More than 30 years ago, Deb Soule packed up a small offering of herbal extracts and teas, grabbed copies of her first mail-order catalog and headed to the Common Ground Fair. It was the first time that Avena Botanicals attended and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Avena, which started as a tiny one-room operation, has grown into a Rockport-based enterprise that each year turns 1,800 pounds of fresh-harvested herbs into tinctures, teas, oils, creams and salves. Soule is one of the most prominent herbalists in the country and has authored a number books, including “The Woman’s Handbook of Healing Herbs” and “How to Move Like a Gardener.”
Soule grew up in a small town in western Maine, where she developed a love of gardening at an early age.
She became interested in natural healing and aware of the lack of alternatives to Western medicine, she said.
As a young woman studying at College of the Atlantic, Soule had the opportunity to live in Nepal where she’d wake up every morning to the sound of beautiful horns and ringing bells at a nearby monastery. The culture there of daily meditation and a deep engagement with spirituality had a lasting effect when she arrived back in Maine.
“I began to realize that I really wanted to create something in my life that could be of use, but could also contribute to the health of people and the planet,” she says.
Avena started in an 8-by-10 room. Eventually, Soule found a larger space to house the growing business. Then, she realized her dream of growing her own herbs and educating others about natural healing.
At Avena’s certified Biodynamic farm elixirs are poured by hand. Tinctures are blended. Salves are boxed up and shipped all over the country. Also on site, Soule teaches a variety of workshops and guides visitors on herb walks.
“Herbs,” she says, “offer us hope, beauty, and healing and give us the opportunity to create an intimate relationship with the earth.”