This was published in the Healing Garden Journal in May of 2004.
Preserving the Past, Envisioning the Future
By Linette Crosby
One of the greatest gifts I have received in my life, is the gift to grow up in my very own healing garden, our family mint farm. It is here where I learned to appreciate Mother Earth and realize the beauty and pain of Mother Nature’s ways.
This farmland is a rich muck soil, whose nutrients are perfect for growing what I thought were carpets of mint. My feet delighted in the way the soil slipped through my toes and my nose inhaled the hardy fragrance at every harvest. It is here that I learned the process of distilling mint and truly believed in magic, as my father separated the oil from the water with a steady, patient hand. With each annual harvest my father celebrated quietly and each worry line in his face was dedicated to surviving one more year. My great grandfather started Mint Grove Farm back in 1912, in St. Johns, Michigan. It is my grandfather, Lawrence Crosby’s tenacity to continue; my father, James E. Crosby’s determination to preserve this heritage; my Uncle Larry Crosby’s ability to renew, and my brother Jim Crosby's dream to see this labor of love be preserved that I owe my gratitude.
The dream is still alive although the industry has forced many marketing changes. As most small farms face distinction, we also face the fear that someday this may be a former way of life. You see, the production of peppermint and spearmint hasn’t changed much over the 96 years the Crosby Family has been in business, but the market for this quality essential oil didn’t have patience. Traditional venues of selling the oil had to be developed. Some of the brokers and buyers that my family dealt with for 80 years, have changed hands, or been forced out of business themselves. And the simple “hand shake” that used to feed the family and keep the farm operational, just doesn’t exist for the small farmer today.
With the introduction of synthetic oil and the dilution of oil, there was a need to find a market that understands and appreciates the qualities that the pure essential oil of peppermint provides. The holistic community recognizes the healing properties of the essential oil contained within the leaves of the mint plant. Because the oil has been known to help migraine headaches, bee stings, sore throats, asthma, stomach problems, symptoms of common colds, aid in muscle relief, and kills bacteria, we have decided to market and package our own pure essential oil. My brother Jim has developed another product called Mint Compost. The distillation process of the mint leaves produces a byproduct of steamed mint hay. Traditionally, the hay or mint cheese was disposed of or spread throughout the fields to further fertilize the soil. Now, the distilled leaves and rich muck land is mixed together to create a composting process. This mint mixture is allowed to heat to 170 degrees F, which naturally sterilizes the compost. This Mint Compost is high in nutrients and is receiving rave reviews from the novice gardener to the master gardener. By inventing a composting method that used no chemical accelerators, Jim earned recognition as Michigan’s Recycler of the Year 2003 and the Tri-County Recycling Award (Clinton, Eaton, Ingham).
Today, we continue to honor the past, which has paved the way to our future by offering diversified mint products and varied services to the public. The change the farm has experienced still hasn’t changed my love of the dark soil through my toes, and the fragrant filled air at harvest continues to bring back memories of the past.
And now as anadult I have come to recognize each worry line in my father’s face. It is in those lines, I am able to measure my gratitude. It is on this mint farm that not only am I able to heal my body, but my soul.
For more information check out our website at www.getmint.com or call (517) 703-4758.
Note of Life Changes: This article was written 2 weeks prior to my father suffering a stroke, which eventually did lead me back to the farm where I grew up. He died on September 3, 2005. It was an honor and a blessing to spend the last years of his life with him. Thanks, Pop! During the harvest of 2006, my Uncle Larry suffered a stroke near the mint distillery. Although he isn't able to physically assist with the harvest, he remains a vital resource and inspiration to us all.