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April 1, 2021

Urban Farming Goes Medicinal

Red Antler Apothecary is announcing an exciting new project starting this spring: The Apothecary Farm at Mill No. 5. Continuing to be stewards of health, the community and the Earth, the shop will expand into The Urban Farm at Mill No. 5. This will allow the team to expand on their mission of being an herbal medicinal “farmacy”. The Apothecary Farm will produce ingredients for Red Antler and become the community’s center for herbal medicinal education.

Red Antler began in 2014 out of the need to produce products free of toxins. They grow many of their own ingredients in an urban environment and they understand the urban aspect of living and growing and the disconnect between the city and the land. The urban lot directly across from Mill No. 5 will be divided with longtime occupants Mill City Grows and will serve as a demonstration site for teaching the community the values of herbal medicine and how to create a medicinal garden of their own. “We take our role (in herbal community health) very seriously and we feel that we have a responsibility to be an educated voice in a large urban community, and to participate in being a catalyst of health equity,” says Rachel. The farm’s location in the heart of Lowell’s downtown business district makes it easy for urbanites, some of whom may have never seen how food is grown, to take an active role in their own wellness.

As a professional grower and educator, Francey Slater, co-founder and the previous co-executive director of Mill City Grows, has joined the team at Red Antler to oversee the new farm project. “Her compassion for people and families and her interest in community health and health justice, which comes from the avenue of food justice, is really important for how we move forward with this mission,” says Rachel of Francey. Mill City Grows has always had a relationship with Red Antler. It has used MCG plants in herbal formulations and conducts occasional workshops for MCG community growers.

“With my work at Mill City Grows and now joining Red Antler Apothecary, it’s kind of a continuum of health sovereignty, of creating opportunities for people and communities to find options for what they put in their own bodies. That is feeding my excitement and passion to work with Red Antler,” Francey explains.

“MCG and Red Antler are really interested in using the space as a place to engage with the public and educate folks about growing, environmental sustainability, and supporting our and the planet’s overall health with sustainably grown fresh food and herbs,” says Jessica Wilson, Mill City Grows’ Executive Director. “We will continue to use half of the space, as we have been over the past few years, to grow produce for distribution, hold public classes, and work with other small growers who participate in our programs and want to experiment with growing a variety of specialty and cultural crops.”

As for the design of Red Antler’s section of the urban plot, Francey says that her plan is to create a really beautiful, interactive and interesting space that people will be able to enjoy and where they can learn about holistic health, even as they walk down the street. The formal and informal educational opportunities for the community will focus on wellness, and the garden will be divided by plants that grow well together and have common healing attributes for our bodies. For example, there will be sections for digestive health, the nervous system, and respiratory health. Rachel is equally excited to be bringing beehives to the site to help with pollination, and plans to weave bees and native pollinators into the curriculum and the demonstration opportunities.

“The Food is Medicine movement is growing and that is beginning to include herbal traditions. Herbs and plants that are used in the culinary world can be used for wellness and are really a gateway into food and herbs as medicine.” Francey continues, “There is so much history and knowledge that comes from different cultures around the world and it’s really exciting to be able to bring this to Lowell.”

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