Thyme Herbal: “Teaching People to Fish…”
“You know the bush to the left of the front door? Go there[…]look for the plant with the long green leaves that stick together. Bring your clippers”. Brittany, just a teenager then, took her acupressurist’s advice. She gathered a bunch of comfrey, went home, and made her first poultice. She laid the leaves on top of her shins, aching from shin splints from running cross-country, and within a few days, her symptoms were gone! Magic? No. Plant power? Yes.
Brittany Nickerson, owner and founder of her business, Thyme Herbal, located at Misty Meadow Farm, has been studying herbal medicine her whole life. As a child growing up in Western Massachusetts, Brittany was constantly exploring nature and helping her parents with gardening and cooking. As a teenager, she watched her sick grandmother use a holistic approach to healing, and saw how much this approach helped her. “She normalized it for me,” Brittany says.
After high school, Brittany went on to study at UC Berkely, in California. It was during this time that she truly began to understand how to use herbs as a way to help people. While living in cooperative housing, Brittany began cooking for large amounts of people. During this process, she learned a lot about using herbs in cooking. Food became her canvas. “I realized how powerful food was. The ways we prepare food affect the state of our body. It’s all about simple techniques that can be incorporated into people’s lives. That’s not built into the fabric of our culture”.
Brittany continued to use cooking as a way to bring herbs into people’s lives. After graduating from Berkely, she went to herb school at Living Awareness Institute, where she completed a 14-month program. When she was first starting up her business, she tried to get as much experience as possible working with food and herbs. She volunteered at the Three Stone Hearth, an organization devoted to a Weston A. Price style of cooking, and also taught several cooking and body care classes.
Her past experiences and love for teaching people about the power of herbs were the driving forces that started Thyme Herbal, now located in North Amherst, Massachusetts. “Starting Thyme Herbal was about trying to help restore a cultural and an individual connection to food and food preparation. It’s rooted in everyday practices. [Thyme Herbal is about] how we can bring process and intention into our lifestyle,” she says.
Now, Brittany teaches herbal courses, apprenticeships, and workshops, out of her homestead in North Amherst. Students get outside and into the gardens in order to learn about growing and harvesting plants, in addition to making herbal medicine. Brittany also offers herbal consultations, leads herb walks, and collaborates with a local farm’s CSA program. “The class is about herbal medicine but it’s so much more than that,” she says. “It’s constantly evolving because of the students and clients that walk through my door”.
“I’m teaching people how to fish,” Brittany concludes. “It’s about process, intention, and caring about yourselves”.
Winter 2012 Amherst Food Warrior