Despite delays caused by tornado damage in 2011, UCAN continued to work with local farmers and agencies in identifying potential crops and markets that would meet the needs of our community. In August 2012 UCAN held the grand opening and were able to share and receive the support of our local government and agencies such as Auburn University and the Chamber of Commerce. This support made local farmers aware of our project and the need for local, organic product native to this area and used to treat many common ailments such as blackberry leaves being used to relieve sinus problems.
Tribally, there has always been a person or persons called Indian Doctor(s) or Herb Doctor(s). Among Cherokee’s these individuals have a gift and understanding of herbs and healing. The way leaves grow, the way a root twists and the color of the blooms tell the tribal Herb Doctor what part of the body a plant is best suited to aid. Joyce Dixon, one of UCAN’s Herb Doctors, studied for years. As a child Joyce was taught about the herbs and remedies by her grandmother. One herb Joyce shared with UCAN is the wonderful properties of blackberry leaves treating sinus problems.
Historically, blackberry leaves are used to treat a number of maladies. During World War II, the United States dispensed blackberry leaves to American soldiers to treat bleeding gums and dysentery. Traditionally, the Indian Doctor was approached by an individual or was summoned to a home to help people. The doctor would offer an herb or combination of herbs with verbal instructions. This trust was formed through centuries of results and remains so today.
Many of UCAN’s Tribal members, as well as many people within the Southern region of the country suffer with sinus problems. Today most individuals fast pace schedules do not allow for the time to steep blackberry leaves for tea. The convenience of taking a capsule has become the preferred method of treatment.
Literature used in research: 2005, PDR for Herbal Medicines, Medical Economics Company, Montvale, New Jersey
1. Acquire necessary accounting software for reporting and production of blackberry products and additional herb items.
2. Form partnerships with small fruit farmers and land owners with the goal of introducing our product line through the use of blackberry leaves for sinus problems.
3. Set agreeable realistic goals with farmers and land owners about blackberry leaves and other potential products that could be produced on their farm.
4.Encourage farmers to use current sustainable agriculture practices such as plastic mulch and drip irrigation in connection with blackberry production. Introduce positive options like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program through Eddie Wheeler with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to enhance production and apply conservation techniques.
5. Enhance the processing and marketing of the blackberry leaf product through volunteer force, paid employees, updated systems, and adequate equipment.
6. Conduct outreach field days and workshops in June, 2011 at David Cox blackberry farm located in Grant, Alabama and in October, 2011 on Steve Dixon’s land located in Guntersville, Alabama to identify various herbs and practices used to develop and market these products.
7. Consult with agricultural and horticultural sources at Tuskegee, Alabama A&M and Auburn universities, the U.S., Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Don Wambles with the Alabama’s Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to identify most successful partnership opportunities for growing herbal needs.
8. Take full advantage of being in front of any audience and hand out literature and brochures. We visit a lot of schools, but we also work with adult groups and colleges as listed below.
* Jacksonville State University, Calhoun County, AL
* Forestry Camp, Epps, Saint Clair County, AL
* Native American Heritage Day, Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, AL
* Wallace State University, Hanceville, Cullman County, AL
* The Mountain Valley Council of the Arts, Marshall County, AL
* Scout Troop 27 of Scottsboro, Jackson County, AL
* Five Feathers Educational event in Madison County, AL
* Trail of Tears Motorcycle Event ending in Waterloo, Lauderdale County, AL
* WalMart Diversity Training, Gardendale, Jefferson County, AL
* WalMart Diversity Training, Oneonta, Blount County, AL
* Jackson County Heritage Center, Scottsboro, AL
* Trail of Tears Re-enactment & First Nations, Lincoln County, TN
* Native American Celebration, Chattanooga, Hamilton County, TN
* Marshall Community Club, Guntersville, Marshall County, AL
* Sam’s Club Diversity Training, Huntsville, Madison County, AL
9. Train employees that quality and consistency comes before quantity.
Through the purchase of an accounting software package (Quickbooks) UCAN was able to develop an accurate method of pricing and packaging the herbal products being offered. UCAN attended public community workshops and farmers markets to gather information used to establish a process that will enable tribal entrepreneurs to produce, process, capsulate, and market blackberry leaves as well as other herbs native to this locale. As a tribe UCAN contacted blackberry growers and land owner through tribal communications, local involvement, and through various agricultural and extension agencies. UCAN has researched the type of blackberry leaves that will best serve the project through existing communications with our local County Agent, Tuskegee University and Auburn University. UCAN has purchased and received grants to purchase the equipment necessary to make production of herbs more cost efficient. Equipment included a capsulating system that allowed more capsules to be completed at a time (from 24 to 100). Bottles with special lids that would seal once closed as well as tampter seals and a heat gun to shrink the tamper seals around each bottle. UCAN has enlisted the support of our community agencies and tribal support to work with local farmers to purchase needed herbal product. Through a work training program UCAN has trained and continue to train youth and adults on the process involved in production and sale of the herbal products available through our community farmers and landowners. Through local community events as well as tribal events UCAN has been able to provide an herb walk to introduce the public to the potential of the plants in their own yards and to promote the UCANBD project. This also allowed UCANBD to locate additional farmers and landowners for additional product availability.
Through the project there were 6 people that went through the training program and although a test was not given to determine how much they retained from this program their continued interest and work in the business that has resulted is a good example of the success of the training they received. Through the project UCAN has established a successful business arrangement with several local farmers and landowners that will continue to provide organic product. Through word of mouth UCAN continues to receive additional interest from local farmers and landowners interested in becoming a provider as well.
Through monthly fellowship gatherings we are aware of more interest among our Tribal members in the ongoing work with the herbal business. Through contact with local agencies and landowners we are being contacted by additional farmers, agencies and groups interested in this project and wanting to be actively involved or provide materials (herbs) needed for sale. Through this project we have been able to develop a process that allows us to produce the herbs needed at a larger scale safely and more economically.
Through this project and the interest we received from local landowners and local agencies we have been able to establish the beginnings of a profitable business environment as well as raise awareness in the community of the plants that are growing in their own yards and the usefulness they may have. Through the working relationship we have developed with various agencies, we are better able to provide additional education through workshops and herb walks to raise awareness of the value of the plants grown all around us, the benefits of various agricultural practices such as plastic mulch and drip irrigation and various organic pesticide practices.
UCAN will continue to work with local farmers, landowners and agencies to determine any future projects, research or potential herb walks. We will also reach out to herbalists such as Darryl Patton out of Gadsden about the possibility of scheduling regular (seasonal) herb walks to continue UCAN’s training and those in our community.