starner truly enjoys teaching people how to grow gardens and forage.

“This is the way I know to create change,” she says.

She realizes that “not everyone’s going to till up their yard” and some may have to run to the health store to get their food and herbs. She also knows that “people aren’t totally comfortable jumping in the woods and eating plants.” But that doesn’t mean she won’t try encouraging them.

Starner believes it’s easier to change an individual than the whole system -- that’s a task that overwhelms her. 
As if she is not busy enough as an herbalist, consultant and urban farmer, Starner is also writing a book about the growing food movement in Grand Rapids. Last April, the History Press contacted her, unsolicited, and asked if she would tell the story about how the people in our community are growing their own food and opening local food markets and restaurants. The publishing company found Starner through her social media and blogging, and she admits being very surprised by their offer.

“They felt I was the perfect person to write it,” she says. “I agreed.”

So far, she’s interviewed farmers, community leaders and others who are intentionally promoting positive changes in how we get our food. The book’s working title is "Built from Scratch," and it’s expected to publish later this year.

Starner wants to continue her studies in herbalism, but she’s finding she’s running out of local teachers. It’s for this reason that she wants to travel to Ometepe, Nicaragua in November for clinical herbalism training with Natural Doctors International at their donation-based clinic. While there, she will get firsthand experience working with the physicians, herbalists and natural doctors.

The cost of the three-week training is $2,700. Starner is going no matter what, but recently a friend suggested that she ask the community for their financial support. She’s now set up an Indiegogo page where people can contribute toward her training as a way to say thank you for what she does for Grand Rapids.   

By advancing her training in Nicaragua, Starner wants to share this knowledge with our community and continue to give everyone ideas on how to live healthier.

Starner believes the natural world is magical. We can all learn from her appreciation of the land and what it grows. Here's how you can support Starner so she can continue to teach our community about eating local and using herbs to heal.

-    Donate to help fund the trip to Nicaragua for clinical training with Natural Doctors International.
-    Attend one of Lisa Rose Starner’s classes.
-    Schedule an individual consultation.
-    Follow the Burdock & Rose Tumblr.
-    Follow the Built from Scratch B-Roll Tumblr to get updates on the book.
-    Like her Burdock & Rose Page on Facebook
-    Follow @lisarosestarner on Twitter.

Source: Lisa Rose Starner

Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Photos provided by Lisa Rose Starner and Heidi Stukkie.